23-26 March 2001
At the request of the Conference of European Provincials, 28 Jesuits from 19 provinces gathered to discuss Christian Muslim relations. The meeting was a further step in the implementation of the decree of the 34th General Congregation on interreligious dialogue. We were directed in our deliberations by Fr. General who, in his message to the gathering, asked us to consider "what impact does the presence of Muslims have on our mission today as we seek to offer our world a service of faith that does justice in dialogue with cultures and people of other religions?"
We come from a variety of backgrounds. Our group included people who have worked many years in Muslim countries, Jesuits in studies who have been involved with immigrant groups, those who work in the social apostolate assisting immigrants and refugees, Jesuits from cultural centres, teachers, theologians and pastors. From this variety of backgrounds we want to offer some perspectives on Muslim-Christian dialogue across Europe and to suggest concrete steps for a way forward.
From the beginning, we want to say that we are very aware of the excellent and important work being done by others in the Church in the area of Muslim-Christian relations. We are called to play our part, to collaborate with them and to build on what is already being done. It is this spirit which underlies the suggestions we make here. Europe is fast becoming a multi-cultural society and within that society the Muslim population is increasing steadily. We as Jesuits are invited to accompany Christians and others during this time of social transformation.
In all of this, it is important to remember that just as Christianity is not monolithic, so too Islam is plural and complex. A kairos, a time of opportunity
Our primary sense is of the rich possibilities that exist. There are many positive initiatives already occurring in Muslim-Christian dialogue in the Church and the Society of Jesus. These range from the work of Jesuits and our colleagues with migrants and immigrants to the work of theological reflection carried on at a variety of theology centres and universities. Muslim believers can be an encouraging challenge to people of all faiths today. In the face of individualism, they witness to a sense of community; in increasingly secular societies, they claim a place for religious values; and in a society which lacks more and more a moral framework, they can help to search for one. Finally, dialogue with Muslims represents a privileged chance for us and for all Christians to deepen our own faith since we are called to live a real respect for others who are different from ourselves.
Our point of departure and methodology
The point of departure for our dialogue is our desire to live together in just and pluralist societies. This desire does not derive from purely theoretical considerations. The 34th General Congregation spoke of interreligious dialogue as an essential part of Jesuit mission. In Christian-Muslim relations, we recognise two extremes. On the one hand, there is the danger of a na´ve enthusiasm and of unrealistic expectations; on the other hand is a situation where Christians and Muslims never engage with each other and are in effect polarised. The way forward is that of a discerning dialogue. It means being aware of the challenges, problems and resistance of many to such dialogue and yet engaging, perhaps slowly and painstakingly, in a conversation based on mutual respect. Concrete Steps Dialogue with Islam has for long been seen as a specialisation for some. Now it touches Jesuits working in all areas. In fact, the individual initiatives that already exist are not enough. Regional coordination and projects at Province level are needed. To help with this, the members of the Ludwigshafen consultation have agreed to be available to act as a core group. In addition, there is already a network of young Jesuits engaged in the study of Islam who can offer advice and expertise. The following steps are proposed: Assistancy: Each assistancy is encouraged to consider the issue of Muslim-Christian relations and to develop appropriate responses. The members of the core group are available to offer support and advice for such a process. Province coordination: There is room for further coordinating structures within and between provinces. Provinces with little experience in encounter with Muslims can draw on the experience, and learn from the mistakes, of provinces with a history of dialogue.
Some provinces have, for example, organised successful study days on Islam; they can be a resource for other provinces which plan similar events. The annual province meeting could focus on the subject of Islam. Perhaps mission directors could be asked to be responsible for coordination in this area and to draw on the expertise offered by this network.
