Interreligious 10-26-09


Uploaded by gonzagau on 19.05.2010

Transcript:
[ Silence ]
>> Entitled being religious interreligiously.
That name being religious interreligiously isn't simply a
tongue twister.
We take that from the Jesuits themselves.
Back in 1995 there were the documents that has
since become very influential in university --
Jesuit university education.
And in that documents they privilege interreligious
dialogue as constitutive of what it is not only
to be a Catholic Christian, but to -- to run a university.
And so being religious interreligious is a way
in which the Jesuits understand Catholic Christian faith today.
And so that's the reason why we titled this lecture series
by that name.
My name is John Sheveland, I'm a professor here at Gonzaga
in the religious studies department.
And I like to begin I think very appropriately by giving thanks.
A sincere note of thanks to the religious studies department
and its chair Dr. Linda Schearing
who sponsors this event and also to the office
of intercultural relations here at Gonzaga
and Dr. Raymond Reyes [assumed spelling]
who is the associate academic vice president
and the chief diversity officer here at Gonzaga.
Without those two offices we would not be here tonight,
our honored guests would not be here tonight and so thanks
to religious studies and to intercultural relations.
And thanks to all of you also for being here tonight.
Not only the GU faculty, staff and students,
but to wider Spokane folk who have come out tonight.
And in particular I'd like to welcome the Spokane Islamic
Center, members from that worshiping community.
It's great to have you here and you're most welcome.
And finally to our honored guest, Dr. Amir Hussain
of Loyola Marymount University in L.A. Thank you very much
for taking out time from your busy schedule
and your busy semester to take a long flight up to Spokane
with a couple connections, at least one connection I think.
It's a very busy time of the year and we're very grateful
for your patience in making the trip up to Spokane.
And Amir the title of your talk correlates Muslim communities
and Jesuit universities as neighbors, as neighbors.
And that word neighbors I think is a strikingly significant word
by which to characterize interreligious dialogue.
An event which is after all about people, about people
who are neighbors both in the sense of physical proximity,
but perhaps more important in the sense of a moral solidarity.
Neighbors in that deeper sense.
And so I'd like to say that we are in deed neighbors.
And it is my hope that by the end
of your stay here we will be not simply neighbors
but good friends.
So a couple words
of introduction for Dr. Amir Hussain.
Professor Hussain is a professor of theological studies
at Loyola Marymount University where he teaches about Islam,
world religions and the comparative theology.
His own particular specialty is a study of Islam
and of contemporary Muslim societies here in North America.
Although born in Pakistan, Amir immigrated to Canada
with his family when he was four years of age.
His academic degrees, all three of them, a bachelors, a masters
and a doctorate are all from the University of Toronto
where he received a number
of awards including the university's highest award
for alumni service.
Dr. Hussain's PhD dissertation was
on Muslim communities in Toronto.
I think as we'll see in the talk he has a deep commitment
to students and holds the distinction
of being the only male to serve as Dean of women
at University College, a college at the University of Toronto.
Before coming to California
in 1997 Professor Hussain taught courses in religious studies
at several universities in Canada.
He is active in academic groups such as the Canadian Society
for the Study of Religion and the American Academy of Religion
where he is the co-chair of contemporary Islam consultation.
He is the -- he is on the editorial boards
of three very fine scholarly journals,
Comparative Islamic Studies, the Journal of Religion,
Conflict in Peace and Contemporary Islam.
Amir rounds out his intellectual pursuits with interests
in religion and music, religion and literature, religion
and film and religion in popular culture.
In 2008 he was appointed as a fellow
of the Los Angeles Institute for the Humanities.
Prior to joining the faculty
at Loyola Marymount University Professor Hussain taught
at Cal State Northridge from 1997 to 2005
where he won a number of awards both
for teaching and for research.
In 2001 he was selected for the outstanding faculty award
by the National Center on Deafness.
For the academic year of 2003, 2004 he was selected
as the Jerome Richfield Memorial Scholar.
In 2008 Amir was chosen by vote of MLU students
as the professor the year.
His new book is an introduction to Islam
for North Americans entitled Oil and Water: Two Faiths, One God.
He is currently working on two books, that's a bit of a task.
The first a scholarly book on Islam
in Canada entitled Canadian Faces of Islam.
And the second is a textbook entitled Muslims:
Islam in the West in the 21st Century.
This represents Professor Hussain's very considerable
scholarly efforts, but I think more needs to be said
about this man's contributions at the grassroots level.
As a scholar he has a much wider audience in mind
than the academy narrowly conceived.
And has indicated in scholarly publications his own feelings
of obligations to state and society and its citizens.
No ivory tower here, this form of intellectual labor matters
to the nitty-gritty details of the real lives of real people.
To this end he has written editorial pieces
in several newspapers.
He has been interviewed widely on local television stations
and by the History Channel and he has appeared on talk shows
such as The Tavis Smiley Show, really quite excellent show,
and Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher.
At the risk of embarrassing our guest I would
like to quote very briefly from one of his articles.
To give us in attendance --
those of us in attendance tonight a sense --
some small sense of the change he hopes to effect in the lives
of people outside of the classroom and also a sense
of this man's humility.
