With personal warmth heightened by the betrayal of diplomatic care, Washington Cardinal Wilton D. Gregory and Imam Sayyid MB Kashmiri, a representative of Shia Muslims in North America, held a discussion on Christian-Muslim relations on March 17th.
It followed Pope Francis’ historic meeting in Iraq on March 6 with Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, one of the most authoritative leaders of Shia Islam.
Imam Kashmiri, writer, author and lecturer, is the vice-chairman and director of religious affairs for the Imam Mahdi Society in Marjaeya, the North American liaison office for Ayatollah al-Sistani.
In the brief conversation held online and seen on YouTube, Cardinal Gregory and the imam said the pope’s meeting with the ayatollah has a big impact.
“This meeting between great spiritual leaders affects all of us,” said Imam Kashmiri, noting that Christianity and Islam are the largest religions in the world, and that Shia Catholicism and Islam in particular share many commonalities.These commonalities can pave the way for other beliefs to work together for the development of humanity, he said.
Cardinal Gregory reiterated what Imam Kashmiri saw earlier in his conversation that “Pope Francis and Ayatollah al-Sistani have raised the bar considerably for both our religions and religious traditions.”
“We here in our local communities cannot afford to seize this great opportunity,” he said, “to promote brotherhood, brotherhood and co-operation, which will enhance the religious knowledge of both our communities and enhance air. “
Cardinal Gregory said Pope Francis considered how Muslim and Christian communities could work at a local level to promote communication, when speaking at an intersex meeting on the new area of Abraham’s home, which is revered by Islam, Judaism and Christianity.
He addressed Pope Francis, who said: “Abraham’s journey was a blessing of peace. But it was not easy: he had to face up to conflict and unforeseen events. We also have a rough journey, but as the patriarch great, we must take hard steps, to send and seek the faces of others, to share memories, gases and silence, stories and experiences. “
Those words provide “a plan for Catholics and Muslims in the United States in terms of how to overcome the obstacles that separate us, that will keep us in mistrust and misunderstanding of each other,” he said. and Cardinal Gregory.
For example, the cardinal noted that he himself decided to “step outside my comfort zone to meet and listen to the other.” He said that was “a powerful first step in, in fact, doing my part in bringing healing to the world.”
He said Pope Francis and Ayatollah al-Sistani took great risks in holding a face-to-face meeting, overcoming any doubts or suspicions from each other. The senior cardinal said that “that is a signal to us all and worthy of report.”
Threats to the pope and the ayatollah included terror threats and the COVID-19 pandemic. Pope Francis is 84 and ayatollah is 90 and seldom makes requests for meetings. His meeting decision brought great hope to Muslims, Christians in Iraq and other minority religions, Imam Kashmiri said.
He said the pope’s visit was seen not only as a support for peace, but as a counter-terrorism challenge – with the real act of going to Iraq. Pope Francis has given hope to Iraqi ethnic minorities who have suffered for decades, the imam said, adding that Ayatollah al-Sistani believes it is very important to “keep ethnic minorities alive in Iraq. Minority languages are very important in maintaining the mosaic landscape in Iraq. “
Christians make up about 1% of Iraq’s population.
Cardinal Gregory said it was clear that Pope Francis was keen on the trip to Iraq despite the challenges. He noted that shortly before leaving the Vatican for Iraq, the pope reaffirmed his desire to not only join Catholics there, “but also to take a step forward in becoming strengthens the bonds between Catholics and other believers and to be with others.
The pope saw the visit and the meeting with the ayatollah as an opportunity to give much-needed Iraqi people hope, the senior cardinal said.
“They were together in a country full of innumerable tears that show in some way that the people of Iraq and the suffering that they have suffered are important, and that they are not forgotten,” said Cardinal Gregory.
Pope Francis has been “a messenger of peace on the global stage,” the senior cardinal said, emphasizing communication “for promoting genuine closeness and ugliness. We have seen him do this over and over again with world leaders, especially with Muslim leaders. “
Cardinal Gregory noted that during his visit to Iraq, the pope showed “that he was not there to force or order, but to start a friendship, to start a conversation, based on respect for each other, and to encourage those who were already doing the same in Iraq. “”
Imam Kashmiri said the meeting between the pope and the ayatollah “placed a great deal of concern on religious scholars all over the world,” pushing them to help find meaningful ways to advance cooperation and communication. . “The ball is in our court,” he said.
There are many people in Iraq who are already doing a good job, Cardinal Gregory noted, “and they simply need to be inspired by confident leaders who are willing to publicly promote the same ideals. And who is more courageous or more honorable than Pope Francis and Ayatollah al – Sistani? “
Imam Kashmiri said that working with young people and reaching out to charity is already happening among religions and can be a path to the kind of co – operation and understanding of the community. pope and the ayatollah mentioned.