Leaders make commitment to work together
By Sara Eliasen
DE PERE -- Nearly 300 people attended the 10th renewal of a covenant between local churches and a talk by Salman Aziz, spiritual director of the Fox Valley Muslim community, discussing the faith and culture of Islam on Nov. 18 at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, De Pere.
The opening remark: "Where there is understanding of faith, there can be no terror. Where there is unity, there is peace," set the tone of mutual admiration and respect for the service.
Local church leaders renewing the Covenant were Bp. Robert Banks of Green Bay, Bp. Russell Jacobus of the Episcopal Diocese of Fond du Lac, Bp. James Justman of the East Central Synod of Wisconsin ELCA, and the Revs. Stephen Polster and Hee-Soo Jung, Superintendents of the Winnebago and Nicolet Districts of the Wisconsin Conference of the United Methodist Church.
The religious leaders affirmed several beliefs that their respective faiths have in common, including an affirmation that "the church is one family brought together from all races, languages, and cultures."
The church leaders also committed themselves to working together on several key issues, including "working together for the common good and for peace and justice as an essential response to the Gospel."
In the spirit of fostering understanding and brotherhood between religions, Aziz began his presentation on the basic culture and faith of Islam (the religion) and Muslims (the believers).
Aziz said Islam focuses on forgiveness and peace. In fact, the word "Qu'ran" (the Qu'ran contains the writings of Mohammed, the Muslim prophet) means peace. He said that much of the violence and terrorism attributed to Muslims is really the action of small sects and fanatical minorities.
Aziz said that because there is no body of "clerics" to guide the motives and actions of all Muslims, there is a variety of interpretations and misunderstandings of these rules.
For nearly 30 minutes after the talk, Aziz answered questions from the audience about Osama bin Ladin, the Taliban, the status of women, and such concepts as eternity and Judgment Day. Dr. Robert Kramer, professor of Middle Eastern History at St. Norbert College, DePere, moderated the question-and-answer session.
Aziz concluded his comments by stating, "If it had not been for the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, no one would be sitting here right now." The resulting sense of community between the world's religions following the attacks "is a wonderful sign of things improving," he said.