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Friday, June 29, 2012

Imam preaches at Sunday Mass, Parish Priest takes Friday prayers


Vienna Area Dean Rupprecht (left) will preach at Muslim Friday prayers, the Imam of Bad Vöslau will participate in Sunday worship - Christian-Muslim dialogue working at the "grass-roots"

Christian-Muslim dialogue can work well at the “grass-roots”: That is shown by remarkable initiatives in the whole of Austria, away from media attention, in which bridges are built between the two world religions - especially between actual people. "Kathpress" documents a few notable examples:

The Viennese Father Martin Rupprecht and Muslim imam Hizir Uzuner have agreed to an exchange of pulpits. Father Rupprecht, who Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn has given responsibility for Islamic relaions, invited the Islamic cleric from the mosque of Bad Vöslau (Lower Austria) on Sunday 24 June to his parish in Schönbrunn Vorpark to preach during Mass. Conversely, Rupprecht will preach on 29 June at 12.30 at Friday prayers in the mosque of Bad Vöslau, he announced in an interview with "Kathpress".

This initiative coincides with the 100th anniversary of the Islamic legislation in Austria and gives it substance as a "realization of mutual respect and understanding," said Father Rupprecht. "Already last year we undertook this 'pulpit exchange,'" he reported. "For some, this may be unusual - for the Imam and myself, it is a result of our years of discussions."

Bus tours for youth overcome borders

Pastor Rupprecht also drew attention an initiative previously prepared by him, in which young Christians and Muslims in Austria not only crossed religious barriers, but also national boundaries: a group of about 20 young people from Vienna and surrounding areas were in early June for a week on a coach tour of Bosnia-Herzegovina . This "journey of encounter" was intended as "a sign of hope" and allow inter-religious networking, according to the organizers Wolfgang Bartsch and David Neuber.

The aim of the trip was deliberately chosen: As a result of the annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina by the Danube monarchy, Islam was recognized in 1912 by law. The young travelers visited not only Catholic and Serbian Orthodox churches and a number of Islamic institutions such as Sunni and Shiite mosques and a Sufi convent, but also the old synagogue in Sarajevo. They met dialogue partners such as the Grand Mufti of Bosnia-Herzegovina, Mustafa Ceric, the Catholic Bishop of Banja Luka, Franjo Komarica, and the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Valentin Inzko.

Above all, the young Christians and Muslims came closer and became friends. "There was a great group atmosphere, with fun and touching interviews," enthused David Neuber. Bosnian Imam Senad Kusur who works in Vienna added: "The trip will not be an end but a beginning to our cooperation."

Dialogue about birth, marriage and death

In Feldkirch, Vorarlberg, a market town with a comparatively high proportion of Muslims in the population, a series of events is taking place in which the life formed by faith plays a role. Elizabeth Dörler, who is responsible for issues related to Islam in the Diocese of Feldkirch reported, in an interview with "Kathpress" on the encouraging high response for the dialogue which has already taken place on birth, marriage and death - and how it is experienced by Christians and Muslims.

The two Rankweil parishes, the two cooperate mosque associations and the parish councils cooperate shed light on these key life events not only theoretically, but to make their substantial form understandable. Presenters speak coram publico with those who are involved in the issue, "religious experts" - that is parish priests, imams and religious teachers - then explain the background. Through examples which the participants brought with them such as candles mediated the experience vividly and with all senses, Dörler reported on the three previous dialogue evenings. The issue of prayer will be the focus of the next evening.

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