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Thomas Ryan, CSP Answers:
In the United States thee are three formal regional dialogues between Catholics and Muslims: the West coast; the Midwest; and the Mid-Atlantic. Each dialogue is focusing on a different topic. In 2005, for example, the Midwest dialogue published a little book on Revelation: Catholic and Muslim Perspectives. The Mid-Atlantic dialogue has been working the past few years on the topic of Catholic-Muslim marriages. The resource materials they developed for both couples and clergy should soon be available on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website where reports from other dialogues are already posted at this link http://www.usccb.org/seia/islam_index.shtml.
The Mid-Atlantic dialogue on which I serve is now turning its attention to the development of educational resources to be used in the schools so that what we teach about each other’s faith and practices will be based on accurate information.
The existence of these dialogues—and there are many other, informal dialogues going on in various cities and regions of the country—are an indication of the Catholic bishops’ efforts to establish ongoing dialogues with Muslims. Through these dialogues, more than 200 Muslim and Catholic leaders know one another well and have a much better understanding of how each other’s community interprets its sacred texts and traditions. Further, when a crisis occurs, there is now a network of relationships in place to take appropriate action.
What has been achieved? A deceptively simply answer is: greater understanding and a network of relationships. We now have a greater appreciation for the common ground:
We both worship one merciful and almighty God
We believe that God is creator of heaven and earth
We believe that God has spoken to humanity
We both await the Day of Judgment
We believe in the resurrection of the dead
We strive to live a morally upright life.
We pray, give alms, and fast in our spiritual lives.