When Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal (a great Islamic figure) was on his death bed, a Christian pastor of his community visited Imam Ahmad and said, “O Imam, your life was not only a blessing for Muslims, it was a blessing to all of God’s creation. We are all pleased with you!”
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When I served as a religious leader in Lac La Biche, Canada, I became acquainted with a Catholic priest in our the community that I served in. His name is Father Trini. We would attend many interfaith programs together in Lac La Biche as the months passed.
We brainstormed and thought of facilitating interfaith sessions in which we would learn about the faiths of one another, just on the basis of coexisting. This endeavor entailed visits to the worship homes of one another.
I commenced this initiative by taking my Arabic language class on a visit to the Catholic Church in Lac La Biche. Father Trini facilitated a detailed tour of his church. He was very fond of the questions and enthusiasm of my students, the youth of the Musim community in Lac la Biche.
On our way out of the church, the Father uttered a similar statement to me as the Christian Pastor did to Imam Ahmad ibn Hanbal.
He also expressed how their regional Bishop was also very interested to meet the Muslim leadership of our community.
The Father returned the kind gesture of visiting our Masjid (Mosque) and learning about our faith.
That is what I truly call building bridges.
I hope that we can further kind sentiments of peace and coexistence in our beautiful city of Peoria by getting to know one another through the scope of tolerance and respect.
Through endeavors like developing a brief acquaintance with each other, having a brief conversation over coffee or lunch and getting an insight to what we consider the “unknown,” we are able to eradicate intolerance and understand that we have much more in common than we could have ever imagined.
We ask the Almighty for strengthening the bonds of humanity. We beseech Him to facilitate complete peace and goodness on this beautiful earth that we call home.
Imam Mazhar Mahmood serves as the Director of Religious Affairs at the Islamic Foundation of Peoria and can be reached via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.