Over thirty thousand Muslims attended the annual conference of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) over the Labor Day weekend at the Rosemont Convention Center in Chicago. ISNA is the only Islamic organization in the world that has succeeded in bringing together the diverse groups of Muslims: Arab-South Asian; Black-White; Shi’a-Sunni.As suspected this is more a statement of respective positions -- an important starting point for any dialogue, than anything more earth-shattering. But just the Catholic presence at such a meeting is quite important.
The event, established in 1963, combines learning—120 workshops on a wide-variety of mostly non-political subjects—with celebration in the form of evening entertainment. The Muslim Student Association offered a complete parallel program for high school and college students.
One of the workshop sessions featured a document authored by the Mid-West Regional Dialogue of Catholics and Muslims entitled Revelation: Catholic and Muslim Perspectives. Fr. Francis Tiso, the director of Interreligious Dialogue for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, said that the document, published last January, is one of the first theological dialogue documents between Sunni Muslims and Roman Catholics to be produced anywhere. “It is more than a report,” he said. “It contains sound doctrine and is approved by the leadership organizations of both faith communities.”
The other Catholic presenter in the Revelation workshop, Fr. Raymond Webb, academic dean of the University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, Ill., identified the main sticking point: “The Catholic understanding of Revelation is that God is revealed through creation, history, prophets, and pre-eminently through Jesus Christ, God’s divine Son. This [last point] is the main difference.” While Muslims recognize Jesus as a prophet, they accord pre-eminence to Muhammad.There's other sticking points too ... like who speaks for Muslims? Which Islam? Sh'ia? Sunni? But still, a worthy effort for sure.
“But what we both believe,” said Webb, “is that God has made a self-revelation in some way in the course of history. Much of the specific content of the Bible and the Qur’an is shared. We also share revealed truths about life, such as the necessity of prayer, the importance of aiding those in need, the conviction that moral and religious claims encompass all of life.”
“There is a great opportunity of dialogue and cooperation among people of faith,” Khatami said through a translator. “But I mean people of true faith. I don’t mean extremists and terrorists. Public opinion can be rescued from the grips of ignorance and blunder, and the domination of arrogant, warmongering and violence-triggering policies will end.”That's former Iranian President Khatami (speaking at the conference? The article isn't completely clear). We can certainly pray for that! The document can be purchased from the USCCB. (Guess it's not important enough to be made available online! :)).
He said Muslims must forge a new identity that embraces the modern world, tolerates other religions, and works toward peace.