On November 18, Maha Elgenaidi, Chief Executive Officer of the Islamic Networks Group (ING) spoke to over 100 people about ‘A Muslim view of Nostra Aetate’ at Santa Teresa Parish.
This was the first in a series of interfaith presentations at Santa Teresa celebrating the 50th Anniversary of the Vatican II document Nostra Aetate, about the relationship of the Church to Non-Christian religions.
In the wake of the ISIS attacks in Paris and the media focus on ‘Muslim’ terrorists, there is no comparable attention paid to the multitudes of Muslims who are not terrorists and in fact who denounce ISIS and it’s distorted interpretation of Islam and the Koran. During these difficult times the need for interfaith dialogue and mutual understanding of diverse religious traditions is even more important, especially with respect to counter-balancing extremist views of Islam. With these presentations we are presenting authentic Muslim voices which provide a more accurate view of their religion.
This is what Elgenaidi did at this presentation. She provided a more faithful and mainstream view of Islam and Muslim practice and explained that Muslims revere Jesus and Mary, though they do not believe in the Catholic understanding of Jesus as the Son of God. However, Elgenaidi also pointed out that Islam, Judaism and Christianity share a common background, and thus are known as the Abrahamic traditions and share a common background.
Additionally, Elgenaidi talked about the Muslim belief in loving God and loving one’s neighbor. This was fundamentally the same as the Catholic commitment to Jesus’ words as well. Though there are differences between Islam and Catholicism, there is much more we have in common, such as love of God and love of neighbor.
There are Muslim extremists who grossly distort the religion of Islam, such as those who terrorized Paris. However, it is inappropriate to judge an entire religious tradition based on the actions of religious extremists. We are addressing this by providing opportunities for dialogue, mutual understanding and discovering shared values in the spirit of Nostra Aetate:
As Nostra Aetate points out: “The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth… They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.”
Joanna Thurman, an attendee, eloquently summarized the value of this presentation:
“Maha stressed that while the threat of ISIS is new and real, it is not representative of all of Islam. Education and encounter are key to overcoming prejudice, fear, and mistrust. Meeting Maha was a great opportunity for such education and encounter. These opportunities for inter-religious education and authentic dialogue are indispensable both for our individual faith journey and ultimately for peace in the world.”
There will be four more workshops in this series and all are welcome. All times are 7-8:30pm, at Santa Teresa Church.
- Dec.16: Hinduism, Dr. Sulochina Lulla
- Jan. 20: Zen Buddhism, Jiang Ying Shifu
- Feb. 17: Jainism, Girish Shah
- March 16: Jewish Presentation, Harry Cornbleet