The first lecture was given by Sheikh Dr. Shomali. I was very impressed by his discussion for many reasons. The most important word of his lecture was “unity”. He told us that nothing can replace unity, and that we need to start with unity as a foundation. By having unity, we then can talk about justice (objective and rational). I agree and believe that unity is central for doing anything in interreligious dialogue. Next Dr. Shomali mentioned the “mercy” of God. He said that the prophet Mohammed was sent to be merciful to all people, and that God is merciful. As a Catholic myself, I could not agree more with his statement that God is merciful. In the Old and New Testament of the Bible, we see God’s mercy time and time again. In the Old Testament we see God’s mercy always in relation to the covenant with His/Her people. Mercy is also central to Jesus’ ministry in the Gospels. Dr. Shomali also discussed how the Koran reminds Muslims that God gave them mercy. My favorite quote from Dr. Shomali’s lecture was his line, “to unite people is a divine act.” In my interview with Dr. Shomali the day after his lecture, I asked him about what this meant and he gave me an in-depth answer, which can be heard on my podcast on this website. He mentioned that God’s love and mercy is a kindness that is never ending. Another take away from his lecture, was his statement that, as humans, we must be open to a larger community in order to reach all humans. There is no limit of unity. I completely agree with his statement, and in my interview with Dr. Shomali, he spoke at great length about this idea.
The other lecture on “Unity in God Unity of God” came from Professor Paolo Frizzi. In his lecture, he discussed “unity as spirituality and culture”. He mentioned the Focolare Movement and the practices which connected to this idea of spirituality of unity. He talked about “unity” as an all-around category”. Professor Frizzi mentioned two of these practices, which I would like to share. 1) God is love 2) love the neighbours, building unity with everyone. Professor Frizzi also mentioned Pope Francis in his lecture. He cited a paragraph from Pope Francis’s Evangelii gaudium on the Pope’s idea of a convergent world order. I thought Professor Frizzi’s lecture and informative on the topic of unity and it was a great lecture to have in part with Sheikh Dr. Shomali’s lecture.
These lectures were a great start to my week, which continued with an interview with Dr. Shomali that is available via the podcast on this website. I was able to talk with Dr. Shomali at length during our interview about mercy. Since my doctoral dissertation is on Pope Francis’s concept of mercy, I am very interested in learning more about how mercy is mentioned in the Koran and how God’s mercy is viewed in Islam. I had a wonderful interview with Dr. Shomali and he was so kind and generous to talk with me at length, before and after our interview concerning all of my questions. I could have sat and talked with him for hours about Islam and Christianity. I really enjoyed every minute of our interview and I hope there is an opportunity in the future where I can continue my interview with Dr. Shomali.