On January 14, 2015, committee members of the U.S. Muslim & Christian Coalition (MCC) convened its Second Interreligious Summit at St. George Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church in Washington DC. The MCC made the important decision to hold its first international conference on the 1st and 2nd of May,
expand the coalition membership, and reach out to other minority groups of the Arab world. The MCC represents a diverse range of Muslim and Christian leaders, churches, mosques, Islamic centers, and organizations, along with other community members, who are putting their faith into action to protect Christians and other religious minorities in the Arab world and to further coexistence and peace.
Attendees used the Summit to discuss coalition undertakings and campaigns including a mechanism for providing material and financial relief to persecuted Arab Christians; a media campaign to amplify the voice of moderates; and relationship building among different faith communities on a variety of levels.
Father Joseph Rahal, Pastor of St. George Antiochian Orthodox Church, who hosted the meeting and provided welcoming remarks emphasized that “We, in this room, represent the majority. However, the minority voice of extremists have dominated the conversation. It is time for us to reclaim our voice.” Salam al-Marayati, President of Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC), agreed noting that “In Islam, our covenant with God has, at its cornerstone, the importance of protecting any minority. Life is central to the faith.” Father Fady Abdul Ahad, Priest at St. Philoxenus of Mabug Syriac Orthodox Church, reminded attendees that this is more than just a discussion of co-existence. “There has been coexistence between Christians and Muslims for centuries. This is about confronting serious challenges. We must ensure that Muslims and Christians live together with dignity.”
MCC Chair, Sir Rateb Rabie, President/CEO of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, a Palestinian Christian asserted “Christians and other indigenous religious minorities are an integral part of the Arab world. This coalition is not a dialogue between Muslims and Christians but rather one body convening together to put its faith into action in an expression of solidarity and commitment to the Common Good.” Father Avelino Gonzalez, who oversees the Office of Ecumenism and Inter-Faith Affairs in the Washington Catholic Archdiocese noted the timeliness of their work. “In 2015, we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Nostra Aetate, a declaration by the Catholic church on interfaith relations. We need to commit ourselves to being the living examples of that written document.”
For Dr. Sayyid Syeed, National Director for the Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances for the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), it is the design of the Coalition to specifically include key leaders in both the Muslim and Christian community that will provide the critical mass needed to address the violent acts of extremists. “Only with a coalition of solidarity among all players,” he notes, “will we be able to bring peace and understanding among people living in the sacred real estate of both our faiths.” Rabie agrees adding “We extend an open invitation to all people of goodwill to join us in this critically important call to action. “
MCC’s leadership committee and supporters in attendance were: Sir Rateb Rabie (Chair), President and CEO of the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, the Very Reverend Joseph Rahal, Pastor of St. George Orthodox Church, the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese; Syed Moktadir, Vice-Chair, MCC and President, All Dulles Area Muslim Society; Azhar Azeez President Islamic Society of North America (ISNA); Reverend Avelino Gonzalez, Director of the Office of Ecumenism and Inter-Faith Affairs, Archdiocese of Washington DC; Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, National Director of the Office of Interfaith & Community Alliances, Islamic Society of North America (ISNA); Very Reverend Fady Abdul Ahad, Priest at St. Philoxenus of Mabug Syriac Orthodox Church; Very Reverend Andrew Bahhi, Priest at St. Philoxenus of Mabug Syriac Orthodox Church; Lauren Shreiber, Community Outreach and Event Manager, Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR); Reverend Hovsep Karapetyan, Pastor, St Mary’s Armenian Church; Salam Al Marayati, President, Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC); Kamal Nawash, Esq., President, Free Muslims Coalition; Very Reverend Isaac Crow, Pastor, Ss. Peter & Paul Antiochian Orthodox Church; Samer Khalaf, Esq. President, the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee; Bassem Eways, President, American Federation of Ramallah; Bassel Korkor, Esq., Legal Officer, Syrian Christians for Peace; Nermien Riad, Executive Director, Coptic Orphans Support Association; and Hanna Hanania, D.D.S. Board of Directors of HCEF.
MCC is an initiative by the Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation.