The Mid Atlantic Dialogue of Muslims and Catholics is expected to publish its joint statement later this year on the central principles of the Catholic and Sunni Muslim marriage traditions.
Members of the dialogue met at Immaculate Conception Center, Douglaston, NY, April 17-19, to conclude its first round of work.
Convened in 1996 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Islamic Circle of North America, the working group has looked at Catholic and Muslim perspectives on marriage and how the respective traditions treat the issue of interfaith marriage, which has become increasingly common as a result of demographic shifts.
After the attacks of September 11, 2001, the dialogue put aside the topic of marriage in order to examine over the course of several sessions the relationship between religion and violence.
But lately the group has been moving toward the completion of a pastoral document designed to inform clergy, couples, and marriage preparation personnel about the central teachings on marriage of both faiths.
The document, called “Marriage: Catholic and Sunni-Muslim Perspectives”, is expected later this year. It is a clear strives to balance pastoral sensitivity with legal requirements on both sides. For example, Islamic law does not recognize a marriage between a Muslim woman and a Catholic man, but does recognize a marriage between a Catholic woman and a Muslim man.
In view of the spiritual welfare of couples and children, the dialogue group did not wish to encourage interfaith marriages.
Also included at the April 17-19 meeting were presentations on religious education. Dr. Safaa Zarzour of the Council of Greater Chicago Muslim Organizations spoke about the experience of Muslim educators working on a project with the Archdiocese of Chicago on a Muslim-Catholic curriculum that has been underway since 1998.
Professor Sandra Keating of Providence College, who is also a consulter to the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, presented a critical reflection on the book, “What Do We Want the Other to Teach About Us?” This book challenges the reader with the perspective of the “religious outsider” as a component of teaching fairly and objectively about a particular religion. Since the vocation of teaching draws on personal experience, it is crucial that teachers be aware of the distinction between a personal view and that of the historic faith community.