.- Sydney’s Muslim leaders have offered to open their mosques and school halls to Catholic pilgrims for World Youth Day 2008. The announcement was made after WYD organizers met with more than a dozen Islamic religious and community leaders on Monday for a briefing about the international Catholic youth event.
WYD Coordinator Bishop Anthony Fisher said the briefing was also a chance to consider ways that the Islamic community might collaborate by offering hospitality, hosting interfaith activities, or volunteering at WYD. The Church has committed that it will not try to convert members of other religious denominations volunteering at WYD, reported The Sydney Morning Herald.
"World Youth Day is an opportunity like no other for the renewal of every aspect of faith life in Australia," Bishop Fisher said.
"Although a Catholic initiative, World Youth Days have historically had a positive impact on all faiths in the countries where they have been held. This was one of the key messages we wanted to convey."
The president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Ikebal Patel, told the Herald that Sydney's Islamic leaders had responded positively to the overtures of the Catholic Church and saw the largest religious gathering as an opportunity to "break down barriers" between the two faiths.
The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils is also considering staging mixed-faith sporting competitions and mosque open days to take place during WYD.
Some mosques will open their doors to inter-faith forums, and could even invite Catholics to Friday prayers. At least four or five schools represented at the meeting said they would be willing to offer their school halls for boarding.
"Peace and co-operation between people of faith - especially the three great monotheistic traditions of the book - is an aspiration of most young people and given the tensions in our world, it is an urgent message for us to all hear," Bishop Fisher said.
"World Youth Day will be a wonderful demonstration of the potential of faith to unite rather than divide our world," he continued.
A separate briefing is to be held with Jewish leaders.