In a time when great media attention is given to conflicts between Muslims and others, I attended a conference yesterday that was a real eye opener.
The conference was entitled “Catholic-Muslim Social Service Partnerships: Lessons from Manhattan, Bronx and Staten Island” and was sponsored by the Interfaith Center of New York. I represented CNEWA and gave a presentation of the history of Catholic-Muslim dialogue in the Archdiocese of New York. Msgr. Kevin Sullivan, the executive director of Catholic Charities for the Archdiocese of New York was there, along with several of his colleagues. The Muslim community was represented by Ms. Sarah Sayeed and her colleagues from the Interfaith Center and staff from several other groups, including the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in New York and the Islamic Society of North America.
It was amazing to see how many joint projects there are in New York City in which Catholics and Muslims work hand-in-hand. Catholics and Muslims attending the conference spoke of a wide variety of programs on interfaith dialogue, hunger relief, and youth development that they have successfully maintained for several years.
Personally, I found the conference to be immensely encouraging. After all the media coverage last year about the so-called “Ground Zero Mosque” and the demonstrations against it, one could easily believe that Muslims and Catholics in New York City have little or nothing positive to do with one another. Such a belief was conclusively proven wrong yesterday. While there are still problems, of course, and areas of misunderstanding that need to be discussed — and, hopefully, solved — Catholics and Muslims in New York City have a vibrant, deep and successful history of working together to address the needs and problems of the poorest people in our society.