ONE @ 50: Brotherhood of Believers

In honor of ONE magazine’s 50th-anniversary year, the CNEWA blog series, ONE @ 50: From the Vault, aims to revive and explore the wealth of articles published in ONE magazine throughout its history. In light of a deadly airstrike in Damascus yesterday, 1 April, we bring to you a reflection on the unity among believers by CNEWA’s Msgr. Robert L. Stern, originally published in the March-April 1994 edition of ONE.

Read an excerpt from “Brotherhood of Believers” below, then read the full story.

Whenever I visit Damascus, I try to make a courtesy call on each of its religious leaders. Besides paying my respects to the Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs and the apostolic nuncio, I usually ask to be received by the Grand Mufti of Syria.

The mufti, Sheikh Ahmad Kaftaro, is the spiritual leader of Sunni Muslims in that republic. An elderly man, he has devoted much of his life to improving relations between Muslims and all believers.

On 28 January, he sent his grandson – a signal honor – to bring me and my three associates to a meeting with him.

Much to my surprise, when we reached the mufti’s Abu Nur headquarters, instead of escorting us up the stairs to his study, his grandson asked us to take off our shoes – a certain indication that we were about to enter the mosque.

It was noon on Friday, the day of Muslim observance. The mosque was carpeted with men, literally thousands, sitting on the floor, while other men and women looked down from tiers of galleries.

Msgr. Robert L. Stern and Pontifical Mission’s Brother Donald Mansir, F.S.C., escort Sheikh Ahmad Kaftaro after he delivered his sermon. (photo: Pontifical Mission, Beirut)

The mufti began to speak. He welcomed me as a representative of the Vatican and the American Catholic Church! Then, he set the theme of his sermon:

How necessary is solidarity and mutual understanding among the followers of Muhammad, Jesus and Moses.

Confronted by the problems and evils of the modern world, all believers in the one God must stand together as brothers, he said. We are all children of Abraham.

Read more.

Msgr. Robert L. Stern was president of CNEWA-Pontifical Mission from 1988-2011.

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