Second Annual Midwest Region
Islamic-Catholic Dialogue/Word of God
Fatima Retreat House
Indianapolis, Indiana
October 14 -15, 1997
By Shahid Athar, M.D.

Participants included:


Dr. Shahid Athar (Indianapolis)
Imam Fawaz Damra (Cleveland)
Imam AM Khattab (Toledo)
Dr. Ghulam H. Asi (Chicago)
Dr. Irfan Ahmed Khan (Chicago)
Dr. Saiyyed M. Syeed (Plainfield)


Rev. Tom Murphy (Indianapolis)
Most Rev. Kevin M. Britt (Detroit)
Dr. John Borelli (Washington)
Rev. Jude Weisenbeck (Louisville)
Rev. Vincent Heirer (St. Louis)
Rev. Joseph Hilinski (Cleveland)
Rev. John Budde (Michigan)
Rev. David Bruning (Ohio)
Sr. John McGuire (Chicago)
Mr. David Wilson (Kokomo)
Elias Mallon, SA (New York)
Thomas Michael Sj (Rome Italy)

The session started with lunch and then an opening prayer followed by a presentation by Father Elias Mallon and Dr. Irfan Ahmed Khan. In the second session, the presentation was made by Imam AM Khattab and Father Thomas Michael followed by discussion.

In the evening there was a third public session and included in that was a slide presentation from the holy places of Islam and Christianity by Dr.Shahid Athar who had recently visited Mecca, Medena and Jerusalem.

The next morning, there was a concluding discussion and session related to the recommendations and future plans followed by lunch and adjournment.

The sessions were held in a very friendly atmosphere. The participants eating and praying together or at least watching others pray. The presenters were known for their scholarship in their religion and understanding of Christian/Muslim relationships and offered insight into the meaning of the Word of God in the Bible and Qur'an.

No attempts were made to turn this into a debate or confrontation but, just to present their viewpoints. From the Christian side, Father Thomas Michael from Rome talked about the "Word of God in the scriptures" and he related to that Jesus Christ in which according to him, "The word took the flesh and dwelt" and then God's word continued to form and live in the Christian community. He agreed that the Bible has both God and also human authors and the role of biblical authors was to convey God's message in their own way of thinking. The message remaining divine eternal and universal.

In contrast to the Bible which is a collection of several book, the Qur'an is one book which was revealed over 22 years and one language which is Arabic which has been preserved to date and there is no shared author in the Qur'an, the whole textbook being from God. Sayings of Prophet Mohammed have been kept separate from the Qur'an. His message also is Divine, Eternal and Universal.

According to Dr. Khan, the Qur'an informs the reader that words of God are indefinite in number and out of that, only some knowledge was revealed for human beings. The mention " A Word from God" is used to describe Jesus and sometimes the Qur'an uses the "Word of God" for a Divine decision or a decree which may be the status of the universal law. Most importantly according to Dr. Khan, the word of God is revealed guidance in Divine words which is the ultimate source of light. It is the revealed guidance in Divine words which guides all human life and gives us the innate ability to distinguish right from wrong.

According to Dr. Khan, the role of the prophets was to recite the Word of God, and through them purify their community and teach them the law. Thus they helped the believer individually and collectively to maintain their relationship with revealed guidance in divine words, in better understanding and reflection in their pure deeds.

While the Theologians discussed the nature of the Word of God from their side, Dr. Athar and several others discussed its implication on daily life of believers, especially in work of Interfaith activity and also taking care of the social needs of the underprivileged and he called it "Words of God in Action".

The participants agreed to return to the Fatima Retreat House on November 4th and 5th for the third year. At that time, they will continue discussing the meaning and role of the Word of God in our lives. They will also hear a presentation on how the Qur'an and Bible are recited and chanted in prayer and have an example of how the interpretation of certain scripture passages during prayer are done. The last session on prayer will be with the public who have been requesting more involvement than the present meeting of leaders only. The credit for the success of the conference goes to Dr. John Borelli of The National Conference of Catholic Bishops and Father Tom Murphy of The Catholic Archdiocese of Indianapolis.

We are all looking forward to next years program.