Victor Edwin SJ
Vidyajyoti Center for Christian-Muslim Relations (VJ-CCMR) and the Islamic Studies Association (ISA) organized an interfaith iftar: Muhabbat ka Paigham at the Vidyajyoti Jesuit Residence, Delhi, on 16th June, 2017. Some 50 Muslim friends and a little sister, Fatima, the granddaughter of the local imam, accepted our invitation and graced the occasion. The local organizer welcomed the visiting Muslim brothers and sisters and introduced them to the Jesuit community. He had a double task at hand! To his fellow Jesuits, the Christian hosts, he explained the place of Ramadan in the life of Muslims and the significance of iftar to help them get into the spirit of the occasion. Secondly, he reminded them that Nostra Aetate invites them to hold Muslims in high esteem since they share in the faith of Abraham, like Jews and Christians.
Thereafter, Mr Masroor, assistant in the Vidyajyoti Library, read out the Message from the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue to Muslims for the month of Ramadan and ‘Id al-Fitr H. 1438 H / 2017 CE. In the message, Pope Francis drew the attention of both Muslims and Christians to recognize “the harm our lifestyles and decisions are causing to the environment, to ourselves and to our fellow human beings”. He reminded all that the world is a “common home”, a dwelling-place for all the members of the human family and so everyone should take serious efforts to save the planet. Thus, Pope Francis 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, he emphasized 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”.
After listening to the Papal message everyone slipped into some moments of personal prayer. On behalf of the gathering, both Muslims and Christians, Imam Dilawar Sahib addressed the Almighty with many petitions: ranging from world peace to Christian-Muslim relations, and at the appointed time, he told the people to break their day-long fast. It was time for iftar. Then, he issued the call to prayer. All the Muslims in the gathering including the little Fatima fell in line in the hall and offered namaz. 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 the Jesuit Residence.
A Jesuit student who felt inspired by the event said that he drew two lessons from the evening: “One, personal meeting with Muslims disarmed me of the rustic sword of polemics. We need to make friends with followers of other religions. Secondly, I recognized that by giving and receiving hospitality one moves from hostility and animosity to generosity and love”.
Victor Edwin SJ, the director of VJ-CCMR and the secretary of ISA, noted that these two bodies 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 towards 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.