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Encountering our Muslim brothers and sisters

When a new mosque was under construction near our parish, St. Dominic Savio, near St. Louis, MO, we decided to extend a hand in welcome and friendship. We invited our new neighbors to our rectory, praying together, engaging in dialogue, and sharing a meal together one Wednesday afternoon. We also engaged in education within the parish, preaching at Sunday masses about how we are called, as Catholics, to encounter the “other,” to look beyond stereotypes, and develop a truer, fuller understanding our Bosnian Muslim brothers and sisters. Following our initial encounter, clergy and parishioners accepted an invitation to visit the mosque, which deepened our relationship. Pope Francis reminds us that “Interreligious dialogue is a necessary condition for peace in the world.” We are engaging in the work of encounter because we want to be part of this peace-building process, and to deepen our understanding and relationship with Muslims living in St. Louis, the wider American community, and the world, in a time of growing assumptions and misunderstandings about Islamic faith and practices. By dedicating a time and space to relationship building, we have been able to get to know our visitors beyond these stereotypes and to recognize our commonalities as children of Abraham, sons and daughters of one God, and seekers of peace in our world.