So there's been a shift, Hussain writes, for some of us
as academics, most of us work in universities
where peer review journal articles
and scholarly monographs are considered
of ultimate significance.
I have been fortunate to have those and I recognize the value
of scholarship, a hallmark of university education.
However the other hallmark is teaching
and so I understand the need to get our work out there to people
who do not have the ability
to take our classes our read our scholarly pros.
And I am well aware of the numbers involved.
Here he's been quite modest.
I'm well aware of the numbers involved, he says, that no more
than 50 people have read any of my scholarly articles.
That's not true.
But a million or so he says have read my work in the L.A. Times
and several million have seen me on network television.
In the case of Islam and Muslim communities it is all the more
important to get my work out to the widest possible audience.
And so Amir I would add only that for our own sake
as well it is important that you have gotten your work
out to those of us here at this Jesuit Catholic University
who for the most part are not Muslim
and where I can assure you
at least another 50 people have read your scholarly writing,
my students.
So ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming our guest,
Dr. Amir Hussain to the podium to speak
on building faith neighbors, Jesuit universities
and Muslim communities.
[Applause].
>> Amir Hussain: Good evening.
Good evening.
>> Good evening.
>> Amir Hussain: Thank you.
I just need to hear that back.
[Inaudible], peace be upon you, mercy and the blessings of God.
Thank you, John, for that lovely introduction.
I'm honored in no small amount humbled to talk
with you this evening about Muslims and members
of Jesuit universities being faith makers.
As a religious person I need to begin as John did with thanks.
In the Koran the word
for unbelief kufr is almost always contrasted
with the word for thanks shukr.
So it's not belief and unbelief,
it's unbelief and unthankfulness.
You know, the implication is clear.
The person who does not believe is the person
who is not thankful to God.
So my thanks to everyone at Gonzaga who worked so hard
to make this happen, especially
as John mentioned the religious studies department
and Dr. Raymond Reyes of the office
of intercultural relations.
Thanks also to John for inviting me to be here with you
and of course thanks to all of you for being here.
As John mentioned I'm from a quiet,
sleepy little town [inaudible].
Or for those of you who like me don't speak Spanish the town
of our lady, the queen of the angels on the river Portiuncula.
We cemented that generations ago.
This little town sometimes known as Los Angeles.
Today it is once the largest Catholic Archdiocese in the U.S.
and the most religiously diverse city in the world.
For the last dozen years it's informed my thinking
about comparative theology, comparative religion
and being religious interreligiously.
I'm a faith neighbor to you geographically and religiously.
Geographically I'm your neighbor to the south,
religiously I'm your interfaith neighbor, a Muslim.
As I said I am from Los Angeles
so let me talk a little bit more about well, me.
Usually it gets a larger response than that.
I thought the reputation L.A
for self centeredness has sort of preceded us.
I don't do this to be self-indulgent.
I am from L.A. and I understand that some people
from L.A do tend towards self-indulgence.
I don't really mean to do that.
I do this because my own example I think is illustrative
of how a number of non-Christian students, myself, you know,
come almost accidentally to the study of religion and theology.
You know, I grew up in a working class family
in Ontario spending summers with my father, you know,
building trucks at the Ford plant.
Never would have guessed that I would end up, you know,
25 years later a professor of theology, you know,
at a Catholic university in Los Angeles.
And yet here I am and I can't imagine a better place
for me to be.
And I got there really through the study of English literature.
Specifically reading William Shakespeare and William Blake.
You could not understand Shakespeare or Blake
without understanding the Bible.
At the University of Toronto I was fortunate to be able
to learn about Shakespeare and Blake
from Northrup Fy and Jerry Bentley.
They taught me to value the power of stories.
Which is really what we do in the university.
One of my professors at the University
of Toronto retired last year, Ted Chamberlain,
English professor and people would always ask Ted, you know,
you're a university professor, what do you do?
And Ted says it's very simple.
In the university we tell stories.
We call the old stories teaching.
We call the new stories research.
I love that.
That's what we do.
We try to understand stories and in trying
to understand western stories what Northrup Fry called in one
of his course titles,
the mythology framework of western culture.
I realized I had to learn about the Bible.
In doing so I realized I need to learn more
about my own religious tradition as a Muslim.
You know, I didn't know much about the Bible.
As I read the Bible I realized I don't know much about the Koran,
you know, which is my own sacred text as a Muslim.
At the University of Toronto I had the extraordinary privilege
of being mentored by Wilfred Cantwell Smith the greatest
Canadian scholar of religion in the 20th century.
He founded and directed the institute for Islamic studies
at McGill University in Montreal in 1951 before he moved
to Harvard in 1964 where for two decades he directed the center
for the study of world religions.
He and his wife Muriel then moved back
to their native Toronto where they lived
until Wilfred's death in 2000.
One of his most important books was 1981's Towards a
World Theology.
This subtitle of that book reflected Wilfred's
lifelong work.
Faith and the comparative history of religion.
In that book he argued that our various religious traditions
were best understood when taken together or to use his words
and I'm quoting now from the book Towards a World Theology.
That there's several [inaudible] individually already complex can
be understood and in deed can be understood better
and in the end can be understood only in terms of each other
as strands and still more complex hold.
