Christians from a Catholic parish in Basel went to visit the community in an Islamic neighbourhood. After the Muslims had prayed they had lunch together. ‘In the afternoon, there was a football competition: teams of children, young people, grown ups and also “imams versus priests”!’ said imam Mohammed Tas from Kleinbasel. ‘We parish priests lost, but our friendship grew,’ observed the Fr Ruedi Beck with a smile. The imam carried on, ‘We had the joy of meeting together. Many things unite us. We live in the same city, we are human beings, we all have a lot of work and many worries. We pray for one another and help one another where we can.’
This was one of the examples during the day of Muslims and Christians in Dialogue, last 12 February in Baar, that showed how it is possible to build up family-like relations between different religious communities. There were 80 participants, from the three largest linguistic regions of Switzerland, 40 Christians and 40 Muslims, originally from 17 nations, among which were Kosovo, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Macedonia, the Ivory Coast and North Africa. Well-known personalities from Switzerland also participated, such as Dr Taner Hatipoglu, president of the league of Muslim organizations in Zurich and four imams.
At the basis of the dialogue was the theme: Hearing and Living the Word of God. Ali Cetin, an imam from Baar, introduced people to the Muslim understanding of who God is and of his word for Muslims: ‘The one who is truly loved and recognizes it reads emails, text messages or letters from his friend word by word and more than once. He values what is written, every word, every sentence. It is like that that the Muslim honours the Koran, as a letter God has sent to humanity. Its verses are cited with love, learnt by heart and put into practice.’
In Christian thought the love of God who is one and three is central. The importance of this came into strong relief in a passage from a talk given by Chiara Lubich, at an international congress with Muslim friends in Rome, 1998. She said, ‘We believe that God loves us immensely… and in the Koran it is written: “Believers do not love in a different way from how they love God.” This is the strongest thing that can unite us. Like this we are no longer only Muslims and Christians but brothers and sisters, persons who put God in the first place.’
Imam Mustapha Baztami from Teramo in Italy, one of the speakers, who knew Chiara Lubich personally, affirmed, ‘Chiara Lubich is the first Christian, the first woman who spoke in a Mosque in Halem (1997). She managed to build a bridge between religions. She was not afraid to meet the differences between the various religions, because she made her faith in God’s Love a way of living and not an empty slogan.’ A committed Muslim woman echoed his words, saying, ‘Today we have met on the same level, as in a family, and everyone was accepted. We are a building bridge, a ‘neutral zone’ that binds everyone together.’
To conclude the meeting, Marianne Rentsch and Franco Galli, co-ordinators of the Movement in Switzerland, recalled the Golden Rule: ‘No one of you is a believer if he does desire for his brother what he desires for himself’ (The Forty Hadith of Al-Nawawi, 13); ‘Do to others as you would have them do to you’ (Luke 6:31). It was printed, in both its Christian and in its Islamic form, in the three main traditional languages of Switzerland, on a card the shape of a credit card, and given to everyone to take away as a reminder.