Blessed Sacrament Church – January 28, 2017
“We are at ‘it is darkest before the dawn.’ I believe we’re very close to the Age of Isaiah. I believe this is our duty—our obligation—to bring about this age.” – Imam Feisal
On Saturday January 28, Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf spoke at Blessed Sacrament Church at 152 West 71st Street, New York City on the topic of multifaith solidarity, moderation, and shared values among all religions. Father Duffell, pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church, set the stage with reflections on the recent executive order from President Trump banning nationals from several Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States. “It has been a dark week,” Father Duffell said. He emphasized the importance of the religious community’s involvement with politics and he quoted the famous saying from German pastor, Martin Niemöller, which was written in the context of the Nazi regime in Germany, that when they came for the socialists “I did not protest, since I am not a socialist … until they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me.” Father Duffell concluded by saying it is our responsibility to make room in the public domain for the moral argument.
Then, Luke Mayville, the head of the social action committee in the church, introduced Imam Feisal. Building upon Father Duffell’s remarks, he emphasized the importance of mobilization and solidarity of all communities. In illustration, he cited the protests at JFK airport in support of Hameed Khalid Darweesh, an Iraqi interpreter for the U.S. Army, who on arriving at JFK had been detained as a result of the executive order. The protests helped secure his release.
Imam Feisal began by invoking in the name of God—bismillah—and shared with the congregants that the human quest for the Absolute is universal. He pointed out that the series of prophets, Adam, Noah, Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad among others came not to rival or compete with each other but to deliver one message. He added, with a touch of humor, that these were “regional managers of God.”
The Imam then urged the congregants to shift from an earth-centric perspective of reality to a God-centric one. According to the shared Islamic, Christian, and Jewish perspective, each human being has been created in the image of God, which the Imam defined as a puff of God’s breath according to the Quranic verse that describes the creation of Adam. We are all puffs of God’s breath. As the Imam put it, “Human beings are a tapestry of individual fragments comprising a mirror in which God seeks to see His image reflected. As reflections of God we have a duty to exhibit God’s mercy and compassion toward one another. Thus does God see each human as a reflection of Him in ‘the other.’ When we see through God’s eyes, we see other human beings as reflections of God. When we do not see from God’s perspective, but from an egocentric human perspective, we see separation and difference instead of one human community.”
“The world needs American leadership,” stated the Imam. Every nation watches what America does. The American leadership needs to work to create an example to shape the global community. He acknowledged that while American democracy is not perfect, it has taught people of all nations about individual rights. The American Constitution offers fundamental freedoms which many nations and peoples strive for. In order to protect these freedoms, all Americans and citizens of the world must work together.
These past few days, the global community has witnessed the powerful sight of Americans of all stripes standing in solidarity with Muslims. These meaningful gestures are important, because they bring a diverse range of communities together to collaborate in hope and goodwill. Their differences should be celebrated and we should get to know one another in the fullness of our diversity. We can choose to build a future that is beautiful in its diversity. The melting pot of America demands exactly that. As Catholic immigrants were once Irish, Italian, and Polish, today they are all American Catholics. Muslims have been an integrated part of the American fabric, and the time has now come for Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh, Pakistan, Iran, and elsewhere to evolve and be seen as American Muslims. The Imam cited the Book of Isaiah on the future of the nations: “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more” (Isaiah 2:4). Imam Feisal affirmed his belief that the world is close to that day.
“I believe we’re very close to this period. We are at ‘it is darkest before the dawn.’ I believe we’re very close to the Age of Isaiah. I believe this is our duty—our obligation—to bring about this age. And that’s why I’m so heartened to be with you tonight.” – Imam Feisal