What they have in common is the history
of each has been what it has been a significant part
because the history of others has been what it has been.
This truth was nearly discovered yet truth it is,
truth it has throughout been.
Things preceded in this interrelated way
for many centuries without humanities being aware of it.
Certainly not fully aware of it.
A new and itself interconnected development is
that currently human kind is becoming aware of it
in various communities, and ending that quote.
That's exactly what we're trying to do here
to promote interfaith dialogue, understanding,
being religious interreligiously.
To show the deep connections
in our religious history Professor Smith began
that book Towards a World Theology
with the story of Leo Tolstoy.
Tolstoy's confessions that Tolstoy wrote in 1879
and published in 1884.
I'm curious how many of you are familiar with Leo Tolstoy?
Have read some of his works?
Some of you.
Tolstoy's own conversion is interesting because, you know,
he came from this Russian noble sort of a life
and really got converted himself to a life
of almost aesthetic service, you know, to -- to people.
And the story that converts Tolstoy is the story
of Barlaam the hermit and Josaphat the Indian prince
and in the story the Indian prince Josaphat is converted
from a life of worldly power to a search for moral
and spiritual truths by Barlaam, a [inaudible] desert monk.
And Tolstoy read this story from his religious,
the Russian Orthodox Church.
But as Wilfred points out in the book it's not a Russian Orthodox
story because the Russian church gets it
from the Byzantine church, the Greek Orthodox Church.
Except it's not a Greek Orthodox story.
Wilfred's great genius in scholar religion is being able
to trace this story back because the Byzantine church gets it
from Muslims.
Muslims are telling this story.
Except this is not a Muslim story.
Because the Muslims get it from the Manichaes.
Those either familiar for example with St. Augustine.
The Manichaes were the Gnostic sect that Augustine belonged
to before his conversion to Christianity.
But it's not a Manichaen story.
The Manichaes in Central Asia get it from the Buddhists.
It's a Buddhist story.
The Budditsotpha [assumed spelling] becomes Buddisoph
[inaudible] in Manichae becomes Josaphat in the telling.
And so here you have the story that, you know,
comes from the Russian Orthodox Church, gets to the [inaudible]
from the Greek Church from Muslims
from Manichaes to Buddhists.
It's a Buddhist story.
But Wilfred's genius is not just tracing historically
where this story comes from because he moves forward in time
with the story because those of you that know Tolstoy know
that Tolstoy was a huge influence on a young,
South African lawyer original from India, Mahatma Gandhi.
And Gandhi founded Tolstoy farm in Durban in 1910.
And so here's this writer from Russia influenced
by a Buddhist text who influences one
of the great Hindu thinkers in the world.
And those of you of course who know Gandhi know
that Gandhi was instrumental in the life
of the young African American preacher the Reverend Dr. Martin
Luther King, Jr. And so you see these connections.
This Buddhist story that comes to Tolstoy
in a Russian Orthodox version that affects Gandhi
which affects Dr. King which affects all of us here.
You know, it shows that we're all connected to each other.
In fact we're all neighbors to each other.
And that's a very important metaphor
which I chose quite deliberately for the title of my talk.
And again I think of my mentor Wilfred Cantwell Smith
and someone once asked Wilfred in class very famously once,
Professor Smith, are you Christian?
Interesting question because it wasn't Professor Smith are you a
Christian because if the answer was --
if the question was are you a Christian he would have said yes
in fact I'm a Presbyterian.
But the question was are you Christian.
And Wilfred did what he always did
when people asked him questions, he took it seriously.
He thought about it for a minute and then he responded.
Am I a Christian?
I don't know.
Maybe I was last Tuesday at lunch for a half an hour,
but if you really want to know ask my neighbor.
And I love that.
That his definition of what it meant
to be Christian was ask my neighbor.
You know, how do I reflect that, how do I care for my neighbor.
Our neighborliness,
our connections our dialogue are closely related
to what has become a key characteristic
of western society and that's pluralism.
But let me be clear here what I mean by that word pluralism.
First it's not the same thing as diversity.
People from different religions
and ethnic backgrounds maybe present in one place,
but unless they're involved in constructive engagement
with one another there's no pluralism.
In other words, pluralism is the positive value we place
on diversity.
Second, the goal of pluralism is not simply tolerance
of the other, but an active attempt
to arrive at an understanding.
One can for example tolerate a neighbor
about whom one remains thoroughly ignorant.
Third pluralism is not the same thing as relativism,
an another important word.
Far from simply ignoring the profound differences among
and within religious traditions pluralism is engaging --
excuse me.
Pluralism is committed to engaging the very differences
that we have to gain a deeper sense
of each others commitments.
And it's important to note that this pluralism
in dialogue are happening around the Muslim world,
not just in North America.
In 2007 for example based out of Jordan a number
of Muslim scholars, clerics and intellectuals issued a call
to Christian leaders with a publication of a document,
a common word between us and you available on the web page.
Just like www.acommonword.com.
You'll see the URL on your handout at the back
of the auditorium there's a little table
that has a one page handout there.
And what I've done there is given you some resources,
some web pages and some books that might be of use to you
and that common word document,
acommonword.com is just brilliant.
