Ramadan iftar in church around the Qur’anic verse “...Come now to a word common between us and you, that we serve none but God.”

Sent On: 
Fri, 2019-05-31
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Photo is taken from the Angelican Diocese of Egypt


            As dusk approached, attendees spanning nationalities, religions, and generations from Maadi and beyond entered the courtyard gates of St. John the Baptist’s Church. The church, established in 1930, was host to an interfaith-ʾifṭār filled with delicious food and impressive speakers on the evening of Monday May 27th. The event, the first of its kind in St. John’s nearly 90 year history, sought to underscore the shared values underpinning both Christian and Muslim religious morality through the lense of the Common Word.


             Reverend Ḥamdī Ṣidqī, the event’s organizer, graciously welcomed each guest with a smile and a friendly handshake immediately instilling a sense of familiarity and community amongst the room of strangers. Those in attendance included artists, intellectuals, and local religious leaders. The church’s courtyard was outfitted with tables and chairs meticulously decorated with water, dates, and juice in preparation for the imminent breaking of the day’s fast. As the attendees made their way to the tables the melodic sounds of the oud (lute) played softly in the background.


            After the azan had sounded, signaling the beginning of ʾifṭār, Reverend Ḥamdī Ṣidqī made his way to the front of the room offering welcoming remarks and introducing an impressive program of speakers and performers. The reverend’s opening speech was rooted in notions of community, emphasizing the spirit of friendship and the spirit of nation as pinnacles of unity above all else. The speakers that followed offered equally as eloquent insights all building upon this central theme of finding commonalities among us rooted in the basic human principle of love and love for thy neighbor.


            The distinguished speakers included Prof. ʿʿAbdullah Schleifer, Father Richard White of the Anglican Church, Mr. al-Shaḥāt Aḥmad, the Imam of al-Fārūq Mosque, Michael ʿĀdil the director of St. John’s diocesan program Jusūr (building bridges), Dr. Dāliyyā Ihāb a prominent activist for unity and interfaith dialogue, and Drs. Cornelis Hulsman of Arab-West Report. Between each speech was a brief musical interlude performed by stellar vocalists and instrumentalists. While all those featured on the program offered attendees valuable and enlightened insights on the spirit of community perhaps the most impressive of all came from Prof. ʿAbdullah Schleifer, intellectual, former-journalist, and co-author of the ground breaking A Common Word Between Us and You.



             Prof. ʿAbdullah Schleifer                      Shaykh al-Shaḥāt Aḥmad, the Imam of al-Fārūq Mosque


            A Common Word is a collective response by 138 Muslim scholars and intellectuals, of which Prof. ʿAbdullah Schleifer is included, to Pope Benedict’s controversial 2006 speech on the relationship between religion and reason - otherwise referred to as the Regensburg lecture. To many, the Pope’s speech was interpreted as an attack on Islam as a portion of the speech was thought to mean that religion and reason were not compatible with the Muslim faith. The group of 138 scholars, however, offered a rebuttal that highlighted the fact that Muslims and Christians worship the same God. This rebuttal later manifested as A Common Word Between Us and You which takes its name from verse (3:64) of the Quran: “...Come now to a word common between us and you, that we serve none but God.”


            This novel piece of writing and its message, whether intentionally or not, acts as the guiding light for the sentiments shared and experienced at the Church of St. John the Baptist's very first interfaith-ʾifṭār celebration. While practice of faith may manifest differently, the pillars of love and acceptance know no specific denomination. It is the belief in this guiding principle that everyone gathered to break bread Monday evening. 


Cairo, May 31, 2019


Cornelis Hulsman,

Editor-in-chief, Arab-West Report