The following post is originally from: http://www.shp.org/podium/default.aspx?t=204&nid=674299&rc=0
Seton Hall Leads an Interfaith Dialogue
On January 20 Seton Hall Prep sponsored an Interfaith Dialogue, presenting guest speakers from the Catholic, Muslim and Jewish communities in New York City that seek to make the world safe for religious difference and to foster cooperation among religious communities and civic organizations in order to solve common social problems.
Seton Hall Prep’s Director of Service Learning for Social Justice Program Justin Kiczek welcomed the students to the assemblies, which were part of an effort to broaden students’ understanding of their own community’s diversity and of religious tolerance. He reminded them of the guiding philosophy of their school— to develop young men “who can act responsibly with consideration for others and take their place as active members of a pluralistic society.” The event and accompanying classroom activities were designed to make students part of the conversation.
In his introduction of his two colleagues on the panel, Panelist Henry Goldschmidt, an Education Programs Associate at the Interfaith Center of New York, remarked on the work of making New York City and the world safe for religious difference by increasing respect and mutual understanding among people of different faith, ethnic and cultural traditions, and by fostering cooperation among religious communities and civic organizations to solve common social problems. He noted that his fellow panelists, Imam Al-Hajj Talib ‘Abdur-Rashid and Father Steven Pavignano, are deeply committed to those goals, although they come from two distinct religious traditions.
Imam Talib is the leader of the Harlem Shura, a coalition of seven Harlem mosques and deputy Amir of the Islamic Leadership Council of New York and Deputy Amir of the Muslim Alliance in North America. He has worked actively on a wide range of social issues, including HIV/AIDS in the US and Africa, and the religious and human rights of prisoners incarcerated in the criminal justice system. His contributions to the Muslim and other communities have been recognized by awards from the New York City Council, the Council on American Islamic Relations and other organizations. He has preached and lectured at mosques, churches, synagogues and seminaries throughout New York City and has been the subject of several articles in the New York Times.
Fr. Pavignano is pastor of the historic All Saints Church on East 129th Street in Harlem. He is a Fransican friar in the Order of Friars Minor, an order seeking to emulate the life and ministry of St. Francis of Assisi. Fr. Pavignano is active in a wide range of ecumenical and interfaith programs, including work with Muslim communities in Harlem and in Hartford, CT. His community-based ministries include a Harlem food pantry; he serves on his Provinces’ African-American Comminttee, and is involved with the Fransican’s ministry for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation, a program that works to create systemic social change, to bring about justice and peace, to end poverty, oppression and violence.
In his remarks, Imam Talib reminded the students that they, as the leaders of the future, will need to find ways for people to live together, in as much as the believers in the Christian and the Muslim faiths together make up a majority of the world’s population. Fr. Steven noted that “our Muslim brothers, while practicing a different faith, have souls that speak the same language.” To demonstrate the past interfaith dialogues that occurred, Fr. Pavignano read a prayer from his Order’s founder, St. Francis, which was composed after St. Francis had traveled to the Holy Land and met with and prayed with Muslim clerics. He told students that the prayer, in several ways, mimicked the form of Muslim prayer.
Following upon the opening remarks of the clerics, students shaped the latter half of the assembly with questions developed previously in their theology classes. The questions ranged from inquiries about the nature of the Muslim faith to a question about how each has faced religious discrimination. Another question centered upon how the terrorist attacks of 9/11 have had an impact on their own New York City congregations.
Conversation continued in the classrooms, and Mr. Kiczek remarked that he hopes to keep the discussions alive through the coming months, leading up to the Prep’s March 30th Peace and Justice Day.