Archive for October, 2010

Muslim-Catholic Partnerships and Solidarity in a Climate of Suspicion and Hostility

Joshua Bishop

It is understandable that we have questions about a faith tradition with which we are unfamiliar, but it is another thing when we are flat-out suspicious, mistrusting, and hateful, especially when we have had very little to no meaningful interaction with any members of that group.  I believe this speaks to what is happening now in New York City and in the rest of the country in regards to the mounting opposition directed at current plans for mosques and Islamic centers.  I would venture to say that much of the mistrust toward Islam is based on misinformation that comes from failing to take the time to build relationships and partnerships with the Muslim communities in the area.  Many Muslim groups out there are trying to educate people about their faith, but resistance only severs opportunities to learn and be enriched.  Direct experience often clarifies misconceptions, and this is one of the reasons why interfaith partnerships have a more important role than ever to play in transforming such a hostile climate.  These partnerships manifest the kind of solidarity and learning that is needed at this time.

The Interfaith Center of New York (ICNY) is currently involved in a yearlong interfaith endeavor, the Muslim-Catholic Partnership in Social Services Project, which aims to foster partnerships, and ultimately, meaningful relationships between Muslim and Catholic communities in New York City.  Of course, the hope is that these relationships will continue to grow even after the project year comes to an end.  Even more, the idea is for this project to be a model that can be duplicated in other parts of the country. 

One of the project’s most important features is that it seeks to bring Muslims and Catholics together in the context of social services.  While jointly working on meaningful social service projects that address overlapping concerns, the communities involved have an opportunity to learn more about each other’s faith traditions, especially in regards to the way in which these faith traditions inform social action and service.  As a result, the hope is that the Muslim and Catholic partners will establish a relationship of reciprocity in which an interfaith-based network is created that can better serve their joint communities.

Through the Muslim-Catholic Partnership in Social Services Project, the ICNY is participating in the partnering of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, and affiliated social service agencies and parishes, with local mosques, Islamic centers, schools, and Muslim social service organizations.  Since Catholic Charities is the primary partner on the Catholic side, the various social service projects are being developed within the Archdiocese of New York, which includes the boroughs of Staten Island, Manhattan, and the Bronx.  The idea is to have a partnership project in each of the three boroughs.     

The Muslim-Catholic Partnerships in Social Services Project in the Bronx is currently well underway.  A food pantry run by the Muslim Women’s Institute for Research and Development (MWIRD) is collaborating with a Catholic Charities-supported food pantry at St. Francis of Assisi and “Rusty’s Rolling Van” Mobile Food Pantry.  Representatives of Catholic Charities, the ICNY, and the Highbridge-based pantries have gotten together to participate in several initiatives in the last few months.  The first initiative was in regards to the 2010 Census, and the partners came together for an afternoon workshop offered by the Census Bureau.  Since Highbridge is an historically underserved part of the city, the Census was an opportunity to provide the government with accurate numbers so that resources would be properly allocated to the area.  However, many people in the neighborhood had concerns about filling out the Census form; therefore, the purpose of the workshop was to prepare the pantry workers to provide Census-related assistance and information to the clients of the pantries.  The workshop was also a platform for representatives of the Catholic and Muslim communities to share about the teachings of their faith in regards to social services and social justice.  After the 2010 Census, there was a follow-up meeting to reflect on the outcome of the initiative.  Since then, there has been one other initiative, which entailed coming together to write letters to City Council members and members of Congress concerning access to funds set aside for food security.       

Particularly poignant in light of recent events, the project will also bring Muslims and Catholics together in Staten Island to help fix up and paint places of worship.  The community service project will give those involved a chance to learn more about the other religion while mutually affirming everyone’s right to build and maintain houses of worship. 

In regards to the project in Manhattan, a partnership is forming between Catholic Charities and three imams in Harlem.  As a follow-up to several meetings that have focused on needs in the community, the imams will be meeting with the Director of Catholic Charities Immigration Services to learn more about the services that Catholic Charities offers to immigrants.  The meetings will culminate into a social service project based in Harlem.

It is projects like these that will continue to challenge people’s fears and biases regarding other faith traditions.  These projects truly create a space for the participants to be in solidarity as they address mutual social concerns and issues of social justice while promoting religious freedom.

Joshua Bishop is pursuing a Master of Arts in Theology at Fordham University.








FOR RELEASE: After 3:30 pm September 29, 2010

For More Information contact: Ron Young at E-mail: or (425) 327-7545

WASHINGTON—In visits to the White House and the State Department, religious leaders representing the Christian, Jewish and Muslim communities offered support for the Obama administration’s efforts to continue peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The leaders presented a statement at meetings on September 29 with National Security Advisor General James Jones and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, on behalf of the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East (NILI).

“We are people of hope. We call upon the members of our religious communities to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and to support active, fair, and firm U.S. leadership to advance comprehensive peace in the Middle East,” said the statement. “It will be difficult to achieve, but peace is possible.”

The statement called for a two-state solution as the only viable path to peace and said sustained U.S. leadership for peace is essential.




