Since the terrorist attacks Sept. 11, interfaith exchanges have been on the rise, with many Baltimore-area Christians and Jews trying to increase their understanding of Islam as mosques have begun opening their doors to visitors.
Those encounters continue this week as the Institute for Christian & Jewish Studies holds a free session, "Islam and the Jewish/Christian Encounter," at 7:30 tonight at Chizuk Amuno Congregation, 8100 Stevenson Road.
And on Saturday, the Islamic Society of Baltimore, which runs the area's largest mosque, Masjid Al-Rahmah in Woodlawn, plans to hold its second open house since Sept. 11. Its program, "Ramadan, an Explanation," will present the history and benefits of fasting within the Islamic, Jewish and Christian traditions.
For nearly two weeks, Muslims have been observing Ramadan, the monthlong fast that commemorates God's revelation of the Quran to the prophet Muhammad. Officials of the Islamic Society of Baltimore believe the observance offers a good opportunity to inform the community and dispel myths about Islam.
"We believe that the open house gives Muslims, as well as non-Muslims, a chance to interact with one another, help one another and, most of all, understand one another," said Zareen Siddiqui, coordinator of the society's community outreach office. "The basic message we want to send out is one of peace and solidarity, and we want to try and unite people of all faiths."
The program at the mosque at 6631 Johnnycake Road is scheduled for 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. To attend the free session, call 410-747-7366 or register online at www.isb.org.
The session sponsored by the Institute for Christian & Jewish Studies is a departure from its traditional mission of forging ties between churches and synagogues. But the Rev. Christopher Leighton, ICJS executive director, said the events of Sept. 11 -- when hijacked planes were crashed into New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon -- cried out for a response.
"It rattled us out of our complacency," Leighton said. "It really re-framed the challenges we're up against. Given the reality of 1.2 billion Muslims in the world, Christians and Jews in America, not to mention the rest of the world, simply can't afford to be ignorant about this very complex, vast tradition."
Tonight's program raises the question, "What does God require of us?" and features a presentation by Sulayman Nyang, professor of African Studies at Howard University in Washington. Responses will be given by Rosann Catalano, a Roman Catholic theologian and ICJS staff scholar, and Rabbi Nina Beth Cardin, director of Jewish Life at the Jewish Community Center in Baltimore.
At 7:30 p.m. Dec. 12, Nyang and the panel will discuss, "Is religious faith compatible with democracy?"
All the events are free.