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By Lynn and Bob Gillen

Links for Learners | April 2002

Ten Truths We Share: Jews, Christians and Muslims

Q U I C K S C A N

Finding Curriculum Connections
Finding Links
Understanding Basic Terms
Top Ten Reasons We Are One
Teens Can Move From Division to Harmony
Research Resources


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Links for Learning

Finding Curriculum Connections for High School Teachers and Students

This month’s Links for Learners will support high school curriculum in:

•Scriptures - Hebrew and Christian scriptures; God's covenant with his people; Bible timelines
•World religions - Judaism, Islam and Christianity; monotheism and polytheism; the Qur'an
•Christian lifestyles - peacemaking

Finding Links for Discussion Group Leaders and Participants

Look for connections for use in programs outside the classroom, such as:

Parish sacramental preparation programs and CCD classes; young adult discussion programs; seasonal discussion groups; RCIA programs.
Parents will also find this material useful in initiating discussion around the dinner table, in home study, at family activities.

Understanding Basic Terms in This Month’s Article

Look for the key words and terms below as you read the article. Definitions or explanations can be researched from the article itself or from the resource materials cited throughout the Links for Learners. You can also find a list of terms on the glossary page of AmericanCatholicYouth.org.

Abraham, father of faith

Muhammad

Hebrew Scriptures

Monotheism

Trinity

People of the Book

Allah

Moses

Quran

Polytheism

Jerusalem

Muslim/Islam

Ten Top Reasons Why We Are One

We're all familiar with David Letterman's humorous Top Ten lists on his late night television show. On a more serious note, this month's article highlights ten reasons why Jews, Muslims and Christians should be much more understanding of one another than we are now. The number one reason is that we all believe in the One God, a personal, loving, merciful God who cares for his people.

The basis of Islam is monotheism, that there is no being worthy of worship except God, and God is Absolutely One and Absolutely Unique. The Five Pillars of Islam proclaim "there is no god except God." The Arabic word for God is Allah.

A belief in one God (Biblical monotheism) was also part of Israel's original covenant with Yahweh (God) on Mount Sinai. The first of Moses' commandments declares, "I am the Lord your God."

A Christian's belief in the One God is likewise the first of the Ten Commandments. Catholic Christians see the One God as a further mystery, the Trinity, three persons in the one God (see the Apostle's Creed).

Contrast this monotheistic belief with Hinduism, whose followers believe in many gods and goddesses (polytheism).

Another reason to be more understanding: Although we are like children scattered to all parts of the globe, we are able to trace our "faith roots" back to one man, the prophet Abraham.

Jews, Muslims and Christians alike revere Abraham as the father of faith. (See the National Geographic article "Abraham: the Father of Three Faiths" from December 2001 for an extensive discussion on this subject.)

In the biblical time of Abraham (who is considered to have been born about 1991 B.C.), a polytheistic culture prevailed.  People typically worshipped multiple gods, often idols or statues formed by human hands.  Abraham was instrumental in recognizing monotheism, that is, worshipping one God.  (Refer to a Bible timeline or an historical perspective of what was happening through early Old Testament times, and for events in Abraham’s life in the book of Genesis.)

Citing Abraham's birth to be about 1991 B.C. means 1,991 years before the birth of Christ (B.C. = "before Christ").   We now live in 2002 A.D., that is, the 2,002nd year of the Lord (A.D. = Anno Domini or "in the year of the Lord").  Some suggest that the designation of time should be less religiously oriented, so that the familiar B.C. would change to B.C.E. (before the common era); A.D. would become C.E. (common era).  You may see this usage in some of your reading. This might be especially helpful in interfaith dialogue situations. Among Christians, using A.D. and B.C. is a way of acknowledging the lordship of Christ.

Through Abraham, God reached out to mankind and offered a covenant.  “On that day the Lord made a covenant with Abraham, saying: ‘To your descendants I give this land from the river of Egypt to the great River, the river Euphrates’” (Gen. 15: 18 ).