It calls Christians and Muslims into dialogue based
on the two great commandments in each tradition.
You know this as Christians of course for example
from Mark's Gospel chapter 12.
You know, what are the two great commandments
when Jesus is asked?
Well, the first one of course love of God.
[Inaudible] Lord your God the Lord is one.
Jesus repeats the Shama the Jewish formulation.
Love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your mind with all your soul.
What's the second commandment?
You should love your neighbor as yourself.
Those two great commandments love of God,
love of ones neighbor as this document points
out aren't just simply there in the Christian tradition,
you know, the Christian tradition of course gets them
from the Jewish tradition, but both of them pass it
on to the Islamic tradition.
Because for Muslims those two are the two great commandments
in that order.
Love God, love your neighbor.
In 2008 Saudi Arabia sponsored conferences on dialogue
from Muslims in Mecca and for Muslims
and non Muslims together in Madrid.
In January of this year, 2009,
I was one of a dozen Muslim scholars from the U.S.
and the U.K. who were invited to a conference
at Al-Azhar University in Cairo on bridges of dialogue
between the most important university
in the sumni [assumed spelling] Muslim world and the west.
And that conference also had Jewish
and Christian participants including
from the Catholic side Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald
[inaudible] to Egypt.
And so that's powerful to think, you know, here's Jordan,
Saudi Arabia, Egypt who are sponsoring conferences
on interfaith dialogue.
And interfaith dialogue I would argue is at the heart
of the Christian message.
And I could sight my favorite gospel passage which is
from Matthew, but you're probably familiar
with that one the parable of the great banquet.
Instead let me take a story from my favorite gospel Mark
which is the earliest gospel.
As a Muslim I read it every year to help me become more familiar
with Jesus, a very important prophet for Muslims.
How many of you are familiar in Mark's gospel with the story
of the Syrophoenician woman Mark 7:24-30?
Some of you.
Very short chapter, very short section there.
And those seven short lines vex me from the time
that I read them as a graduate student.
For those that aren't familiar this is Mark 7 chapter 24 to 30.
From there Jesus arose and went to the region of Tyre and Sidon
and he entered a house and wanted no one to know it
but he could not be hidden.
For a woman whose younger daughter had an unclean spirit
heard about him and she came and fell at his feet.
The woman was a Greek, a Syrophoenician by birth
and she kept asking him to cast the demon out of her daughter,
but Jesus said to her, let the children be filled first
for it is not good to take the children's bread
and throw it to the dogs.
And she answered him and -- and she answered and said to him,
yes, Lord yet even the dogs under the table eat
from the children's crumbs.
But he said to her for this saying go your way,
the demon has gone out of your daughter.
And when she had come to her house she found the demon gone
out and her daughter laying on the bed.
So that's that short section Mark 7:24-30.
And I had great problems with this story,
you know, when I first read it.
Because this doesn't seem to be a gentle,
loving, kind, mild Jesus.
In the story he's tired.
He goes to Tyre and Sidon which for those of you
that know Mideastern geography that's on the coast.
I can relate to that, sitting on the coast watching the water.
That's a nice way to get rid of your worries and your tensions.
This is a woman who asked for help not for her,
remember, but for her daughter.
And she's in a triple category of being othered.
She is a woman, she is a foreigner, she is a non Jew.
Jesus comes not for her or her kind,
but for the chosen, the children.
The only way that I could make sense of this story was
through one of my teachers at the University
of Toronto the Mennonite Bible scholar Bill Clausen.
For Bill this passage reflects Jesus is God, with the twinkle
in his eye who knows what the woman knows before she knows it,
knows what she's going to be able to say.
Didn't work for me, you know.
A couple of years ago I was on a panel
with a Catholic scholar Father Elias Mowen
who offered a very different interpretation.
And I'll never forget this.
Elias said to me, you know, we read this passage as docetics,
you know, Christian heresy who thought of Jesus only
in his divine nature, not his human nature,
but only as devine.
And so Elias said this, we read this as docetics,
we forget the humanity of Jesus.
What if we heard this as Jesus learning
from the foreign non Jewish woman his role
that it's the woman, the non Jew, the foreigner
who teaches Jesus that he has come for all.
Not just the children, not just the chosen, for everyone.
Or to echo a song by a Canadian singer Bruce Coburn.
By the way full disclosure I'm being videotaped I need
to disclose that as a Canadian I'm required by Canadian law
in any major gathering outside of Canada to mention by name
at least one Canadian artist,
so we have to protect our own little industry.
So Bruce Coburn, 1991, it's actually my favorite.
We're coming up into the -- we're not quite there yet,
but we're coming up to the Christmas season.
My favorite Christmas song is a song of his called Cry
of a Tiny Babe which is wrote in my home town Toronto.
There are others who know about this miracle birth,
Bruce writes, the humblest
of people catch a glimpse of their worth.
For it isn't to the palace that the Christ child comes
but the shepherds and street people, hookers and bums,
and the message is clear if you have ears to hear
that forgiveness is given for your guilt and your fear.
That that forgiveness is for all not just the chosen,
not just the children, everyone.
So how do we make connections with our Muslim neighbors?