Jesuit communities are often unsure how to proceed with dialogue and need help and perhaps new skills. In this area too, this group is willing to offer assistance. Ignatian Spirituality is a valuable resource to us in our dialogue with Islam and points us in a certain direction. It encourages us to find God in all things and in all religions, to put a good interpretation on the views of others and to contemplate the whole world and its needs. Furthermore, dialogue with Islam will help Ignatian spirituality itself to deepen and to grow. Education: Jesuit schools, colleges, universities can be encouraged to offer courses on Islam. Again, the members of this group are willing to advise and help with such courses. Formation: Novices, scholastics, tertians and other Jesuits can spend insertion times in Jesuit communities situated in a multi-religious environment or in Muslim institutions or families. A dialogue mentor is important in accompanying them and especially in helping them to debrief afterwards. Formation directors can call upon the members of the core group to arrange contacts and assistance. Communications: Our reviews and magazines can be a source of accurate information on Islam and, most importantly, can offer hospitality to Muslims to speak for themselves. This can be important in countering prejudicial stereotypes.A range of publications on Islam, not excluding those critical of Christianity, could made accessible in the reading rooms of communities.
Jesuits should be aware of existing texts which explain Christianity to Muslims; further such texts can be developed. Conclusion As companions of Jesus, and at this critical juncture in European history, we are called to engage in this dialogue with our Muslim brothers and sisters. Moving forward in a deep faith, with a strong Christian conviction and a readiness to witness to our own deeply held beliefs, we commit ourselves to engage with the rich tradition represented by Islam and to help our societies to do the same. Together with other Christians we will discern the way forward in humility, recognizing our fears and our hesitancies but not being trapped by them.
Dialogue with those of other faith traditions is vital for the Society of Jesus. It helps us be Jesuits and transforms and renews our own identity. Authentic dialogue, just like any relationship, involves profound challenge and can demand painful change. This is also the case with Muslim-Christian dialogue. We need to be ready to face such challenges in a spirit of deep humility; we ask for the grace of a deep inner freedom to allow us embrace the necessary changes. Finally, our work for justice and human rights on behalf of all, whatever their faith as well as our insertion in Muslim communities, are what give most credibility to our invitation to dialogue.
Jesuit Ecumenists Meet in Alexandria
Daniel Madigan, S.J.
A message from Fr. General underlined the importance of the ecumenical venture among the Society's priorities, and a select number of the participants had been involved with the group since its inception. The agenda ranged widely, focussing in part on ecumenical issues in the complex ecclesial reality of the Middle East, but also on recent developments in the wider ecumenical sphere. We had the opportunity to meet with clergy and laypeople from the Coptic Orthodox and Coptic Evanglical churches, as well as with Muslims.
Jacques Masson (PRO) and Christian van Nispen (PRO), with their long years of experience and study of the Church in Egypt introduced us to various of its aspects. Jacques Masson surveyed some of the ecumenical history of the oriental Churches and agreements reached especially among the Chalcedonian and non-Chalcedonian churches in recent years.
Victor Chelhot (PRO) from Damascus presented developments in the local attempts to remove the obstacles to unity between the Greek Catholic and Greek Orthodox Churches of Antioch. Since his last presentation to the Jesuit ecumenists in Naples, Rome has added its voice to the conversation. Three official documents were studied. The "Balamand Statement" on the still very vexed issue Uniatism and accusations of proselytism from the Seventh Plenary Session of the official Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue was introduced and analysed by Ed Farrugia (MAL) of the Orientale.
Ted Yarnold (BRI), of Campion Hall, brought a trained eye to the document "The Gift of Authority," issued by the Anglican-Roman Catholic International Commission, of which he was for many years a distinguished member.
Paolo Gamberini (ITA) from Naples, examined the Joint Lutheran-Roman Catholic Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, and offered some important insights into the way it was produced and agreed upon.
The declaration is an important model, not just for its synthesis of a disputed doctrine, but for the way in which it affirms particular doctrinal formulations and at the same time recognises that each partner understands these formulas in somewhat different ways. In addition to these papers, Georges Ruyssen (BSE) presented some of his work recently at Centre Sevres on the question of the primacy of the Bishop of Rome in the context of the Pope's appeal in Ut Unum Sint. Bob Daly (NEN) from Boston College examined the theological significance of ecumenical convergence in liturgy, especially in the eucharistic prayer.
Norman Tanner was able to draw on his deep familiarity with the councils of the Church to offer profound and sometimes witty insights into the prospects for Christian unity.
