By Thomas Erik Bascome
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Members of the Catholic and Muslim faiths came together today for an annual dialogue and dinner aimed at promoting harmony between the two religious groups.
“About 15 years ago the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops decided to enter into a dialogue with our Muslim brothers and sisters,” said Rev. Brian McWeeney, head of inter-religious affairs for the NY Archdiocese.
“We are thinking of how we can work together to reach out to the communities in our neighborhoods and parishes so that this unity can be furthered,” said Naeem Baig, director of Interfaith Alliance of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA).
The Catholics and Muslims alternate organizing the event on a year to year basis.
The NY Archdiocese was commissioned by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to organize this year’s event, headed by Bishop John O’Hara.
“These things are building bridges of communication and of understanding,” said Bishop O’Hara.
This year’s dinner was held at the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center on Tuesday, Oct. 10, at 6 p.m.
The dialogue, which is an all day affair concluding with the dinner, seeks to educate the participants on the thoughts, experiences, similarities and differences of the respective groups.
“The main goal is a better understanding of our faith experiences, and also, how can we display to the world that it is a time for coming together, not building fences,” said McWeeney.
“It’s very productive and I’ve seen it first-hand. It’s changed so many lives and so many opinions. Instead of hate and animosity, there is respect and cooperation,” said Imam Tahir Kukaj, Vice President of the Albanian Islamic Cultural Center.
Members of the NYPD, representatives of local elected officials and members of various religious communities were all present for tonight’s event.
“This dinner is what we hope can become more of a common practice than a newsworthy event,” said McWeeney.
Article Courtesy: Staten Island Live