Sunday, March 28, 2010

Muslim students visit SFX Church

Today is Palm Sunday one of the auspicious days before Good Friday and Easter Sunday. I have just returned home from church, had my breakfast and started to browse through some back copies of The Herald. This one issue of March 21 2010 really made my Sunday all the more meaningful.

The article read ...

"Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the three great monotheistic Abrahamic religions share so much in common that we can never underestimate the extent of the common good which we can achieve as partners in dialogue and collaboration", Fr Simon Yong SJ told a group of 33 Muslim students from Universiti Malaya, a leading local university.

The students accompanied by their lecturer, Ustaz Mahmud Ahmad, from the Department of Aqidah and Islamic Understanding, Academy of Islamic Studies which is part of the above university, were on a field visit to the Church of St Francis Xavier, Petaling Jaya, as part of their comparative religious study of Christianity.

Various questions were posed by the students to Fr Yong, who is the parish priest of St Francis Xavier, on the practices and teachings of Christianity and Catholicism in particular. The students were interested in knowing the differences between the Catholic faith and Protestantism, ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue, the form of Christian prayer, priestly celibacy, the significance of Sunday, etc. The ensuing dialogue led both sides to find many meeting places and similarities. Fr Yong nevertheless, pointed out the need to be on guard against relativism which is seen as an obstacle to genuine dialogue based on the respect of differences.

Also present at the discussion-cum-dialogue was Fr Michael Chua, the Ecclesiastical Assistant of the Archdiocesan Ministry of Ecumenical and Inter-religious Affairs (AMEIA). In response to a question, Fr Chua highlighted the main issues on both sides of the divide in the ongoing controversy surrounding the use of the name "Allah" by Christians. Fr Chua explained that both Christians and Muslims had different perspectives on the issue. Christians viewed it from an angle of history and fundamental human rights, whereas the Muslim position had a broader spectrum of views, ranging from the affirmation that such use by non-Muslims was not prohibited by the Quran or the Hadith, to views which opposed it based on fear of confusion and proselytisation. Fr Yong added that the issue must be discussed and studied rationally and cautioned that one must not abdicate reason to the tyranny of emotion.

The visit concluded with a tour of the Church building led by Jesuit scholastic, Bro Eugene Koh SJ, where the students were given a brief explanation of Christian architecture, art and iconography.

[The Herald]

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