We hope that all the papers will be published within the next six months, as also those from the previous meeting in Kottayam, Kerala, which have not yet seen the light of day. The next meeting of Jesuits involved in ecumenical work will take place in Budapest in 2003. Anyone who would like to be kept informed of plans for the meeting, when they take shape, can contact Tom Michel (IDO) at the Curia email@example.com
David Neuhaus, S.J.
23 Jesuits from more than a dozen provinces, representing all six continents and ranging in age from 23 to 73, gathered in Jerusalem to learn about the Christian communities in the Holy Land (Israel and Palestine). This session followed the two sessions last summer, on Judaism and Islam, which had exposed the Jesuits to the contemporary situation of Jews and Muslims in this land. It was decided that the same methodology, going out to meet the people in their homes, work places and centres of worship, would be the most effective way of learning.
We began our proceedings on Thursday afternoon, July 12, 2001 at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Jerusalem. The two co-ordinators, David Neuhaus sj and Peter Du Brul sj (both of the Near East Province) introduced the session.
Friday, July 13, was dedicated to an introduction to our theme from various perspectives. The day began with a eucharistic celebration celebrated in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, on Calvary, by Tom Michel sj, who was with us only that day. After the liturgy, a young Maronite Christian Palestinian tour guide showed us the Church and explained its chequered history. Later that day, Mgr Rafiq Khoury, Secretary General of the Synod and responsible for Catholic education in the Latin Patriarchate, gave us a general introduction to the history and identity of the Christians of the Holy Land. That afternoon, Rev. Frans Bouwen of the White Fathers spoke of the relationships among the myriad churches that exist side by side in this land. After dinnner, five young Christian Palestinians, Estfan, Ghassan, Suheil, Andraos and Tamer, eloquently and movingly addressed the theme of the future of the Christians in the Holy Land.
These introductory talks underlined the unique identity of the Church in the Holy Land, a Church at the cutting edge of the ongoing dialogue with Muslims and Jews, a small yet vibrant Church determined to survive and overcome the tragic circumstances of the contemporary period.
The next morning we began our visits to communities in Galilee. We began there with a mass in the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth, celebrating the ongoing incarnation of the Word in the Body of Christ, His Church. From the Basilica, we made our way to St Joseph's Seminary and School where the director, Rev. Emil Shofani, Greek Catholic priest, addressed us about the reality of Christian Arab citizens of the State of Israel. We had our picnic lunch in the salon of the Little Sisters of Jesus in Nazareth and Little Sister Maria Chiara, told us about the vocation of the Little Sisters in the land. Leaving Nazareth, we made our way to the village of Ibillin where we visited Mar Elias College and were welcomed by Greek Catholic Fr. Elias Chacour. Abuna Elias is world famous and the recipient of many awards for his work in the fields of reconciliation and education.
Later, at the parish church, Friar Mudar and Sister Rudeina both natives of Ibillin, told us about the village and its most famous child, Blessed Mariam Bawardi, the first modern Palestinian beatified.
The highlight of the Galilee trip was our stay in the village of Mi'iliya, where we were the guests of parish priest Rev. Saba Shofani, Sisters Reem, Georgette and Constantia of the Sisters of St Joseph and the local members of the church. Here we spent the night with families from the village. Mi'iliya is an entirely Greek Catholic Arab village. We were warmly welcomed and, after enjoying the hospitality of the families in their homes, we took part with them in the magnificent Divine Liturgy of the Byzantine tradition.
Our next stop in Galilee was the village of Jish. Here we went straight to the Maronite church where Rev. Bishara Suleiman and the elders of the parish council welcomed us at the Maronite Church. After hearing about this Maronite-majority village, we made our way to the port city of Haifa where we stayed overnight on the top of the Carmel in the hospice run by the Carmelites. Political analyst and journalist, Wadie Abu Nassar, introduced us to the realities of Christian Arab life in Israel including the dispute over the building of the mosque next to the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth.
The next day we went into the city of Haifa to visit one of its most striking Christian institutions, the House of Grace. Founded by Haifa native, Kamil Shehade and his wife Agnes, it serves the poor of the city, Christians, Muslims and Jews, offering shelter and rehabilitation to ex-convicts, drug addicts and social outcasts. Kamil died of cancer at the age of 46, last year, but his presence was lovingly evoked by his wife Agnes, who described the work of the house. We also met there with Ms. Su'ad Haddad, a lay activist who described the joys and sorrows of the Church in Haifa.
