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Let us learn about other faiths and focus on common ground

by Kenneth Jørgensen

On my mission it was wonderful not only to share my beliefs but also to learn about others’ beliefs. I had the opportunity to listen to and understand others’ views. Those situations in which each has time to talk and to listen, were some of the best as I came to appreciate both the differences and the common values we shared.

The 11th Article of Faith says: “We claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”

In my first mission area, my companion and I taught a Catholic woman; after several visits with her listening to our beliefs, she asked us if we would also like to have lessons from her Catholic priest. We gladly accepted. For the next few weeks we met with her Catholic priest, a lovely man with a firm focus on the Saviour Jesus Christ. He asked many questions about our beliefs. He wanted to know what we believe, and why and how we practised it. We had mutual respect for each other.  His example taught me to learn about other’s faith, respect it and share the common ground we stand on.

During a recent visit to the Middle East Elder Cook shared how important it is for us to learn about other faiths and focus on the common ground we share with them.

Elder Cook said, “It is a time to listen to one another and learn from one another … We are all God’s children”.

  https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/jerusalem-elder-cook-encourages-interfaith-listening-learning

We share several areas of common ground with Jews, Muslims and other Christians, including a fundamental focus on families, valuing education highly, a strong commitment to charitable giving and humanitarian outreach, and high levels of happiness and optimism.

A great example of interfaith collaboration happened in Singapore when members of the Church joined forces with Muslims to break their fast in one of our chapels.

Elder David F. Evans, Asia Area President of the Church and Dr Mohd Hasbi bin Abu Bakar, President of Jamiyah Singapore, led the Iftar meal event that involved 700 members and friends from both faiths. 

Dr Mohd Hasbi said, “Today, more than ever before, against the backdrop of terrorism and extremism, there is greater need and urgency to strengthen interfaith collaboration and collective action.”

   https://www.mormonnewsroom.sg/article/muslim-and-christian-faiths-join-effort-in-promoting-interfaith-harmony-and-unity

Elder Evans agreed that the world today often places greater emphasis on the differences that divide people rather than those things that bring harmony and respect.

Mr. S Iswaran, Minister for Communications and Information said, “The more we build bridges, the less we build fences. The more we promote trust and the less we sow distrust, and the more we learn to work together rather than work apart from one another, I think that all goes well for Singapore as a society, as a nation.”

When President Nelson met with Pope Francis earlier in this year he said: 
"We talked about our mutual concern for the people who suffer throughout the world and want to relieve human suffering. We talked about the importance of religious liberty, the importance of the family, our mutual concern for the youth [and] for the secularization of the world and the need for people to come to God and worship Him, pray to Him and have the stability that faith in Jesus Christ will bring in their lives."

   https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/prophet-meets-pope-francis-vatican

Elder Alessandro Dini-Ciacci said, "How inspiring it was for me to witness two of the leaders of the leading faiths in the world meet together and share brotherhood. This is beautiful to witness and something we can sure learn from in our association with people of other faiths."

Elder Massimo De Feo said the leaders immediately connected. "It was a wonderful feeling to see how they seemed to be like old friends after a minute. President Nelson and Pope Francis share so much love and mutual respect for each other."

The Church has projects with Catholic Relief Services in over 43 countries.

Catholic Archbishop of New York, Cardinal Timothy Michael Dolan, who has close links with Church leaders, recently spoke to members in Utah.

“We come together as neighbours, we come together as a family, we come together as friends,” the Catholic leader explained. “See, that gives a counter-example to those who would love to caricature us as these bigoted, hateful, violent people. And we can't allow that to happen.”

   https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/apostle-and-catholic-cardinal-speak-freedom-festival

When the church recently received formal recognition in Kuwait, Elder Cook commented, “We are going to be very good citizens, good neighbours, good friends … We feel comfortable being with people of different faiths but who have accountability to God.”

   https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/apostle-thanks-kuwait-church-recognition

Mr. Fareed Emadi, secretary-general of the Supreme Commission for the Promotion of Moderation in the Ministry of Awqaf said the Church had received the recognition based on the teachings of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad that focus on the desire to live in peace, saying “Our religion taught us how to deal with others and how to respect others.”

                                    

While Elder Cook visited Jerusalem, he shared from his experiences of raising his family in California. He noticed similarities between his beliefs and the beliefs of the friends of his children, and how similarities can reach across religious divides.

"We observed that our children’s Jewish friends had similar commitments to their families. … We share many values with other faiths, such as the importance of education, a focus on humanitarian work, and the importance of caring for our bodies."

Elder Cook's wife, Sister Mary Cook, showed great respect for the Muslim religion by being dressed in a headscarf and abaya at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Centre, the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates, during their visit to the Middle East.

As we try to emulate the example set by leaders from our own and others’ faiths, we too can reach out in love and friendship and help at events in our local area.

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