Well, first of all we need to learn their stories,
their histories which of course are woven into our histories.
The handout that I've got there lists some information
about Islam in the west.
Now I make that distinction.
Not Islam and the west, but Islam in the west.
I don't know how to understand Islam without -- excuse me.
I don't know how to understand the west
without understanding Muslim contributions
to what it means to be western.
We really have shared histories.
And many North Americans are surprised to learn this
that Muslims have a long history on their continent.
Historians estimate that at least 10 percent of the slaves
who came from West Africa were Muslim.
So there have been Muslims here for centuries.
But the connection begins even earlier when Columbus set sail
for what he believed to be India.
He recognized the people there might not speak his language
or the Castilian of his royal patrons.
So he brought with him someone who could speak the language
of the other civilization, Arabic.
Columbus brings with him Luis De Torres a conversal a Jew who's
forced to convert to Christianity during the period
in Spain known as the Reconquista
when the church purged Spain
of its intertwined Islamic and Jewish heritage.
Because of his heritage Luis De Torres knew Arabic.
So it's fascinating that Columbus brings
with him an Arab speaker.
Arabic was a language that Thomas Jefferson began learning
in the 19 -- in the 1770s
after he purchased a translation of the Koran in 1765.
You know, for me the Canadian, the outsider,
doesn't get much more American than Thomas Jefferson.
What does it mean that Jefferson purchases a copy of the Koran
and then begins to teach himself Arabic.
And I've looked at some of the archives, you know,
and Jefferson as he was
at everything was pretty good at it.
You know, in terms of teaching himself Arabic.
It was this Koran by the way that Keith Ellison used
when he was sworn in as the first Muslim member
of Congress in 2007.
I'm an academic so I use academic terms.
There was a big kerfuffle when Keith wanted
to be sworn in on the Koran.
You know, people were saying you can't do that.
You have to be sworn in on the Bible.
And again it takes the Canadian to say,
actually you can't be sworn in on the Bible
because that's a religious test and one of the defining features
of this country is we don't have a religious test.
You don't have to belong to a particular religion
in order to hold office.
And so to -- you know for Keith it was great, fine.
He walked across the street as you can do when you're
in Congress to the Library of Congress and checks
out Thomas Jefferson's Koran.
You know, and is sworn
in on Thomas Jefferson's personal copy of the Koran.
From that time we've had Muslim immigrants to North America
who came from the Ottoman empire in the 19th century.
Many were itinerants who came to make money and return
to their countries of origin.
Some however settled permanently.
Moss came up in this country in 1915 in Maine in 1919
in Connecticut, 1928 in New York, 1937 in North Dakota.
From the time of the slave trade there's been a consciousness
about Islam in African American communities.
More over beginning with the early missionary work
in the 19th century and continuing
in the 1920s there was this specific attempt to introduce
and convert African Americans to Islam.
Other groups such as the Moorish Science Temple and the Nation
of Islam exclusively targeted African Americans.
When Warith Deen Mohammed took over the leadership
of the Nation of Islam from his father Elijah Mohammed
in 1975 he brought the majority of his followers out of a nation
into [inaudible] orthodoxy and today the majority
of African American Muslims and at least 25 percent
of American Muslims are African Americans
or [inaudible] Muslims.
In the last half century the Muslim population in the U.S.
and Canada has increased dramatically
through immigration, birth rates and conversion.
The immigration nationally -- excuse me.
The immigration nationality act
of 1965 allowed many more Muslims to immigrate
than were previously allowed
under the earlier court assistant.
I've seen estimates as low as 2 million people,
2 million Muslims excuse me and as high as 10 million people --
10 million Muslims in the U.S. And it's complicated
because the U.S. census doesn't ask the question
of religious affiliation.
It used to then it stopped doing it, it still does
in certain ways, but not on the general form that everyone gets.
Now, my own research and that of others into Muslims
in America says that there's about 7 to 8 million Muslims
in the U.S. so a not insubstantial number.
Slightly more than the number of Jews in the U.S.
at about 7 million Jews
in the U.S. Muslims are once a very old community here.
We've been here for centuries, but in many ways a very new one
when it comes to building institutions.
As a child growing up in Toronto I had very few Muslim
role models.
The ones that were most important
to me were two African American athletes.
The basketball player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
and the greatest Muhammad Ali.
These days for young North American Muslims there are
Muslim heros continue to be African American athletes,
but also entertainers such as Dave Chappelle.
When Chappelle came -- sorry.
I said came out.
It's really interesting how we sort of co-op the language
from the gay and lesbian movement
of publicly declaring yourself a Muslim, you know,
so coming out of the closet, you know,
publicly declaring yourself a Muslim, similar thing.
So Chappelle came out, you know, in 2006
and that was interesting.
You know, one of the most famous men
in America happens to be a Muslim.
Rappers such as [inaudible], Everlast.
So for my students the connection is
with other North Americans particularly African Americans
who have long experience of discrimination of racism
that many immigrant Muslims face.
One of the opportunities
that interfaith dialogue brings us is increased cooperation
and understanding.
We can do this in many ways.
We can do it at the international, national level
with our churches and our Mosques.
Since 1980 there's been the National Christian Muslim
Liaison Committee as an official vehicle of dialogue.