After a bathe in the sea at Caesarea we returned to Jerusalem. That evening, we hosted Rev. Raed Abu-Sahliyeh, secretary of Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah.
Father Raed, as always enthusiastic and inspiring, shared his vision of possible solutions for the ongoing conflict as well as his profound commitment to ongoing dialogue. This was an excellent introduction for the next day which was spent visiting the city of Ramallah where we meet with lay Christian Palestinian activists.
That evening, we welcomed to our house Mr. Daniel Rossing, who had served for 14 years as head of the Christian Department in the Israeli Ministry of religious Affairs.
Daniel was our only Jewish speaker during the session and he impressed us with his appreciation of the diversity of the Christian population in the Holy Land as well as with the recognition that Jewish Israelis must initiate a dialogue with Christian Palestinians as a significant component of promoting peace and justice.
The next day was spent in the region of Bethlehem. We left early in the morning in order to reach the historic monastery of Mar Sabba. St. Sabba is considered the most important of the early Palestinian monastic figures and the monastery he founded in the 5th century still stands. We were cordially welcomed by the monks, one of whose number showed us around the ancient monastery.
Going from there to the town of Beit Sahour, we were introduced to a more contemporary reality, the destruction wrought by the Israeli bombardments in the past months on the towns in the Bethlehem area. Maher al-Atrash, a graduate of Boston College and a Beit Sahour resident, showed us his neighbourhood which has been horrifically disfigured by the Israeli bombs and missiles. We then made our way to the Church of the Nativity, Jesus' birthplace, for Mass.
It is shocking to note the total lack of pilgrims and visitors. This has grave implications for the economic and socio-political conditions in the area and does not help Christians in resisting pressures to emigrate. Opposite the Church, arrangements were going on for the burial of four of the most recent victims of Israeli assassination. We made our way to Bethlehem University, the most important Christian educational institution in the area. We walked alongside some of the armed mourners, who shot their guns in the air as a sign of mourning. At Bethlehem University, where Peter Du Brul has taught since the University's founding in 1974, Brother Cyril gave us a talk about the University and led us on a tour.
From the University, we made our way to the Wi'am Centre for Conflict Resolution, founded by a local lay-activist, Mr. Zoghbi Zoghbi. People at the centre explained their approach to local social and confessional conflicts using traditional Palestinian and Arab approaches to peace making.
The remaining days were consecrated to the Holy City of Jerusalem. We began our community visits with Ms. Nora Cort, head of the Arab Orthodox Society, a lay philanthropic organisation which runs a clinic, training centre, and numerous other projects in the Old City of Jerusalem. Nora introduced the work of the Society and then took us on a walking tour of the various projects during which we could meet the men and women who animate these important contributions to the life of the Christian community in the city.
We were fortunate to have in our group a number of Jesuits who are experienced and knowledgeable about the Christians of the Holy Land: Drew Christiansen, who has worked for many years as an advisor to the US Bishops on issues connected with the Holy Land and the Middle East, and Michael Perko, Professor and researcher into Israeli affairs at Loyola Chicago. These two experts addressed us about Palestine-Vatican and Israel-Vatican relations.
That afternoon, we visited the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre, founded by Anglican priest Rev. Na'im Ateek. We were welcomed to the centre and addressed by Ms. Jean Zaru, long-time activist, WCC member and representative of the tiny Ramallah Quaker community. Jeanne's inspiring talk aroused much discussion. We left Sabeel to walk a short way to the St. George Anglican Cathedral, where Rev. Yazeed Said, a newly ordained Anglican priest from Galilee, welcomed us to evening prayer.
That evening, Juan-Manuel Martin-Moreno, member of the Jerusalem Jesuit community, spoke to us of new Christian realities in the Holy Land, specifically the reality of the Christians among the new Russian immigrants to Israel as well as the myriads of foreign workers from poor countries who flock to Israel to work. This new Christian influx has not yet been fully comprehended by traditional Church institutions.
