Hardly a day goes by that we are not bombarded in our news cycles by coverage of political events emanating from the Middle East and affecting our world. Many of these touch on or seem rooted in religious strife and longstanding conflicts. We have all experienced that global events effect our local scene, our impressions of others and their traditions. This has been the case in recent memory as regards to Islam. Amid the mis-information and stereotypes presented in the media the need for interfaith understanding and tolerance has never been more important.
As a parishioner at Christ Church Cathedral and a member of the diocese Ecumenical Multi-Faith Unit (EMU) I am passionate about doing what I can to improve interfaith understanding and constructive engagement. The diocese of New Westminster, through EMU and the Cathedral has long been engaged in a range of projects to help us, the parishioners, have a better understanding of those from other faith traditions. It was with excitement that we had the opportunity to host an exhibition entitled “Jesus In Islam”, in collaboration with Masjid Al Salaam & Bridging Gaps Foundation, on Epiphany Sunday, January 5, 2020, during our post service coffee hour. Comprised of a series of banners describing how Islam views Jesus - and his mother Mary - including text from their holy scripture, the Qu’ran. It comes as a surprise to many non-Muslims that Jesus and Mary figure at all in the theology of Islam.
“Jesus – Man Messenger Messiah” has been seen in many countries around the world this past year and now, some 300 people have experienced this exhibition – for the very first time in Western Canada. Intended to be informative and engaging, Muslims were present throughout the room to answer questions and engage with those in attendance. Included in the exhibition was a beautiful copy of the Qu’ran with hand written calligraphy, and in contrast, laptop computers with presentations that folks could listen to and watch.
In my view one of the strengths of this format was the opportunity for informal dialogue and there were many lively conversations. Writing implements and a book for comments provided an opportunity for those gathered (particularly the Christians present) to offer feedback and impressions.
Here is a report that the organizers wrote about the event:
We live in a world where the love and respect for Jesus transcends cultures, religions and denominations. The Muslim community of BC joined with Christ Church Cathedral to commemorate the life and teachings of Jesus from an Islamic perspective, who is considered one of the Mightiest Messengers of God in Islam. This event and outreach is a symbol of inter-faith brotherhood - using education and knowledge to strengthen our community. Though Muslims and Christians both claim to follow Jesus, certain fundamental differences accompany the many similarities between the two faiths.
An open exhibition on Jesus from an Islamic perspective was set up in the Cathedral’s parish hall, where members of the Muslim community engaged with the congregation and shared their belief and love for Jesus. Imams from Vancouver Mosque were also available for any detailed questions.
The Exhibition comprised of 20 large scale posters – where visitors experienced an unforgettable journey through the entire life of Jesus as illustrated within the Qur’an, starting with his miraculous birth and ending with his second coming.
In addition, Experience Quran booth provided firsthand experience to the audience about Holy Qur’an -the word of God. Many of the audience listened to Chapter Mary – a chapter in Qur’an about Mary the mother of Jesus (Peace Be Upon Him) along with English Translation.
Islamic Call to Prayer was made from the Cathedral Pulpit at 12:30 pm with English explanation. This call to prayer is similar to the Christian church tradition of ringing bells before important service. The attendees also witnessed the Noon Prayer at 1:15 pm followed by an explanation about the concept and purpose of prayer in Islam.
The audience also enjoyed the snacks and coffee while they mingled with members of the Muslim Community in constructive discourse.
Overall, the event strengthened the bond of brotherhood, respect and harmony. The attendees also documented their experience at the “Comments Desk” and here are three samples:
- “I read all the story boards with great interest. I was totally taken by surprise to learn that Mary, Jesus and God were all common to the Muslim Faith. I learned a Lot! Keep up the good work, It could make a big difference. I leave with a totally different concept of how, in effect, the two religions run in parallel, not opposition”.
- “It is very timely and is very important, especially with the turmoil in our world. It is so important that we understand what we share and have in common, and respect and learn from one another. Thank you very much for being here today”.
- “Thanks for coming. Conflict arises only when people don’t know and understand each other. Your reaching out is a great gift to all of us. I look forward to reading Clear Quran – the translation of Quran”.
As indicated in the preceding Report we were offered the opportunity to observe Noon Prayers. In order to enhance understanding a short presentation on the prayer traditions in Islam was made prior to the Call to Prayer. Following my graduation I worked and lived in Malaysia, teaching in a Muslim school, and sometimes attending prayers with my students. It has been painful for me to watch the deterioration of relations between our communities. It was for me personally a deeply moving moment when the call to prayer was made in the sanctuary of the Christian church where I worship.
The Masjid and Bridging Gaps Foundation would be pleased to engage with other churches in the diocese to discuss bringing this exhibit to their parishes.
For further information please contact, Anwer Qadir
Photos by Azma Mazir except where noted