Jesuit seminary organizes inter-faith iftar
By Matters India Reporter
New Delhi: A top Catholic theology college in India took interreligious dialogue to a new level when it organized its first iftar party for Muslims and others.
Vidyajyoti Center for Christian-Muslim Relations joined the Islamic Studies Association (ISA) to organize the customary meal to break the daylong fast during the month of Ramadan.
Vidyajoyti (light of knowledge), the country’s premier Jesuit theologate, has been noted for going beyond academics to reach out to the poor and oppressed as well as people of other religions.
The interfaith program titled “Muhabbat ka Paigham” (message of love) was held on June 16 at the Vidyajyoti Jesuit Residence in Old Delhi.
Some 50 Muslim, including Fatima, granddaughter of a local imam (Muslim cleric), attended the Christian program.
Father Victor Edwin, the director of the Vidyajyoti center as well as ISA secretary who organized the program, while welcoming the Muslim invitees, explained to the Jesuits and other Christians the place of Ramadan in the life of Muslims and the significance of iftar.
The Jesuit Islamic scholar also noted that Nostra Aetate (in our times), a Vatican document, invites them to hold Muslims in high esteem since they share in the faith of Abraham, like Jews and Christians. Pope Paul VI issued the Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions in 1965.
Masroor, who works in the Vidyajyoti library, read out the message that the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue sent to Muslims on the occasion of Ramadan this year.
In the message, Pope Francis draws the attention of Muslims and Christians to recognize “the harm our lifestyles and decisions are causing to the environment, to ourselves and to our fellow human beings.”
The Pope reminds all that the world is a “common home” for entire humanity and so everyone should take serious efforts to save the planet. The first Jesuit Pope also appealed “for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet…since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affects us all.”
Further, the Pontiff stresses that “Our vocation to be guardians of God’s handiwork is not optional, nor it is tangential to our religious commitment as Christians and Muslims: it is an essential part of it.”
Dilawar Sahib, a Muslim cleric, prayed for several intentions ranging from world peace to Christian-Muslim relations. He then urged the group to break the daylong fast at the iftar time. All the Muslims in the gathering fell in line in the hall and offered namaz (Muslim prayers).
“This was an important movement for the members of the Jesuit community, since it was for the first time ever that Muslims had iftar and offered namaz in their residence,” one of them said.
A Jesuit student said the personal meeting with Muslims convinced him about the need to make friends with followers of other religions. “I also realized that by giving and receiving hospitality one moves from hostility and animosity to generosity and love,” he told Matters India.
Father Edwin noted that the Vidyajyoti center and ISA are committed to promote national integration of all Indian cultural, social and religious groups and to support government efforts for this purpose.
They strive to work toward harmonious relations among Muslim, Christian, Hindu and other religious and social communities. They also promote study, research and teaching regarding the history, religion, culture, socio-economic conditions and other aspects of Muslims.