October 30, 2017

Christian and Muslim scholars from around the country convened at Catholic University last week to discuss theological perspectives of God and religion.

The meeting, which took place on Oct. 22 and 23, was planned by Wilhelmus Valkenberg, a professor of culture and religion and director of the University’s Institute for Interreligious Studies and Dialogue. It was attended by five Christian and five Muslim scholars.

The discussion began on Sunday, Oct. 22, with a conversation about Mary’s role in Islam and Christianity, as explored by a forthcoming book by Rita George Tvrtković, an associate professor of theology at Benedictine University. The following day, the group reconvened to talk about the book, The Theology of Louis Massignon: Islam, Christ, and Church by Christian Krokus, an associate professor of theology at the University of Scranton. Both authors were present for the discussion.  

Valkenberg said this meeting is the first event in a greater initiative that will bring Muslim and Christian scholars together twice a year. This spring, the scholars plan to meet for a similar event at John Carroll University in Ohio.

The purpose of these meetings, Valkenberg said, is to increase understanding between scholars of the two faiths.

“We want to find ways to better understand each other and motivate communities to work together for certain goals,” he said. “The goal is not to in the end up believing all the same things, but to have a better idea of how exactly we differ and how we can work with those differences.”

Among the scholars in attendance was Zeki Saritoprak, a professor in the department of theology and religious studies at John Carroll University.  As this dialogue continues, Saritoprak said he hopes it will lead to new friendship and scholarly projects. He also hopes the group of scholars will grow with each meeting.

“When we talk about our differences, it’s clear that we deepen our faith, deepen our understanding and broaden our horizons. Sometimes we might find things that are very problematic and we can discuss them, but not always be in agreement,” Saritoprak said. “This dialogue will contribute not only to the scholarly world, but to people’s experiences as well.”

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