It was 18 May 1997, when Chiara Lubich was invited by Imam Wallace Deen Mohammed (leader of the American Muslim Mission, with over two million followers) togive her testimonial in the Mosque of Harlem (New York) dedicated to Malcolm X, the renowned religious leader and human rights activist, killed in 1965while he was speaking before hundreds of people.
Never before had a woman, a Christian and even more, a white, spoken in the Mosque. With a pristine-white chador on her head, Chiara Lubich launched an invitation to Christians and Muslims to work together side by side, for universal brotherhood. Over 3,000 people listened to her in absolute silence, also in other seven halls connected via video conference. «A historical page has been writtenhere in Harlem today» Mohammed solemnly announced, andright after the meeting accepted the invitation to make a pact to work together for peace and unity, in the name of the only God. “God is a witness that you are my sister. I am your friend and will always give you a hand.” Two great religious leaders and a sole objective: to create a world of peace.
Twenty years later, the extraordinary actuality of the Harlem pact continues to write new pages of history. In the USA group initiatives are multiplying. Members of Christian and Muslim communities meet periodically: moments of dialogue duringwhich they deepen the spirituality of unity from the Christian-Muslim perspective, with the sharing of concrete life experiences.
Last 22 May, a group of 170 Christian and Muslim friends, among which were around ten Imams, the president of the locality of Manhattan, various leaders of the Jewish Community Center of Harlem and the New York Mayor’s councilor for Christian-Muslim relationships gathered together in the same mosque in a historic moment in which unity is evermore necessary.
In direct streaming with Imam Pasha a brief video clip of the encounter between Chiara Lubich and W.D. Mohammed was projected, followed by messages of encouragement to continue along this path.
Some excerpts. Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York: “Chiara Lubichand W.D. Mohammed have traced a roadmap. We now have been blessed to continue this task.” Father Brian McWeeny, in charge of Interreligious Dialogue in the same Archdiocese: “In this time of social unrest, people of good will should make themselves seen.”
Teodoro McCarrick, Archbishop of Washington, in a warm video message: “We are celebrating the encounter between the two leaders on the road to peace, harmony, and helping people to work together, which is what the Gospel and the Koran tell us. Let us not allow ourselves to be distracted by people who do not work for peace.” Dava Schub, head of the Harlem Jewish Centre: “Also we can unite and go ahead with you. We can carry out social projects together and support each other. From now on also the Jewish Centre has become part of this journey.” Gale Brewer, President of the Manhattan District: “If the rest of the world were like the people who are here today, the world would certainly be different.I solemnly proclaim Saturday,20 May 2017 as Faith Communities Together Day in the Manhattan District.”
The Harlem pact of friendship has thus gone down in the historical and juridical deeds of the city.