This is in Canada.
Led by the United Church of Canada
which is the largest Protestant church in Canada.
There had been a number of conferences and workshops
on interfaith dialogue
and several useful resources have been produced.
Five years ago in 2004 the United Church published a study
document entitled That We May Know Each Other,
United Church Muslim Relations Today.
And that document is available as a free download
from the web page listed on your handout
That We May Know Each Other.
That document was circulated
to various Muslim groups before it was publicly released.
And that was important because here was the largest Protestant
church in Canada saying we want
to inform our congregations about Islam.
Let's make sure what we're doing is accurate.
Let's make that what we're doing of course connects with Muslims
in Canada so they recognize themselves in this document.
What can we do at the institutional level?
You know, we can partner
with individual mosques or Islamic centers.
There's the example
of the Muslim Christian Consultative Group
in Los Angeles which is listed on your handout.
They have a new program standing together
which has paired 70 churches and mosques or Islamic centers
in Southern California which I think is phenomenal
to say here's a church, here's a mosque, let's connect them.
Let's let the members of this mosque and this church find
out about each other, visit each other, learn from each other.
We can welcome Muslim students into our Jesuit universities.
American Muslims are an American success story.
Equal in wealth and higher education than non Muslims.
Newsweek did a cover story a couple years ago on Islam
in America highlighting a 2007 survey by the Pew Forum
which found that 26 percent
of American Muslims had household incomes above 75,000
and 24 percent of American Muslims had graduated
from university of done graduate studies.
That Pew survey of Americans found that --
I'm quoting here from the survey --
the first ever nationwide random sample survey
of American Muslims finds them to be largely assimilated,
happy with their lives and moderate with respect to many
of the issues that divided Muslims
and westerners around the world.
At my university, Loyola Marymount University we have
about 40 to 50 Muslim students who attend
because of the excellent reputation for both education
and social justice in Jesuit and Marymount colleges.
Our President, Father Robert Lawton has spoken of the value
that non Catholic students including not just other
Christians, but members of other religious traditions as well
as atheists have in Catholic universities.
At the traditional beginning to our fall term this year the Mass
of the Holy Spirit, Father Lawton said this in his homily
and I'm quoting, non Catholics and non believers are not here
at the university simply because we need you to pay our bills
or raise our grades or our SAT scores,
we want you here for a deeper reason.
By helping us to doubt you help us to get closer
to a deeper understanding of God, this life
and this world we share.
Muslim students can help us understand more about faith
and we should recruit them not as Father Lawton says
because they can pay the bills or raise our SAT scores,
but because they can help us to be the best that we can be.
There are a number of initiatives happening
at Jesuit universities.
In 1995 as John mentioned the 34th general congregation
of the Jesuits recommended the creation and the general curry
of the Jesuits of a secretariate for interreligious dialogue.
It also recommended the establishment
in the Gregorian University in Rome of an institute
for the study of religions and cultures as well
as making the Jesuit House in Jerusalem a center for study
and dialogue with Jews and Muslims.
It was my friend, Father Tom Michelle,
a Jesuit who directed that secretariate.
This message of interfaith dialogue continued
with a 35th general congregation last year.
In 2008 there was a conference on the common word document held
in honor of Father Michelle at Georgetown University
with a publication edited by John Borelli at Georgetown.
There are a small number of Muslims who teach theology
in Jesuit university helping to advance to cause
of interfaith dialogue.
There are lecture series at Jesuit universities
such as this one at Gonzaga University
that do exactly the same thing.
Another friend Father Patrick Ryan a Jesuit
at Fordham University is as we speak in Omaha
for the annual meeting
of the U.S. Jesuit interreligious
dialogue commission.
Next month when he assumes the post as the new holder
of the Laurence McGinley chair in religion and society
at Fordham University, the post previously held
by the late Cardinal Dulles.
Pat Ryan will deliver a lecture on Jewish, Christian,
Muslim dialogue or as he calls it trialogue
because you have these three traditions.
And that lecture will be sent out to every U.S. Bishop.
Clearly there are a number of initiatives by Jesuits
in interfaith dialogue.
But what can we do at our own level, at the individual level?
We can make a Muslim friend.
And this is the heart at interfaith dialogue
because institutions and organizations do not dialogue.
People dialogue.
Transformed relationships and understanding come
from the discussions that take place between people.
The first step towards learning about Islam then is not to pick
up the Koran and begin to read the Muslim scripture or go
to the mosque and observe Muslims in prayer.
One starts by finding a Muslim friend with whom to speak.
In large communities this is not a problem since most everyone is
in contact with Muslims.
In smaller, more homogeneous communities the range
of options maybe more limited,
but it's surprising how many mosques,
informal Muslim associations exist outside
of the main urban centers.
One's dialogue partner maybe a neighbor,
a doctor at the local hospital, a teacher, a restaurant owner,
a professor, a cab driver, the factory worker,
the manager of an ethnic grocery store.
Sometimes word can -- sometimes one can make an acquaintance
by working alongside people of other traditions
and social justice or service projects such as food banks,
blood drives or charitable causes.
As religious people we may share a common belief
that it's our duty to help each other.
