Nearly 100 guests joined the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC), Islamic Foundation North (IFN), and the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago for their Annual Muslim-Catholic Ramadan Iftar (fast-breaking) on Monday, June 12.
IFN provided generous hospitality and a warm and welcoming Islamic environment with excellent seating arrangements conducive for interfaith dialogue and a delicious iftar for attendees.
This annual event is part of an ongoing dialogue between Muslim and Catholic communities of Chicagoland and has been a tradition for more than a decade. The iftar offers a unique opportunity for Muslim and Catholic communities from Chicagoland to connect and develop deeper bonds during the holy month of Ramadan.
The Master of Ceremonies for the evening was Sr. Karen Danielson, who represents Muslim American Society (MAS), and has long facilitated interfaith relations with the Archdiocese as part of CIOGC. She engaged the audience and furthered dialogue by highlighting the similar values and traditions of Muslims and Catholics.
The topic of dialogue for the evening, "Obligations to Speak & Reflect Truth in Society,” underscored honesty as a fundamental guiding principle in Muslim and Catholic faith traditions and address modern-day societal issues.
The program began with a beautiful recitation of the Qur'an by Qari Osman Shariff, from the IFN Qur'an Academy which set the tone for an evening of religious dialogue centered on putting our faith into action. Vaseem Iftekhar, President of IFN, kindly welcomed attendees, and Dr. Bassam Osman, Chair of CIOGC, as well as Most Rev. Bishop George Rassas, followed with messages of unity among their faith communities.
From the Archdiocese, Very Rev. Fr. Thomas A. Baima introduced the esteemed speakers for the event. The guest speakers included Mr. Kareem Irfan. Esq. and Dr. Melanie Barrett.
Mr. Irfan is the first Muslim President of the Council of Religious Leaders of Metropolitan Chicago (CRLMC) and former Chairman of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC). He is also a lawyer, computer engineer, and Chicago-based CEO of Global Businesses of Cranes Software.
Mr. Irfan spoke about truth viewed from a perspective of the Islamic faith, “From a religious point of view, we must understand that absolute truth is related to being part of the divine.”
Commenting on issues such “fake news” and the misrepresentation of facts, “As people of faith we are called upon to reflect upon the rule of truth… Our responsibility is to understand, speak, and reflect the truth in today’s bewildered society.”
He underscored the importance of truthfulness in Islam by reciting and translating a verse from chapter nine of the Qur’an. In the Qur’an, Allah, the exalted states, “Oh you who believe! Have fear of God and be among the truthful.”
Dr. Melanie Barrett provided the Catholic perspective on the evening's topic of dialogue and is the Chairperson and Assistant Professor in the Department of Moral Theology at the University of St. Mary of the Lake.
She earned a B.A. in Political Science and International Studies at Northwestern University; and an M.A. in Divinity and a Ph.D. in Religious Ethics from the University of Chicago Divinity School. Dr. Barrett is the author of the book, Love’s Beauty at the Heart of the Christian Moral Life: The Ethics of Catholic Theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar (2009), as well as numerous book chapters.
Dr. Barrett narrated a personal story from her teenage years to express how the importance of truth was instilled in her at a young age. After returning home one day from getting her car repaired, her father who was a math teacher noticed that she had been undercharged by 30 dollars. He pushed her to send the repair shop a check covering the difference. Upon calling the shop, the repairmen could not believe that someone would report being undercharged and laughed at her. Even though she was discouraged after getting off the phone, she still took her father’s advice about being honest, and mailed the company a check because it was the right thing to do.
As part of recognizing the longstanding relationship between CIOGC and the Archdiocese, CIOGC leadership presented an engraved plaque to Cardinal Blase Cupich. CIOGC extends its sincere thanks and appreciation to Islamic Foundation North, the Archdiocese of Chicago, attendees, and volunteers who helped make this year's Muslim-Catholic iftar a success.