Unification News for April 2005
Interfaith Prayer and Fellowship at a Muslim Center
Silver Spring, Maryland ~ March 20, 2005
Report by Angelika Selle and Father Adrien Bayo
"The only way to bring humanity together is God." Those were the words of Imam Adil Khan of the Muslim Community Center in Silver Spring, Maryland, which hosted our Interfaith Prayer and Fellowship Ministry on March 20, 2005. This was the first time our service was held in a Muslim house of worship!
The program itself represented the manifestation of submitting to God and reaching out to one another as friends, since it was put together with a lot of communication and mutual agreement by the leadership of the MCC; the ACLC regional leader, Rev. Adrien Bayo; the Interfaith Committee's Minister Angelika Selle; and most of all Deacon Louis Johnson, who had been working with the MCC and facilitated this connection. All the parties were willing to be sensitive to one another. The Interfaith Ministry was very happy to be invited to observe the traditional Islamic prayers that would take place twice during the service. All was offered in prayer to the Almighty, that His Will be done.
About 75 people gathered in the community hall of the MCC to learn more about the Islamic faith, centering on the topic "Submission to God," which is the meaning of the word "Muslim". Mr. Shah of the MCC and Father Bayo of the ACLC alternated serving as emcees. Again their harmonious co-emcee ship reflected the topic of the day in substance as they led everyone through the program. Father Bayo especially pointed towards the vision and work of the Founders, Rev. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon, to bring religious leaders of all faiths together for the sake of world peace.
Dr. Workineh Simret of Ethiopia, representing the Jewish faith, spoke of the importance of sincerity in submission to God. He reminded us that at the time of Moses, people worshiped the golden calf and did their own thing, but Joshua humbled himself before God and did not use his power for his own benefit.
The assistant pastor of the Lively Stone Worship Center, Marshall Milam, representing Christianity, quoted II Chronicles14:3: "If my people humble themselves." and expounded on it, saying that in order to humble ourselves before God we need to lead a life of prayer, which is an activity to discipline ourselves. It helps us to develop a relationship with the Creator and live a life of sacrifice, a surrendered life. "The greatest sermon is the life we live."
After the first two speakers, everyone was invited to join the afternoon Asr Prayer in the mosque. Then, the keynote address was given by Imam Khan, who is also the director of religious studies of the MCC.
He started out by saying that Islam is a way of life entirely based on peace. The only way to link humanity together is if we submit to our Creator, God, or Allah. The prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, gave a universal message.
In his discourse, he explained the five essential guidelines of Islam: 1) faith and prayer; 2) worship (giving money, practicing the faith, etc); 3) transactions, deeds, prayer and action, being on time, being trustworthy, etc.; 4) community, creating harmony with others; and 5) manners, ethics, morals, setting a good example.
Imam Khan said that a true Muslim submits him/herself to Allah not just during the five times a day prayers but speaking to Allah 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Then any action we undertake becomes worship in itself: the work we do, the relationships we have. He said that especially the husband and wife relationship is not looked upon as something mundane but as worship. Religion should not just limit believers to prayer times.
He emphasized two points: Submission to God and following the pattern or example of the prophet Mohammad, peace be upon him, since all our actions are also a plantation for the next life. Therefore, we need to be good and selfless, and use our talents wisely.
He finished by quoting from the Holy Qur'an a verse that has been causing a lot of controversy for the Islamic community, a part that is often misunderstood and misinterpreted. In the Qu'ran it says that who loves should do it for the sake of Allah, God, and also who hates should do it for the sake of Allah! And whoever does it has completed his faith. What it means is that one should not hate people but their unrighteous actions or deed. In Christian terms one would say: Love the sinner, but hate the sin!
