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Muslim chaplain insists: classroom crucifix must stay
Washington, May. 06, 2004 (FIDES/CWNews.com) - A Muslim chaplain at an American Catholic university has announced that he will fight any effort to remove the crucifix from classrooms, the Fides news service reports. "I am convinced that the cross is an important religious symbol for all people," said Imam Yahya Hendi, the Islamic chaplain at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. "And I would object to the cross being removed from classrooms." Speaking at a conference on campus religious life, Imam Hendi said that as a Muslim he had "no difficulty in working in a classroom where there is a cross." He added: "In fact, I am ready to put up a fight to make sure the cross stays in place!"
Georgetown, the first Catholic university in the US, is also the first Catholic university to hire a full-time Muslim chaplain.
In Italy, Georgetown's Muslim chaplain discusses religious tolerance
- - -From Catholic View Service May 5 th, 2004.
ROME (CNS) -- The Muslim chaplain at the Jesuit-run Georgetown University in Washington visited Italy in early May to talk about religious pluralism in the United States. Imam Yahya Hendi's trip to Italy was sponsored by the U.S. State Department and included meetings with journalists, community leaders, Italian Muslims and Catholics involved in interreligious dialogue through the Vatican or through Rome's Catholic universities. "We have a wonderful American story to tell," said Hendi during a May 5 luncheon. Hendi said the media focus so much on tensions between religious communities that they ignore all the positive stories of tolerance, respect, dialogue and sharing that take place in cities across the United States each day. The imam said Georgetown is the only university in the United States that pays a Muslim cleric to be a full-time member of its campus ministry staff.
Imam Yahya Hendi's May 5 visit to Rome -- Media Coverage
Italy 's leading news agency ANSA carried a story on May 5 focusing on Imam Yahya Hendi's speech at the roundtable organized by the Pontifical Council of Arab and Islamic Studies. Headline: "The Iman Who Defends the Crucifix In Classrooms." The report noted that the Imam "sided with the 'no' front in the dispute at Georgetown University over the proposal to remove the crucifix from classrooms" and concluded: "While basically sharing the Imam's views, the audience at the roundtable expressed the opinion that Imam Hendi represents the tip of the iceberg of the Islam of dialogue and that not all his Muslim fellows share his views."
The ADN-Kronos news agency carried a very positive story on May 5 headlined "Islam: Dialogue, Integration and Tolerance in the 'American Model' According to Imam Hendi, Muslim Chaplain at Georgetown University." The article remarked on the "exemplary stories" recounted by the Imam "which show, once again, the positive 'diversity' of the U.S.... The Imam called himself a 'Muslim American, proud to be American and proud to be Muslim."
A May 6 report by the catholic news agency Fides was headlined: "'I will put up a fight if anyone tries to remove the Crucifix from classrooms,' says Imam Yahya Hendi, Muslim chaplain of Georgetown University." The article concluded: "At the end of the meeting Yahya Hendi told the journalists: 'It is your job to give people hope. Give your readers hope. Unless there is hope it will be difficult to build a better world'.
Catholic News Service's report on May 7 summarized Imam Hendi's remarks about religious pluralism in the U.S., concluding as follows: "Hendi said the media focuses so much on tensions between religious communities that they ignore all the positive stories of tolerance, respect, dialogue and sharing that take place in cities across the United States each day."
RAI (Italian public TV) Channel Two news program TG-2 devoted the "cover" (opening item) of its main evening edition at 2030 on May 7 to their interview with Imam Hendi, focusing on his remarks on Muslim Americans' feelings at this difficult time in the Islam-West dialogue. Estimated audience: 2,5 million.
A longer interview with the Imam was aired twice on May 7 by Sat 2000, the TV station of the Italian Bishops Conference, during their program "Mosaico" devoted to interreligious dialogue. The interview underlined the Imam's message of hope and dialogue in order to promote mutual understanding among the various religions.