Friday morning was consecrated to the ancient pilgrim churches: those of the Armenian Orthodox and Syrian Orthodox. Mr. Kevork Hintilian of the Armenians took us around the Armenian Quarter, showing us the magnificent Cathedral, museum and other Patriarchate buildings while introducing us to the subtleties of Armenian life in Jerusalem. At the Syrian Orthodox Church of St Mark, Rev. Shemoun Can, the parish priest, told us about the life and worship of his community.
That afternoon, we heard a panel of Christians who have chosen to make their life in Jerusalem: Sister Abraham, an Ethiopian Orthodox nun of Danish origin; Sister Anne, professor at Ratisbonne Pontifical Institute for Jewish Studies; and Rev. Petra Heldt, Lutheran pastor from Germany. In a lively discussion, they shared with us their vision of Christian life and ecumenical relations in Jerusalem.
That evening, Rev. Francesco Rossi di Gasperis, a member of the Jesuit Community in Jerusalem shared his insights into the importance of Jerusalem for the Society of Jesus and for himself as a Jesuit.
On Saturday morning, we celebrated mass in the parish of the Jerusalem Latin Catholic community which is situated in the St Saviour Church, inside the Franciscan compound. After Mass, Rev. Athanasius Macora was waiting for us and explained the work of the Franciscans in the Holy Land.
From St Saviour's we went to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. The Jerusalem Mother Church is Greek Orthodox in origin and thus, this visit to the Patriarchate was particularly significant. Arclimandrite Atallah Hana explained the situation of the Greek Orthodox to us, the tensions between the Greek hierarchy and the Arab faithful. At that time, the Greek Orthodox had been unable to elect a Patriarch to replace the deceased former Patriarch because of heavy-handed Israeli interference. (Since then, the Greek Orthodox have chosen a new Patriarch, Ireneos).
On Saturday afternoon, we were invited to a small Messianic community in the Judean Hills. Defining themselves as believers in Jesus Christ but retaining their Jewish identity, Messianic Jews are a part of the complex reality of Christian communities in the Holy Land. Dr. Gershon Nerel, a leading figure in the Messianic community and a moving spirit in the Messianic village of Yad HaShemona, guided us around the Biblical gardens which are part of the village and we discussed the subtleties of Messianic faith, practice and identity.
On our way back to Jerusalem, we visited the Benedictine monastic community that has taken up residence in the Crusader Abbey of St Mary of the Resurrection in the Arab town of Abu Ghosh. There we were shown the magnificent restored frescoes by the Abbot, Rev. Jean-Baptiste Gourion.
On Sunday, the last day of the session, we visited some of the Christian institutions in the Jewish part of the city. Our first stop was the Hospital of St Louis, where Sr. Monkia Dullman shared with us some of the issues at stake in such a Christian presence. From there we went on a walk through the Russian Compound (a collection of buildings constituting the rich architectural heritage left by the Russian Orthodox Church before 1917) and the Ethiopian Orthodox Cathedral.
Our last stop was at the impressive convent of the Sisters of the Rosary in West Jerusalem. These Sisters are a local Palestinian Roman Catholic congregation founded to serve the Local Church in the last century. We were welcomed to the convent by Sr. Ildephonse Hajjeh, who shared with us the vocation and charism of the congregation.
That afternoon was devoted to the presence of the Catholic Church within the Hebrew speaking Israeli world. Our first speaker was the well-known Dominican philosopher, Rev. Marcel Dubois, who has taught philosophy at Hebrew University for forty years, serving also as the head of the Philosophy Department, a unique achievement for a Christian in Israel. P. Marcel, shared his vision of the meaning of a Christian presence in Israel.
After this, we walked across town to attend Sunday mass in the kehilla, the local Hebrew speaking Catholic community of which David is a permanent member. We were welcomed by Sr. Hanna Kleinberger, a retired professor of nursing at Hebrew University.
Hanna sketched out the beliefs, practices and identity of the Hebrew-speaking Catholics. Some members are of Jewish origin and others are not, but what unites the community is the sense of vocation to live a Christian life within Israeli society, as Hebrew speakers, as fully embracing the Jewish roots of our faith. Her presentation was followed by the community mass, celebrated, as always, in Hebrew.
