Muslim Say Pope Offers Message of Unity; Interfaith Relations Can Have Positive Impact for Peace, Religious Say

By Abdul-Karim, Shahid | New Haven Register (New Haven, CT), April 14, 2013 | Go to article overview

Muslim Say Pope Offers Message of Unity; Interfaith Relations Can Have Positive Impact for Peace, Religious Say


Abdul-Karim, Shahid, New Haven Register (New Haven, CT)


After Pope Francis I urged the West to intensify dialogue with Islam, some Connecticut Muslim leaders said steps have been made to further interfaith exchange with the Christian community.

In an audience last month, where he urged and appealed to 180 ambassadors including Muslim leaders, the pope said, "In this work, the role of religion is fundamental. It is not possible to build bridges between people while forgetting God."

"But the converse is also true: It is not possible to establish true links with God, while ignoring other people. Hence it is important to intensify dialogue among the various religions, and I am thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam," the pope said in his audience with the Diplomatic Corps on March 22, according to the Vatican website.

Nasif Muhammad, 68, resident imam of the Al Aziz Islamic Center in Bridgeport, said Pope Francis' statement carries a lot of weight and is very influential for building interfaith relations in America.

"This was a very influential statement by the pope, but steps have been made and there has been a lot of coming together with the different faiths in the past several decades," said Muhammad.

"When we look at the Muslim world as a whole, we can't let the Muslim world set the tone for us and how we should feel and think about the whole concept of interfaith in America," he said. "We can be sympathetic of the Muslim world, but we have done some great things in America and in this state with other religious and faiths."

According to the teachings of Islam, there are five basic purifying principles or pillars that Muslims adhere to.

The Islamic pillars are: the belief in the oneness of God; the institution of prayer; giving charity; fasting during the month of Ramadan; and the holy pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia.

Kashif Abdul-Karim, resident Imam of the Muhammad Islamic Center of Greater Hartford, said Christians and Muslims "represent the two largest religious bodies in the world, over a billion apiece."

"We can create and influence peace all around the world if we work together," Abdul-Karim said.

Abdul-Karim, 52, also noted that he is elated that a Latino pope was selected, which could help the urban communities.

"This is the first time a Latino pope was elected, and they represent a large body of people, which has never happened before," he said. "So, this gives us in America a chance to work closer with the urban Latino community."

The Rev. James Manship, pastor of Fair Haven's St. Rose of Lima Church, a congregation that is 95 percent Latino, said he is open to an interfaith engagement. …

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