Creating Peace, Creating Covenant with our Islamic Neighbors

Presbyterian and Islamic leaders work on drafting the covenant at a recent dialogue meeting at MECCA mosque in Willowbrook, IL.

Written By Jay Moses, Muslim Relations Coordinator, Ecumenical and Inter-Religious Work Group

Having goals is always a tricky business in interreligious dialogue. The “goal” in many ways is the relationship itself. The Presbytery of Chicago and the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC) has had a rich dialogue and relationship for over seven years now, and over the past year has been working on an official “covenant” to symbolize and witness to our work and friendship together.

As in most drafting processes as a “committee”, there have been many meetings and many re-workings of the covenant along the way. With each new phrase, disputed sentence or added imagery, came a deeper understanding of the person and represented community across the table.

The current draft begins, “As communities of faith, we, the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago and the Presbytery of Chicago, believe that our religions are the rich wellsprings from which we draw forth our commitments to love and to serve.”

It was very important to the group to stress the very different religious perspectives that Islam and Christianity profess, that we will always be “two” communities, but at the same time to emphasize the fact that teachings from both our traditions are united in the conviction that we must “serve and love” those we have been placed to live with.

From these common religious convictions comes the action that draws both communities together, “to stand together for those who are vulnerable and to speak up with those whose voices are not heard. We promise to teach our children compassion for those whose struggles are different from our own. We promise to become a force for good for each other and for others.” Our group found it difficult to talk about our own relationship, Muslim/Presbyterian, without talking about our commitment and relationship with others outside our walls, churches and mosques who, many times, are much in need.

Finally, like any relationship that is to last, commitments were articulated as safe guards against our peoples becoming strangers to each other through the course of time and events, “we commit ourselves: to deepen our understanding of each other’s religions to model respect for each other’s religions, to work together on an ongoing basis in issues of human equality and social justice.”

At our upcoming April Presbytery Assembly, we will be sharing the continual draft of this Covenant between Presbyterians and Muslims within Chicago. It is our hope that you will read it, bring it back to your churches and sessions, and become active in this aspect of the dialogue. Although we hope to vote on the covenant in June, it is our hope that in the future the continued ‘amendments’ will no longer be on paper in a Presbytery office or CIOGC room, but in your local communities breaking bread around issues of peace.

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