Monday, April 28, 2008

Muslim professor reflects on meeting with Benedict

The Cleveland Plain Dealer features a column by Zeki Saritoprak, a Muslim professor who was present at the interreligious meeting with Pope Benedict at the John Paul II Cultural Center:

The materials for the "Peace Our Hope" meeting all carried the image of Edward Hicks' painting "Peaceable Kingdom," which depicts the beautiful hope of Isaiah 11:6-9: "The wolf shall live with the lamb," and all of the accompanying imagery of peace and harmony in Creation. This image appears in Islamic tradition as well. ...

Of the approximately 150 other participants at the gathering, 25 of us were Muslim. In the wake of the pope's negative remarks about Islam and its prophet at Regensburg University in Germany in 2006, some Muslims felt trepidation about what to expect at the meeting. Any anxiety was quickly alleviated, however, by the pope's humility and openness, which impressed us all.

It is clear to me that, while the pope is deeply knowledgeable about Western thought and Catholic tradition, he is not overly familiar with other religions. He was warm and welcoming to us all, particularly the Jewish participants, to whom he extended a special greeting in honor of their Passover celebration this week. It appears that he is willing to be a part of interreligious dialogue insofar as it does not contradict the main tenets of his faith.

This is particularly good news for Muslims, who share many common traditions with Catholicism, including a special reverence for Jesus and his mother, Mary. Muslims were honored to hear an expression of our own tradition in the pope's final words to us: "Peace upon you all."