By Liz Sullivan
More than 750 Muslims and Catholics from the surrounding area gathered at the SABA Islamic Center on January 16, for a community event of hope and solidarity. Following the event, leaders from the two religious communities agreed to form a local Muslim-Catholic Council.
“Let us commit to move forward together so that today’s prayer is not simply a symbolic gesture of good will, but rather, a promise to engage in an on-going dialogue of mutual understanding leading to friendship and common work,” said Bishop Patrick J. McGrath, during the event, held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
Bishop McGrath will appoint several Catholic members and the same number will be appointed from members of the Muslim community. The Council will meet quarterly to plan and evaluate collaborative efforts. The multi-lateral aspects of their efforts will include:
Clergy-to-clergy. This would entail regular meetings between Catholic clergy and professional ministerial staff and Muslim clergy and professional staff. These conversations could be about topics that clergy deal with every day, things of professional interest, or possible projects that clergy might want to do together. Some sessions could talk about respective theology and culture, others about hotter items like Palestine. The Council would determine the curriculum of such conversations.
Religious Education; educator-to-educator. These conversations would be between Catholic educators and Muslim educators. Among them, school principals, administrators, religious educators, who would gather to talk about topics that would help respective Muslim and Catholic students understand and appreciate the nuances of religious traditions. It would also help plan and coordinate guest speakers to come to speak to students in classrooms.
Congregation-to-congregation. These conversations would bring Catholics and Muslims together for fellowship and popular education about respective traditions and it would help demystify and demythologize negative impressions. The Council would help create a curriculum and process for these conversations.
“Peace drives our work within our communities and our work in the world,” said the Bishop, who then quoted Dr. King when he said “power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.”
“We must seize this opportunity to work together to make this country a better place for all people. Muslims and Catholics share many beliefs and values which in turn offer a platform to launch our efforts from,” said Moulana Nabi Raza Abidi of the SABA Islamic Center. “We look forward to working closely together to serve our creator through serving his creation.”
Also speaking at the event was Aurora Solis, a parishioner at Most Holy Trinity Parish in San Jose and a leader with the People Acting in Community Together (PACT).
“As an immigrant I have experienced what it is like to be persecuted,” said Solis. “I know my brothers and sisters of the Muslim religion are going through the same thing. It is important that we see each other as human beings and have respect for each other.”
Prior to the event, dozens of marchers processed from Our Lady Star of the Sea Church, several blocks to the Mosque in a sign of solidarity for proposed immigration reforms by newly inaugurated President Donald J. Trump.