The Assembly, held on the campus at 2 Convent Road, Morristown, N.J. on Saturday, July 19, 2003 featured three renowned leaders of the Christian, Jewish and Muslim faiths: Cardinal Walter Kasper, President of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and of the Vatican Commission for Judeo-Christian Relations; Rabbi Terry Bookman, Senior Rabbi and Spiritual Leader of Temple Beth Am in Miami, Fl.; and Imam Yahya Hendi, Muslim chaplain at Georgetown University and the National Naval Center in Bethesda, Md. Imam Hendi, who was one of the Muslim leaders to speak with President Bush in the aftermath of the September 11 attack, praised the College for its courage in supporting the three speakers' causes in bringing global peace and unity. "I ask the Almighty One to send rain on us," Imam Hendi said. "Not the rain of water, but the rain of love and the rain of compassion. I give credit to the College of Saint Elizabeth for bringing us all here together; for uniting the nation for peace and for justice." Each speaker had the opportunity to focus on similarities rather than differences among humanity and faiths, and stressed the need for open-dialogue communication among the three religious communities. "Though we may appear to be separate entities, in reality, we are not. We are interconnected, interrelated, completed by the other," explained Rabbi Bookman. "If this is so, then dialogue with the other becomes an imperative, not a luxury. In fact, we could say that dialogue becomes an ontological necessity, for it is only through the other that [we] complete [ourselves]." According to Father Anthony Ciorra, Director of the Center for Theological and Spiritual Development at CSE, this unprecedented event is a crucial first step and an essential development in understanding the current tensions in the Middle East and in the United States, tensions primarily grounded in religion. "With the continuing crisis in the Middle East, and after the events of September 11, we must open up the Judeo-Christian dialogue to include our Muslim brothers and sisters," said Father Ciorra. A highlight of the Special Assembly event included Cardinal Kasper receiving the honorary degree of Doctor of Human Letters. Sr. Francis Raftery, President of CSE and Rev. Frank J. Rodimer, Bishop of Paterson and Chancellor, CSE Board of Trustee member, bestowed this honor on him for his many accomplishments in ecumenism and inter-religious dialogue. Cardinal Kasper thanked Sr. Raftery and Rev. Rodimer for the honor and shared with audience members his belief of today's generation being responsible for taking care of society's cultural diversity for future generations. "We [each] share a rich, common spiritual and ethical patrimony, and we have the common responsibility to hand down this patrimony to the next generations and to make it bear fruit for a better world of justice and peace," Cardinal Kasper said. New Jersey's leading choral group, Harmonium Choral Society, concluded the day's events with soloist Kathryn Clark performing the piece, "Before too Long." The song featured the words of a poem written by Holocaust survivor, Alena Synkov, expressing her desire for peace among nations. Mark Miller, composer in residence for the Choral Society, put her words to music. The Choral Society also performed an original piece entitled, "There is No Fear in Love," that was sung in English, Hebrew, Arabic, French, German and Latin to symbolize the need for peace, joy and harmony among all humanity. In addition to the Special Assembly, the 2003 Center for Theological and Spiritual Development Summer Institute held at CSE, from July 13 to 24, offered 12 courses, which were presented by some of the most internationally well-noted authors and theologians. Among them were: Rev. Joseph Fitzmyer, Professor in the Department of Biblical Studies at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.; Philip Sheldrake, Professor of Theology at The University of Wales at Lampeter; and Rev. Jerome Murphy-O'Connor, who has been the Professor of the New Testament at the prestigious Hcole Biblique in Jerusalem since 1967. Sponsored by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth, Convent Station, New Jersey, the College of Saint Elizabeth enrolls approximately 1,800 full and part-time students in 27 undergraduate and seven graduate degree programs. For information on other activities or programs, visit the College of Saint Elizabeth web site at www.cse.edu. The Center for Theological and Spiritual Development offers six distinct lay ministerial certificate programs; pastoral internship programs and enrichment days; travel abroad study tours; and Hispanic Pastoral and Youth Ministry Programs. The Center is known nationwide for the annual Spirituality Convocation and Summer Institute programs that draw theologians from around the country and thousands of people of all faiths to the campus in a celebration of spirituality and cultural diversity. For more information about the Center and upcoming events, call 973-290-4300/4364, or visit their web site www.csespirit.org.
