Studium Theologicum Salesianum
Salesian Pontifical University : Faculty of Theology - Jerusalem Campus

“Shared Prayer of Christians and Muslims.
The Feast of The Annunciation - A National Holiday in Lebanon”
By Fr Hicham Chamali, Sj


22 March 2017 STS-Jerusalem
LUPI Andrea, sdb

On 22 of March 2017, the “Focus on Islam Lectures,” saw the students and faculty of the STS together exploring an experience of prayer between Christians and Muslims in Lebanon. The lecture was given by Fr. Hicham Chemali, SJ, who focused on the development of the Feast of the Annunciation, 25 March, into a National Holiday in Lebanon. Fr. Chemali is a Lebanese priest of the Society of Jesus, who earned a Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL) at Boston College. He deepened his studies in Arabic Culture and Islam at the Institut de Lettres Orientales (USJ). He currently teaches at the Bethlehem University.

“Lebanon is more than a country. It is a message of freedom and an example of pluralism for East and West,” said John Paul II during his apostolic visitation in 1980. Moved by this message, Sheikh Mohamad Nokkari, a Sunni Muslim who wanted to further national reconciliation and inter-communal friendship, together with Christian friends began working to organize a joint ceremony on the Feast day of the Annunciation. The Virgin Mary, indeed, is a point of reference for both Christians and Muslims.

The dream to see Christians and Muslims pray together took place despite the opposition of some religious authorities. From 2007, several committees were working to find an appropriate way to realize a National Feast that would be a sign of communion and respect among the two great Religions. On 18 February 2010, the Lebanese government made 25 March a national Christian-Muslim Day, something that has never occurred before in the history of Christian-Muslim relations. The decision was confirmed two days later during a meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and Prime Minister Hariri in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican.

Awareness of the differences in the understanding of the role of Mary and the person of Jesus, Fr. Chemali was able to underline the experience of theological dialogue that this event offers. At the base of any real inter-religious dialogue there should be a shared stand for the Freedom of Religion. The lecturer, afterwards, pointed out several strategies for a fruitful dialogue with Muslims such as the understanding of Jesus as the Word of God and the attitude of respect for the differences without compromising the identities of the faithful.

After his lecture, Fr. Chemali took up some questions from the STS students, such as: the concept of obedience in Islam, the actual situation of the feast and its fruit in the present time, the other religious presences in Lebanon, and iconography in Islam. Finally, the Master of Ceremonies, Gnana Pragash, acknowledged the crucial role of inter-religious experiences like this one to form an attitude of dialogue and gave a word of thanks to Fr. Chemali for his interesting discourse.







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