I'm reminded here of a quote that I once heard
when someone asked a Christian minister
about that very famous quote from the book of Genesis
when God asked Cain about his brother Abel and Cain responds
with that famous like, am I my brother's keeper?
Many of us unfortunately adopt that line.
We are not responsible for and to our brothers and our sisters.
This particular minister answered
in a very different way.
Am I my brother's keeper?
Yes, because I am my brother's brother.
And I would add, you know, my sister's sister.
We have lots of examples of people
from different religions working together to help each other.
In Canada in 2004 the CBC, the public broadcast,
the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation had a contest
for the greatest Canadian.
Much to my surprise we didn't vote in a hockey player
who I thought we would.
We voted in Tommy Douglas as the greatest Canadian.
[Inaudible] familiar to almost all of you, but in the middle
of our current health care debate how many
of us remember Tommy Douglas?
The reason that we have socialized medicine in Canada
which becomes a sort of poster child
for what we don't have here.
The reason we have socialized medicine in Canada was
because of Tommy Douglas who is a minister in the United Church,
in the social gospel movement of 1930s.
And it was his Christian roots
in the social gospel movement spurred him.
Tommy didn't believe that it was his neighborly duty,
but that it was his Christian duty
to take care of his neighbor.
There's that neighbor again.
You know, as a Christian are you commanded, are you committed
to taking care of your neighbor?
In the current debates about health care
and immigration we see many religious groups stepping
forward to help people without demanding
to see their identification as some politicians
and other groups would have us do.
As Muslims particularly as North American Muslims we need
to become more visible as individuals and communities
as participants in North American life.
And it's you the members of Jesuit universities
who can help us to do this as we have much
to learn from you here.
We can increase our participation
in a number of ways.
We can encourage our children
to value the arts and the humanities.
We have a large number of Muslim doctors, lawyers,
Muslim business people.
I say this all the time when I'm talking to Muslim audiences,
Muslim mothers are Jewish mothers.
It took my mother years to get over the fact
that I wasn't a real doctor.
And I kept telling her, but I am a real doctor.
Well, no, not the kind that does people any good, you know.
There's not sense, you know.
Success means you're a doctor, you're an engineer,
you're a business owner, that's it.
There are no other options, you know.
That's what I push Muslim audiences to, you know,
where are our Muslim writers, our artists our musicians,
our film makers, our actors, our journalists.
We should encourage our children in these fields which of course
at the heart of traditional Jesuit education
in the liberal arts.
If we want our stories told in the media we need
to do this ourselves again using the Canadian example you've got
this series on the CBC [inaudible],
Little Mosque on the Prairie.
There's a wonderful, wonderful sitcom.
And if you're going to well here's this sitcom about Muslims
on the prairie you think, you know, I'm making that up.
It's one of the highest rated shows in Canada
and I encourage you to, you know, check it out on YouTube,
Little Mosque on the Prairie.
Church colleges can help Muslims through the training
in Islamic theology offered by some theological schools.
A wonderful example of our neighborliness.
One thinks of established programs at Hartford Seminary
as well as [inaudible] programs such as the School of Religion
at Claremont Graduate University in Southern California
which has signed an agreement to work
with Azhar University the most important university
in the SUNY world.
The GTU, the Graduate Theological Union
in Berkley has created a center for Islamic studies.
My own university last year admitted its first Muslim imam
into our MA program in pastoral theology.
This signals an interesting partnership
between theological schools who have the experience
and the skill to train students for ministry
and Muslim communities who have almost no seminaries
of our own in North America.
Muslim communities are asking their imams who were trained
as textural scholars to serve in roles as therapists, counselors,
social workers, pastors,
Chaplains for which they often have no training.
And to me it's very simple, we don't need
to reinvent the wheel.
There's really good training in pastoral theology
at Christian institutions.
Let's care with those institutions.
Let me close with two reflections.
Last month we finished the month of Ramadan the month of fasting,
the most important time of year for Muslims.
For the first three weeks
on this semester my students saw me come to class fasting.
I wanted them to make the connections between Christian
and Muslim conceptions of prayer and fasting.
They come from a Catholic tradition
where fasting is difficult for them.
It means they give up chocolate during Lent.
And I understand that, I believe chocolate is own
of the four food groups, I understand the difficulty
in giving up chocolate, but it used to be a little deeper
than giving up chocolate for lent or giving up meat
on Fridays but actually fasting.
And so that's a wonderful example of trying
to make those connections.
Helping my Muslim -- excuse me.
Helping my Christian students
to rediscover something quite important
in their own tradition fasting through my example
of fasting as a Muslim.
And their connections here, last year,
almost exactly a year ago October 23rd,
2008 in the New York Review
of Books there was a wonderful article called the Egyptian
Connection by William Dalrymple and in that review
and it's listed on your outline
under the web pages the Egyptian Connection
from the New York Review of Books.
Bill Dalrymple reviewed the work of Michelle Brown
on the Lindisfarne Gospels.
If I say that word Lindisfarne Gospels how many
of you are familiar with that?
Interesting we don't get the PR that they deserve.
If I say the Book of Kells does that mean anything to people?
Some of you, yeah.
