Sharing experiences and identifying with each other is key to building bridges of understanding, respect and love.
The four questions up for discussion were:
1. When and how were you introduced to prayer?
2. What is prayer to you?
3. Do you have a favorite prayer you can share?
4. Describe a memorable moment of prayer.
Many, Christians and Muslims shared the experience of being taught to pray by their mothers. A memorable moment of prayer was when a father recalled whispering the call to prayer in this newborn son's ear which is the practice when a child is born in a Muslim family.
We all had an excellent time and learnt so much!
Muslims, Christians seek common ground in Berlin
Sunday, March 2, 2014 11:12 PM EST
By ERICA SCHMITT
BERLIN — Muslims and Christians shared their beliefs Sunday at the Islamic Association of Greater Hartford on the Berlin Turnpike.
The Arabic word for prayer is “salah,” which translates as “connection with the creator,” and Christian prayer also is about connecting with God.
That was one of many similarities parishioners form the Asylum Hill Congregational Church in Hartford discovered in discussion with Muslims from the Islamic Association Sunday.
A half dozen groups of five or six people gathered in a large meeting room, which serves as the center’s mosque. Conversations focused on the beliefs of both religions. A Muslim evening prayer concluded the program.
“This is a great congregation,” said Aida Mansoor, president of the Muslim Coalition of Connecticut and a member of the Board of Directors at the Islamic Association, said of the Asylum Hill church group.
Mansoor is a longtime friend of Donna Manocchio, associate pastor at Asylum Hill. Last fall, Manocchio invited her to speak to the congregation about Islamic traditions and what it’s like to be a Muslim in the United States. Parishioners were so intrigued by what they heard that they decided to forge an interfaith relationship, which began with Sunday’s visit.
“This is wonderful for us,” Mansoor said. “They really want to get to know their neighbor and better learn about our commonalities. We’d like to have more open houses for the community in the future.”
Morning and evening prayer is common to both religions, as is prayer throughout the day while engaged in other activities.
“Mainline Christianity is less proscribed, more free-form; you can pray all day while doing laundry, cooking, knitting, anything,” Manocchio said.
“Even a smile, if it’s done thinking of God, is a type of prayer,” Mansoor added.
The pair continued to share comparisons through the evening
“When we walk for hunger, walking is prayer,” Manocchio said. “When we build with Habitat for Humanity, our hands are praying.”
A program on Mary, the mother of Jesus, will further unite the Congregationalists and Muslims this spring.
“If you ask a Muslim woman who her biggest role model is, she will tell you it’s Mary,” Mansoor said. “Her hair is covered, which is one of many reasons we wear a head scarf.”
“I was raised Roman Catholic, and we always had to have something covering our heads in church,” Manocchio pointed out.
For 16-year-old Sahar Amjad, a Rocky Hill resident, the day was a welcome one.
“It’s really nice to talk with people of other religions, learn what makes others connected to their prayer,” she said. “It’s nice to get another outlook. I see it from my point of view all the time, so now I can see it from another point of view.”
The two congregations are working on building A Habitat for Humanity “House of Faith” together in Hartford for a family in need of a decent, safe and affordable place to call home.
Mansoor and Manocchio say they’ll be meeting again soon to discuss other ways they can bring their religious communities together.
“We’ll see where the spirit leads us,” said Manocchio.
Erica Schmitt can be reached at (860) 225-4601, ext. 210, or firstname.lastname@example.org.