Today the Muslim world begins the month of Ramadan. This is a time of fasting, prayer, purification and spiritual discipline carried out in order to express gratitude for God’s guidance and also to atone for past sins. During this month it is recommended that each Muslim read the entire Quran.
One of the highlights for me last year in our ministry here at the Catholic Center was when we invited the Muslim Student Association to join us one Wednesday evening for dinner. This was near the end of the fall semester. Then, in return, the MSA invited us to a dinner in the spring semester at the local Muslim community center. A friendship has begun between our two groups that I hope will continue to grow and even become stronger.
During our visit to the Muslim community center we were welcomed to witness as the community gathered for one of their prescribed times of prayer. Watching the men kneel and prostrate themselves in prayer I could not help but be struck by their sincere reverence for God.
So, to my friends in the MSA I say, “As Salaam Alaikum” (“Peace be Upon You”) as you begin this holy season of Ramadan and I pray God’s blessings for you!
It is also fitting, I believe, on this day to reflect on the Church’s teaching found in Nostra Aetate (Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions) from the Second Vatican Council.
The Church, therefore, urges her sons to enter with prudence and charity into discussion and collaboration with members of other religions. Let Christians, while witnessing to their own faith and way of life, acknowledge, preserve and encourage the spiritual and moral truths found among non-Christians, also their social life and culture.
The Church has also a high regard for the Muslims. They worship God, who is one, living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has also spoken to men. They strive to submit themselves without reserve to the hidden decrees of God, just as Abraham submitted himself to God’s plan, to whose faith Muslims eagerly link their own. Although not acknowledging him as God, they venerate Jesus as a prophet, his virgin Mother they also honor, and even at times devoutly invoke. Further, they await the day of judgment and the reward of God following the resurrection of the dead. For this reason they highly esteem an upright life and worship God, especially by way of prayer, alms-deeds and fasting.
Over the centuries many quarrels and dissensions have arisen between Christians and Muslims. The sacred Council now pleads with all to forget the past, and urges that a sincere effort be made to achieve mutual understanding; for the benefit of all men, let them together preserve and promote peace, liberty, social justice and moral values.