Jesus in the Bible and in the Koran

by Ariel Presbitero
September 15, 2011

Lord, we pray for the power to be gentle; the strength to be forgiving;
The patience to be understanding; and the endurance to accept the consequences of holding to what we believe to be right.
May we all put our trust in the power of good to overcome evil and the power of love to overcome hatred.
We pray for the vision to see and the faith to believe in a world emancipated from violence, a new world where fear

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In John’s gospel, Jesus said, “peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you.” What a central message if one is engaged in dialogue with other religious faith.

Some months ago I was invited by a Columban Fr. Denny O’Mara to attend a meeting with our brother Muslims.  Not more than 15 miles from downtown El Paso, we arrived in a house where some students live.  They come from Middle Eastern countries to study at the University of Texas in El Paso.  We were welcomed, and I was surprised that they addressed Fr. Denny as Fr. Denny.

Fr. Denny introduced me to all of the students.  We started exchanging questions about our countries, language, food, weather and work.  While most of them are students, there is one who is a teacher of values education to grade school students in El Paso.  We started the dialogue with a booklet guide about Jesus in the Koran.  According to the Koran, Jesus is a prophet.  Jesus is the son of Mary. Jesus performs a lot of miracles.  All of these are written in Islam’s holy book. I was amazed how well versed they are in presenting who Jesus was for them.  We shared who Jesus was for us as Catholic Christians. Sometimes we talked about politics and history, but we tried to be focused on the historical Jesus.

While we were talking, one of the students offered us tea, he said it’s the famous Turkish tea in a very tiny cute glass. Fruits were offered as well. It gave us more energy to engage in our conversation and exploration of the person of Jesus in the Bible and in the Koran.

After our meeting, we proceed to the dinner table where here is only one plate in the middle.  Everybody has their fork and glass of soda.  It is a Turkish tradition that they share one plate for everybody unlike in our Western culture that each one has their own plate.  This is the real meaning of dialogue, I thought.  This is the real meaning of the Eucharist. Bread is broken for others to share. Who am I to be welcome and share plate with others? The feeling of being accepted was immeasurable.  This is the manifestation of what inter-religious dialogue is all about. Everybody is invited in the table. Everybody is welcome to share the one plate. That with respect and openness we can achieve peace.  That we are all interconnected in some ways from the origin of time until the present.

This initial contact made a lasting impression on me. I’m so grateful to Fr. Denny O’Mara for the invitation.  I’m so thankful for the students who welcomed me in to their home and treated me as one of them.  My hope is that I continue connecting with them and participate in any way to promote inter-religious dialogue not only with our brother Muslims but with other religious denominations.