Midwest Catholic-Muslim dialogue meets in Milwaukee

.- Muslims and Catholics met at the Midwest Catholic Muslim Interreligious Dialogue in Milwaukee Oct. 25-27. There they discussed common concerns such as religion in the public square and efforts to maintain religious practice among younger generations.

The annual meeting was hosted by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Initiatives and the Islamic Society of Milwaukee. Auxiliary Bishop of Detroit Francis Reiss represented the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) as co-chair of the meeting, while the Muslim co-chair was Dr. Syyid M. Syeed of the Islamic Society of North America.

The meeting began on Oct. 25 with a well-attended public lecture titled “Faithful Citizenship – Catholic and Muslim Engagement in Civic Life,” held at the Islamic Center School, the USCCB reports.

Michael Hovey, coordinator for the Archdiocese of Detroit’s Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Affairs, delivered a Catholic perspective on the topic. Dr. Irfan Omar, Professor of Islamic Studies at Marquette University, gave an Islamic perspective.

On Oct. 26 the dialogue continued at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist with the lecture “The Nature and Dignity of the Human Person: Implications for the Public Square.” The lecturers were Fr. Leo Walsh, associate director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs, and Dr. Zeki Saritoprak of John Carroll University in Cleveland.

The speakers noted several points of commonality in the experiences of both Catholics and Muslims, especially their histories of being immigrant communities in the U.S.

Speaking at a luncheon, Bishop Reiss emphasized that practical cooperation between Catholics and Muslims in the public square is increasingly important in an era when society does not value the contribution of theology and religious conviction in public discourse.

According to the USCCB, other sessions at the meeting explored the dignity of the family. Presenters included Joan Crist, PhD., who is a Calumet College of St. Joseph professor and Coordinator of Ecumenism and Interreligious Affairs for the Diocese of Gary, Indiana. Dr. Zulfiquar Ali Shah, Imam for the Islamic Society of Milwaukee, was also a speaker.

The speakers said cultural and socio-economic factors such as suburban sprawl are challenges to all people of faith, as is the need to maintain family life and religious heritage in the next generation.

Members of the dialogue discussed plans to publish the results of their conversations and expressed a desire to work with the members of the West Coast and Mid-Atlantic regional Muslim-Catholic dialogues.

The next meeting of the Midwest Muslim-Catholic Dialogue is scheduled for October 2010, the USCCB says. The Dialogue has been sponsored by the USCCB’s interreligious committee and the Islamic Society of North America since 1996.

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