Following him, Minister Wanji Rowe read a prayer by Rev. Sun Myung Moon written when he was 16 years old, "The Crown of Glory," which deeply expresses the pain of loving one's enemy. That set the stage for a video presentation of the ACLC, "The Path to Peace," which documented several trips to the Holy Land of religions leaders of all three faiths--Christians, Muslims, and Jews--who had come together in the Holy Land to promote peace and reconciliation by taking no sides. Rev. Susan Fefferman of the New Hope Family Church, Landover Hills, commented on the activities in the Holy Land and shared her personal testimony of how she was led by God to marry a man from another religion Ð the Jewish faith.
The gathering then proceeded to join the Maghrib prayer at the mosque, after which Minister Selle explained briefly about the origin and history of the Interfaith Prayer and Fellowship Ministry, which began with tears of repentance and forgiveness between blacks and whites, Germans and Jews, and Jews and Muslims. Through prayer this ministry is seeking to let everyone experience the common ground of all religions and to regard my brother's problem as my problem.
Food and fellowship also are intrinsic parts of making new friends. She asked everyone to make a friend of another faith before they left.
The most stimulating part was yet to come: the question and answer session in which everyone could openly ask questions and address them to the main speakers. Some of the questions were: Can my son who is from another faith marry a Muslim women? Since Rev. Moon seeks to unite the religions, what are his favorite quotes from each religion? Is the content of the prayer five times a day the same or does it vary from one another? Why don't we focus on our differences and thus come together more closely?
At around 7:30 pm, one hour beyond the ending time, the meeting was officially closed by a prayer of the Imam, yet the discussion and fellowship continued.
There was no question that everyone who attended this service came out more enriched, enlightened and satisfied.
Here are some comments from participants:
"It was truly a miracle that this could happen! I learned so much and got a lot of insights about the Islamic faith. I am so thankful I could be part of this!" (Dr. Simret, Jewish representative)
"I am grateful that I could attend this service. I believe a seed of healing was planted, and I gained a lot of new friends. We all gained a lot of ground because people were able to sit down and discuss openly and come to understand one another. I also enjoyed very much going into the mosque and praying together. Afterward I talked to one Muslim brother and we realized that we have so many issues together and if he and I ask God in prayer He will help us. As Minister Selle recommended, I made a new friend, many new friends from another faith and also learned a lot about their religion. In fact, I was invited by some to come to their mosque and speak there as well." (Pastor Milam Ð Christian representative)
"It was a wonderful gathering, very peaceful and disciplined. Everyone listened to one another and learned a lot. We are all brothers and sisters in heart and we need each other." (MCC member)
"I was surprised and overjoyed to see an old family friend Ð Mr. Akhtar Khan the brother of Saleem Khan. This family has been a family friend of the Johnson family since we first met in 1958. This is the first Pakistani family, first Muslim people, & first interfaith family of Muslim Ð Christian that we had ever met." (Louis Johnson)
This was the second time that the Interfaith Prayer and Fellowship Ministry has gone out into the community, to learn from people of other faiths as well as share Father's Moon's vision of peace, reconciliation and the coming together of the Abrahamic faiths in unity. After two years of having monthly interfaith events at the United Federation of Churches building in Washington, DC, the ACLC Interfaith Committee decided to focus in 2005 on grassroots outreach, especially in Maryland. Every month we rotate the location, highlighting a different faith in their own place of worship. The first one this year took place at the Lively Stone Worship Center in MD, where the Apostle Floyd E. Nelson is the founder. The main speaker for that service was a Christian pastor, Rev Arnold Howard of the Enoch Baptist Church in Baltimore, MD who spoke very powerfully and eloquently on "Make the Dream Come True NOW", expounding on how Dr. Martin Luther King's dream applies not only to the racial problem here in America, but to people of all faiths and to people of conscience, and the necessity for people of faith to act on it NOW. (written report is available)
Our special thanks go the leadership of the Muslim Community center, Imam Adil Khan and also Mr. Nahal Shah, for their kind reception and hospitality and generosity of providing the refreshments for all, and also deacon Louis Johnson, who has been working for many years with the Muslim Community in Montgomery County and who brought us all together. Most of all we thank God for allowing us to understand one another more deeply and making new friends.
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