Conversions off the WYD inter-faith agenda

Sydney Muslim leaders have offered to open their mosques and schools to World Youth Day pilgrims while the Catholic Church has given a commitment not to try to convert WYD volunteers of other faiths.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Muslim leaders made the offer as the Catholic Church seeks to ease tensions between the two faiths.

The Australian Federation of Islamic Councils is also considering staging mixed-faith sporting competitions and mosque open days for the largest religious gathering to be staged in Australia, which will bring Pope Benedict here for the first time.

The Catholic Church has given a commitment that it will not try to convert members of other religious denominations taking part in inter-faith forums and volunteering facilities.

It is also calling for 8000 people, including those of other faiths, to volunteer for the largest Catholic event on the 2008 religious calendar. There will be roles in areas including operations and crowd management, customer service, language and translations, staffing, hospitality and catering, accommodation, production, communications, liturgy and evangelisation.

Fifteen Islamic religious and community leaders, including Sheik Shady Suleiman, representing the Lebanese Muslim Association, and the leaders of four Muslim schools, were briefed by the Catholic Church on Monday.

The olive branch comes almost a year after Pope Benedict provoked Islamic fury when he quoted an obscure medieval text which criticised some teachings of the prophet Muhammad as "evil and inhuman".

The president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Ikebal Patel, said Sydney's Islamic leaders had responded positively to the overtures of the Catholic Church and saw World Youth Day as an opportunity to "break down barriers" between the two faiths.

Some mosques would be willing to open their doors to inter-faith forums, and could even invite Catholics to Friday prayers. At least four or five schools present at the meeting would be willing to offer their school halls for boarding.

"I think as Muslims in Australia we want to demonstrate very positively we are part of the community. There is not inherently that much difference between Islam and Christianity and this is an opportunity to educate the general community and Christian faith."


SOURCE
Truce as Catholics invited to mosques (Sydney Morning Herald, 16/8/07)

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World Youth Day 2008

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