The covenant required Abraham to journey in faith from the familiar to the unknown.  “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.  And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great so that you will be a blessing… by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves” (Gen. 12: 1-3 ). 

This "great nation" will follow from Abraham's son Isaac.  “Through Isaac shall your descendants be named.”

Then, in an incredible test of faith, God asks Abraham to sacrifice his son as an offering. Abraham’s faith is so strong he willingly prepares himself to do so.  God, seeing the level of his trust, intervenes and promises reward for his faith.  For this reason Christians, Jews and Muslims alike look to Abraham as a model of unconditional submission to the will of God.  See the recent Catholic commemoration of Abraham in the year 2000, celebrating his deep faith and pivotal role.

Another top ten reason to be more understanding of one another - we are all "people of the book."   All three faiths draw inspiration from God's word.  For Judaism God speaks in the Hebrew scriptures.  Christians look to both the Old and the New Testament books.

For Muslims God speaks in the Qur'an. There are two mainstays to the Islam faith: the Qur’an, which is literally God’s word, communicated through the angel Gabriel to Muhammad; and the Sunnah, words inspired by God but with the Prophet’s wording.  (See also the Articles of Faith.)

Teens Can Move From Division to Harmony

Judaism, Christianity and Islam value the importance of weekly worship services.  We are all “people of the book”.  Every week we listen to the same or similar stories of Abraham and other biblical faith figures. Every week we hear the words God spoke to us throughout the years of our common heritage.  Every week we use these stories, these inspired words, to make sense of our world.  Yet, as our article reminds us, we so often spend the rest of every week hating, maligning, even committing violence against each other.

The premise of this month's article is the more we know about one another the easier it is to love (and forgive) one another.  Efforts at this kind of learning abound. 

·        Like many churches and organizations, Christ the King Lutheran Church in Houston, Texas offers classes in understanding Islam.  The University of Southern California's Muslim Students Association works to educate on the Qur'an and other tenets of Islam.  See the site for “The Noble Qur’an” translations, interpretations and authoritative chapter notes. 

·        In Washington a Catholic educator promotes peace education for teens and children.  Small groups called Peace Circles encourage teens to explore peace in their daily lives.

·        The Center for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown University offers summer classes for educators on topics such as "Teens in an Arab World".

·        The Lutheran Peace Fellowship in Seattle, Washington suggests 24 ways students can work for peace in our world.  Click on “Youth Work” on the site’s home page to find the suggested activities.  The Fellowship encourages students looking for class projects to explore the lives of peacemakers such as Oscar Romero, Rosa Parks or Dorothy Day.  It also prompts teens thinking about career choices to consider working at jobs that promote social justice and reconciliation.  Additionally, teens can learn about peacemaking by taking classes or starting peace groups.

·        Courageous efforts exist to work for peace in the Middle East.  The Jewish Peace Fellowship supports an end to the mutual violence in the Holy Land.  The Jewish Peacemakers Initiative recently sponsored Olive Tree Summer '01, a nonviolent demonstration in Israel and Palestine. 

We praise and celebrate one God.  We have so much in common.  How can you promote knowledge and understanding?  How can you be a peacemaker?

Research Resources

General sites on Islam and Judaism:

Islam.com
Judaism 101

Catholic Update's World Religions: A Primer for Catholics explains why Catholics need to be familiar with other faiths and gives a thumbnail sketch of eight world religions.

Try accessing some of the following Internet sources for further reference. Be aware, however, that some of these sites may charge for downloading articles contained within the site’s archives.

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
The New American Bible
Documents of Vatican II
The Vatican
The New York Times
The Los Angeles Times
Time magazine
CNN
MSNBC
The Associated Press
The Chicago Tribune
People magazine
The History Channel
The Miami Herald
The Close Up Foundation Washington, D.C.-based organization
ABC News
Channel One’s online resource
The Washington Post
Pathfinder - Access site to a number of online news publications


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