The Lindisfarne Gospels are like the Book of Kells,
just beautifully illustrated gospel manuscript.
It was produced around 700
on Lindisfarne Holy Island off the east coast of Scotland.
They're really important not just for their --
for their illustrations which are phenomenal
and the Lindisfarne Gospels are now in the British Library,
but in about 950 a gloss was added to the Latin text
of the gospels in old English.
So they're actually the first translation we have
of the gospels into an English language where you got,
you know, the Latin gospel and sort of in
between the lines a scribe about 950 has put
in old English what this means.
So they're important both for their value in terms
of English translations of the gospel
and of course beautiful illustrations.
Michelle Brown is the keeper of the Lindisfarne Gospels
at the British Library and has published a new book called
simply the Lindisfarne Gospels, a phenomenal, phenomenal book.
And so Bill Dalrymple was reviewing this book
in the New York Review of Books and he writes this,
Michelle Brown demonstrates convincingly how the same Coptic
and Eastern Christian manuscripts
that influence a Lindisfarne Gospels also influence the work
of early Islamic painters and calligraphers.
The fascinating point that emerges from her book is
that to considerable extent both the art and sacred calligraphy
of Anglo-Sax's in England and that of early Umayyad Islam grew
at the same time out of the same Eastern Mediterranean culture
compost and common Coptic models.
I for one had no idea until I read Brown's book
that Northumbrian, Celtic and Byzantine monks all used to pray
on decorated prayer carpets just as Muslim
and certain eastern Christian churches have always done
and still do.
She also demonstrates how these prayer mats influenced the
carpet pages of abstract geometric ornament which are
such a feature of both Insular and early Islamic sacred text.
That's an important point that the prayer mat,
the prayer rug that's not an Islamic invention.
Christian monks were playing --
were praying on mats long before Muslims.
And if you think about it of course it makes perfect sense.
Imagine yourself as a monk
in a stone monastery off the east coast of Scotland
without central heating, you know,
when you're praying you're standing, you're bowing,
you're kneeling and of course we forget that.
Pews in Catholic churches are relatively new, you know,
didn't used to have those for the first, oh,
well over a thousand years.
You know, you stood, you knelt.
You didn't have benches, Protestants had benches
because they listened to sermons.
We didn't have sermons there.
So what does it mean that, you know, the act of praying
for Catholics traditionally and Muslims looks very similar.
The prayer mats that they used were very similar
and these illustrations that I mentioned
in the Lindisfarne Gospels are called carpet pages,
the pages in between the different gospels look
for all the world like oriental rugs because they are.
Not because Muslims used them,
but because Christian monks used them.
Dalrymple continues, this is just a remind --
all of this is a reminder of how much early Islam drew
from aesthetic forms of Christianity that are originated
in the Byzantine Levant, but as influence spread both
to the Celtic north and the Arabian south.
There's much in the Koran, Dalrymple writes,
notably its graphic hell scenes an emphasis on Godly judgment
that the off putting to many modern western readers would
have been quite familiar
to a desert father and a monk in Iona.
Today many commentators in the U.S. and Europe view Islam
as a religion very different from and in deed hostile
to Christianity yet in their roots the two are
closely connected.
Certainly, and Dalrymple concludes, certainly if a monk
from seventh century Lindisfarne or Egypt were
to come back today it's probable that he would find much more
that was familiar in a practice and beliefs
of a modern American -- excuse me.
Of a modern Muslim mystic than he would say
with a contemporary American evangelical.
Yet this simple truth has been lost by our tendency to think
of Christianity as a wester religion rather
than the thoroughly oriental faith it actually is.
Because of this we're apt to place Celtic monks,
Coptic desert Fathers and Muslims mystics
in very different categories.
But as the art of this period clearly demonstrates we are
wrong to do so.
These apparently different worlds were all surprisingly
closely interlinked, in deed in intellectual terms perhaps more
so in the eighth century than in today's nominally
globalized world.
I did my dissertation as John mentioned on Muslim communities
in Toronto under the supervision
of another Christian thinker Will Oxtoby who died in 2003.
In addition to being an academic Will was
like Wilfred Cantwell Smith an ordained Presbyterian minister.
And Will represented an inclusive view of Christianity
and he ended one of his books The Meaning of Other Faiths
with the following words, and it's with the words of one
of my teachers Will Oxtoby that I'd like to conclude
and I'm quoting now from Will's book,
The Meaning of Other Faiths.
At no time have I ever thought of myself as anything other
than a Christian, Will writes.
At no time have I ever supposed
that God could not adequately reach out to me to challenge
and to comfort in my own Christian faith and community.
Yet at no time have I ever supposed
that God could not also reach out to other persons
in their traditions and communities as fully
and as satisfyingly as he has to me in mine.
At no time have I ever felt that I would be justified in seeking
to uproot and adhere to another tradition from his
or her faithful following of that tradition.
My Christianity, including my sense of Christian ministry,
he's writing as a Presbyterian minister, has commanded
that I be open to learn from the faith of others.
It's this openness that Will Oxtoby mentioned
that I hope we would all have.
That those of us who are religious believe
that God works, not just in our own communities of faith,
but in all communities of faith.
Thank you.
[Applause].