After an intense session which was really a voyage of discovery what do we carry away? The Christian communities of the Holy Land constitute a microcosm in which the issues facing the Universal Church all seem to converge: issues regarding war and peace, justice and reconciliation, pluralism and democracy, dialogue with Jews and with Muslims.
In remembering the impressive array of local Christians who shared with us, let us not forget to pray constantly for the peace and justice which are the sole guarantors for the continuity of a meaningful and vibrant Christian life in the very place where it all began.
The meeting began with two days of sharing among participants, who related their personal histories of involvement among Indigenous Peoples.
During a visit to the Center for Cultural and Religious Studies in Chiangmai, Fr. Niphot, a Thai diocesan priest, spoke of the importance of the indigenous cultures of northern Thailand.
He related the struggle of indigenous peoples to survive in modern society and to maintain the wealth of their cultural heritage, as measured not in economic or political strength, but in the values of solidarity and sense of belonging, daily interaction with nature as a living reality and their self-identification as "guardians of the forest."
In an exposure program on the following two days, the participants stayed in the Pgak'nyau (Karen) village of Sedosa.
There the Jesuits lived with the villagers in their homes, took part in a walk through the jungle on which the villagers recounted the ancient wisdom, prayed and celebrated the Eucharist together (80% of the villagers are Catholic), and were invited to take part in a meeting in which the people related the threats to their way of life.
There are two main problems faced by the Karen of the region. The Thai government has announced plans to include the village within the boundaries of a National Park designed to attract tourists. If this plan is realized, the people of Sedosa and the neighboring villages will be relocated, and their ancestral lands and traditional way of life will be lost forever. The villagers know that this is not an empty threat, as they have seen this happen to other villages in the district.
The second difficulty comes from the Forestry Department, which seeks to put an end to the practice of rotational agriculture. Communally cultivating seven plots of ground, the villagers clear and till one plot of land each year, allowing the other parcels to regenerate by returning to forest. In this way, each plot comes to be cultivated every seventh year.
The Forestry Department, which does not recognize communal ownership of land, seeks to abolish the practice by planting pine trees on lands not currently under cultivation. Thus the villagers are in danger of losing their lands and livelihood even if they succeed in remaining in the village.
The village chief and Karen activists explained that in order to obtain their land rights and preserve their way of life, the people of Sedosa and other villages served by the same river system have formed the "Mae Chaem Watershed Network." The organization aims at presenting the villagers' case to government officials and eliciting popular support.
In the group reflection on the final two days, the Jesuit participants saw themselves not simply as a group of individuals involved in indigenous ministry, but as companions who share a common mission: a mission that includes a pastoral accompanying of indigenous peoples in their joys and sufferings, a mission of advocacy to support their just causes, a mission of dialogue to learn from the people's ancient cultural and religious wisdom and to reflect theologically upon its encounter with the Gospel.
Although from various Asian countries, the participants resolved, as a joint project, to find concrete ways of supporting the efforts of the Mae Chaem Watershed Network as a symbolic expression of their commitment to affirm the importance of the ministry of indigenous peoples as an integral element in the Society of Jesus' mission in Asia today.
Plans were made to hold the next meeting of the Jesuit Companions in Indigenous Ministry in Sabah, Malaysia, in May, 2003 on the theme: "Confluence of Spiritual Energies."
On the first evening an exchange on our day-to-day experience helped the 25 Jesuits and their lay collaborators to create a personal approach to our topic. These experiences ranged from sporadic lunches at a Turkish restaurant to daily contact with Muslims from all over the world awaiting their expulsion in Berlin prisons. It became clear that the majority of the group has little contact with Muslims in everyday life.
Problems and chances
Two larger working units on Thursday offered a theoretical introduction to the chances and problems, which can develop in living together with Muslims. In the morning, a lecture by Wilfried Dettling SJ dealt with different aspects of Muslim presence in Germany: their history, their organizations and the concrete situations, in which difficulties may develop. Difficulties arise, among other, concerning the question about Islamic religious education, about the building of mosques, about introducing the Muezzin call. Another important aspect of the dialogue is to address difficult topics without yielding to "political correctness" at any price.