Full text of the statement and list of endorsers follows:

New Hope for the Peace of Jerusalem:

Jewish, Christian and Muslim Religious Leaders Support U.S. Leadership for Peace

Our faith traditions teach that every person is created by the one God and deserving of respect.  This common religious heritage finds expression in our common commitment to peace with justice for all.

With the support and engagement of the United States, earlier this month, direct negotiations resumed between Israel and the Palestinian Authority with the goal of reaching agreement within one year.  It is imperative that the peace talks continue. While we have long supported a halt to all settlement expansion, we support the United States working with Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas to reach a mutually acceptable agreement that will allow the negotiations to continue.  We stand united in support of active, fair, and firm U.S. leadership for Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace.  Two years ago, we issued a statement on “a window of hope.” Today we declare there is “New Hope for the Peace of Jerusalem.”   It will be difficult to achieve, but peace is possible.

Since 2003 we have worked together for a two-state solution that will bring Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace within the framework of U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242, 338 and 1397.  As religious leaders in the United States, we have prayed for peace, made public statements, met with public officials, and stood in solidarity with religious leaders in Israel, the Palestinian Territories and throughout the region.

Despite tragic violence and discouraging developments, there are signs of hope.  Majorities of both Israelis and Palestinians still support a two-state solution.  Arab states have declared their commitment to peace in the Arab Peace Initiative. There are U.S. diplomatic efforts to restart Israeli-Syrian and Israeli-Lebanese negotiations for peace.  Official and informal negotiations have produced the outlines of concrete compromises for resolving the conflict, including the final status issues:  borders and security, settlements, refugees and Jerusalem. Jewish, Christian and Muslim religious leaders both here and in the region reject the killing of innocents, support a just peace, and believe sustained negotiations are the only path to peace.

As we said two years ago, there is a real danger that cynicism will replace hope and that people will give up on peace.  With the resumption of direct negotiations, clarity is demanded.  So let us be clear.  As religious leaders, we remain firmly committed to a two-state solution to the conflict as the only viable way forward.  We believe that concerted, sustained U.S. leadership for peace is essential.  And we know that time is not on the side of peace, that delay is not an option.

The path to peace shuns violence and embraces dialogue.  This path demands reciprocal steps that build confidence.  This path can lead to a future of two states, Israel and a viable, independent Palestine, living side by side in peace with security and dignity for both peoples, stability in the region, and a comprehensive peace between Israel and all her Arab neighbors.

The United States has a unique and indispensable role which gives our nation a special responsibility to pursue peace. Achieving Arab-Israeli-Palestinian peace will have positive reverberations in the region and around the world. Our nation and the world will be much safer with the achievement of the peace of Jerusalem.

We refuse, now and always, to give into cynicism or despair.  We are people of hope.  We call upon the members of our religious communities to pray for the peace of Jerusalem and to support active, fair, and firm U.S. leadership to advance comprehensive peace in the Middle East.  The time for peace is now.

September 29, 2010

Endorsers of “New Hope for the Peace of Jerusalem”

September 29, 2010

Christian Leaders:

His Eminence Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington

Bishop Howard J. Hubbard, Chairman, Committee on International Justice and Peace, USCCB

Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Director, Ecumenical Affairs, Armenia Orthodox Church in America

Fr. Mark Arey, Director, Office of Ecumenical Affairs, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America

Reverend Michael Kinnamon, General Secretary, National Council of Churches of Christ USA

The Rev. Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Most Rev. Dr. Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop and Primate, Episcopal Church

Rev. Geoffrey Black, General Minister & President, United Church of Christ

The Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins, General Minister, President, Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ)

The Reverend Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk, Presbyterian Church (USA)

Bishop Sharon Zimmerman Rader, Council of Bishops, United Methodist Church

The Reverend Michael E. Livingston, Executive Director, International Council of Community Churches

The Reverend Leighton Ford, President, Leighton Ford Ministries, Board Member, World Vision US

Rev. John M. Buchanan, Editor and Publisher, Christian Century

David Neff, Editor in Chief and Vice-President, Christianity Today

Jewish Leaders:

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President, Union of Reform Judaism

Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus, President, Central Conference of American Rabbis

Rabbi Peter Knobel, Past President, Central Conference of American Rabbis

Rabbi Elliot Dorff, Rector, American Jewish University

Dr. Carl Sheingold, Former Executive Vice President, Jewish Reconstructionist Federation

Rabbi Amy Small, Past President, Reconstructionist Rabbinical Asssembly

Muslim Leaders:

Dr. Sayyid Muhammad Syeed, National Director, Islamic Society of North America

Imam Mohamed Magid, President, Islamic Society of North America

Imam Yahya Hendi, Muslim Chaplain, Georgetown University, Clergy Beyond Borders

Dawud Assad, President Emeritus, Council of Mosques, USA

Eide Alawan, Interfaith Office for Outreach, Islamic Center of America

Iftekhar A. Hai, Founding Director, United Muslims of America

* Organizations for Identification Only

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