On Monday, June 12, a delegation of faculty from the University of Saint Mary of the Lake, along with pastors and parishioners of Vicariate I (Lake and Northwest Cook County) of the Archdiocese of Chicago, were among the nearly 100 guests joined the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC) at the Islamic Foundation North (IFN) in Libertyville for the Annual Muslim-Catholic Iftar (the breaking of the fast meal celebrated by Muslims throughout their holy month of Ramadan. The Iftar is a community meal held each night of the month of fasting. For almost 20 years, the Muslim community has used one of these meals as an occasion of outreach and hospitality to the Catholic Church. Over the years, it has become one of the principal venues for interreligious dialogue, where each community will have one of their scholars or leaders address a topic of common concern, as a way of building fraternity between the two religions.
Bishop George Rassas and Father Thomas Baima represented Cardinal Cupich at this year’s iftar. The theme of the presentations was “Obligations to Speak & Reflect Truth in Society.” The Muslim Community was represented by Dr. Bassam Osman, Chair of CIOGC, and Mr. Vaseem Iftekhar, President of IFN. The program for the evening included addresses by Dr. Melanie Barrett and Kareem Irfan, Esq.
Dr. Barrett, a professor at Mundelein Seminary where she teaches religious ethics and moral theology, introduced the audience to the way in which Catholics approach truth and truth-telling. She explained how our belief that Jesus is the incarnate Word shapes our notion of truth in a unique manner. If truth is a person, truth-telling is situated in a relational framework. She also described how the Catholic approach of virtue ethics calls on all people to develop truthful habits of life. She emphasized the role of education, especially parent’s instruction by word and example, is essential if we are to have a truthful society.
Kareem Irfan, an attorney and regular preacher at a number of Chicagoland mosques, served as the first Muslim President of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago (CRLMC). He is also former Chairman of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC).
He presented the Islamic approach to truth. There is absolute truth, which “is
related to being part of the divine.” When this is communicated to human beings through revelation, it becomes a rule of truth which show our obligation to “understand, speak, and reflect the truth in today’s bewildered society.” The bewilderment can be overcome through belief in God, who has called us to be truthful. For the believer in God, there can be no acceptance of “fake news” or [the deliberate] misrepresentation of facts.”
Bishop Rassas received a plaque from the CIOGC leadership honoring Cardinal Blase Cupich and the Archdiocese of Chicago for their efforts to build relations with the Muslim Community.