The second working unit in the afternoon was far more specific. Professor Dr. Volker Nienhaus lectured on the principles of Islamic economics. Their Islamic economical model is characterised by its own property laws, a special work ethics and social obligation of the property. Professor Nienhaus put an emphasis on interest prohibition. By means of a documentary film called "The Scarf", our group was confronted with the different interpretations of this controversial sign given by Muslim women.
Theory was put into practice on Friday. In the morning we split into six small groups, in order to discover Muslim life in Ludwigshafen. A mosque, the institute for German-Turkish integration the department store YIMPAS and the Turkish Business Association offered concrete insights into Muslim life. Together we than had lunch in the Yavuz Sultan Selim mosque, the largest mosque in Germany, where we were equally invited to participate in the Friday prayer. The impressive framework of the traditionally-built mosque could not conceal the fact that public religious life is almost exclusively a male phenomenon.
Friday afternoon Professor Dr. Ursula Spuler Stegemann talked to us about "Alternatives to a Parallel Islamic Society". Form and content of the lecture expressed a deep disappointment over her experiences with failed attempts of dialogue. At the same time her speech was an eloquent plea to stick to a patient strategy of "again and again", which will not give up.
And the evenings? The comfortable "Drachenklause" in the Heinrich-Pesch-Haus emptied usually only after midnight, after many vivid discussions. Friday evening members of the neighbouring SJ-communities (Mannheim and HPH) joined in, talking to us about their work and projects.
Date and topic of our next meeting were fixed: It will take place from 11-14 September 2002 dealing with "Spirituality of Justice and Liberation". The meeting place has not yet been determined.
Final Message The Conference of European Churches (KEK) and the Council of European Bishops' Conferences (CCEE) invited Christians and Muslims involved in interreligious encounters to meet in Sarajevo, a city which is highly symbolic of religious and cultural exchanges. In the present new multiethnic and multireligious stage in the history of Europe, Muslims and Christians from 26 countries spent three days sharing their concerns in three specific areas:
-the challenges of living together in a largely secular and plural society;
-healing the wounds of Christian and Muslim memories so that we can commit ourselves to justice and peace for all;
-shared values through which our communities can contribute actively to constructing a better society.
Considering our gathering as a gift of God, we have shared our convictions and hopes, for we are aware of the responsibilites of religious communities in shaping the future of Europe.
Together, we wish to contribute to a dynamic identity of our continent, and we advocate a religious attitude which will
-lead us to take courageous actions in favour of human life, freedom,religion, property, dignity and justice;
-give to us and to our faith communities a clear awareness of our common humanity making us brothers and sisters beyond our different religious and social commitments;
-refuse the justification of violence in the name of religion. Our commitment to dialogue leads us to make the following recommendations:
-to bring up young people to know and to respect each other's faith and community through educational programmes, and to promote religious education in public schools with interreligious courses;
-to support interreligious groups at grassroots level among lay people with a view to becoming aware of all trends which go against cooperation;
-to encourage priests, pastors, theologians, imams and Islamic leaders, and laypeople to undertake dialogue and interreligious encounter through exchanges between Christian and Muslim faculties and seminaries;
-to maintain or establish in each European country institutions with the aim of interreligious dialogue to serve ethical, social and political values in our societies;
-to continue our efforts in developing an awareness of our common values. In the light of the developing dimensions of the terrorist attack in the USA, we feel the need to reiterate our earlier statement: We are deeply shocked by the tragic massacres in New York & Washington D. C., and we express our deep pain and sorrow for the thousands of victims killed and injured, and we share the suffering of their families and friends.
We unanimously condemn this act of violence, as well as any other destruction of human life as a violation of God's will and a sin against humanity.
Recognising the potential for violence that resides in all of us, we pray that this senseless deed may not provoke indiscriminate retaliation.
We commit ourselves, in the spirit of this conference, to be instruments of dialogue, to contribute to building justice and peace, and to work for reconciliation in our societies.
Catholic Bishops and Muslim Leaders