RELIGIOUS TOLERANCE AND ISLAM IN THE U.S.DIGITAL VIDEO CONFERENCE WITH ISLAM EXPERT IMAM YAHYA HENDI Washington, D.C. - Vienna, January 30, 2003
Imam Yahya Hendi, Muslim Chaplain at Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.). With regard to a possible U.S.-led military strike against Iraq, Hendi, who also directs the PEACE office of the Muslim American Society, stated, " Just like with all other Americans, it is impossible to generalize on the position of U.S. Muslims regarding this issue."
Within the last few years, Muslims in the U.S. have become much more active on the political and public stage, Hendi continued, and emphasized that in the aftermath of 9/11 American society has become much more open and has shown an interest in the truth about Islam.
On Vienna side, expert journalists, academics and representatives of the Austrian Ministry of Defense and the Ministry of the Interior attended.
Asked about the discriminating treatment of women, e.g. the ban on education in some so called Islamic countries, Imam Hendi stressed that this is solely a cultural and not a religious problem since acquiring of knowledge is a duty according to Mohamed.
|Digital Video Conference (DVC) with Imam Yahya Hendi on Religious Tolerance and Islam in the U.S.||Imam Yahya Hendi, Muslim Chaplain at Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.)|
US Embassy in Islamabad.
(Hendi describes efforts to change image of Islam in U.S.)
March 14, 2002
Washington-- Six months after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, there is still a need for continued education and dialogue to prevent future conflicts and misunderstandings between people in the West and Muslims in the East, according to Imam Yahya Hendi of Georgetown University.
The scholar, who is a Palestinian-born U.S. citizen, made his comments to Ugandan and Kenyan radio stations March 12 in a telepress conference sponsored by the State Department's Office of International Information Programs.
Hendi, who led the U.S. House of Representatives in prayer on November 15, referred to the attacks of September 11 as "absolutely immoral, absolutely unethical, absolutely against the teachings of Islam." But since the attacks were perpetrated in the name of religion, there have been misunderstandings about the teachings of Islam, he said.
"I believe in the power of education. I believe education can better enhance the relationship between Muslims in what is called the East and Christians in the West," said Hendi, who has a doctorate in comparative religions.
Both Uganda and Kenya have significant Muslim populations and the questions for the imam were manifold, but focused on Muslim life in America with much curiosity about the freedom of religious practice and the right to free speech in the United States.
In Hendi's view, the telephonic interchange was an example of the type of dialogue that is needed. He said: "We have to have more exchange of ideas. We have to have more people from Africa, from Asia, from other countries come to America to know America from within."
The imam also said that more Americans must "go elsewhere and be ready to understand societies from within rather than from without" because "many Americans ... do not know what is really going on outside their continent."
Americans are not alone in this shortcoming, according to Hendi, who added: "That is also true with people elsewhere and Muslims elsewhere. Many Muslims do not know how we in America live, what it is that we stand for, what it is that we want to stand for."
Hendi also laid blame on Muslims themselves for the misunderstanding of Islam in the United States, saying, "We [Muslims] have not contributed many good examples [of] how Islam is and what Islam is," furthering the misconceptions.
Despite this trend, "many Americans have made the effort to understand the truth of Islam," said Hendi, who said he has spoken at more than 250 churches since September 11 and reached as many as 60 million Americans through his television appearances.
Hendi, who has served as a Muslim chaplain for the U.S. Navy, said that people from different cultures, in dealing with one another, must "start using a universal language" that identifies commonalities but also respects differences.
Citing a verse from the Koran, Hendi said: "Had God wanted or willed, he would have made them [humans] one nation. But he did not want them to be one nation, he wanted them to be different and get to enjoy those differences."
While many harp on perceived differences and describe a conflict and a dichotomy between Islam and the West, Hendi said: "I don't like to call it 'Islam and the West' because that assumes that there is no Islam in the West. That assumes that Islam is elsewhere that has nothing to do with the West. That is quite wrong to assume."
He added, "Muslims are a part of the Western experience, and I do not believe that European and American [history] can be understood or completely analyzed without the Muslim experience in both Europe and the United States of America."
The scholar later said, "Muslims are part of American institutions, are part of the American establishment, are part of the American social fabric, economic fabric, educational fabric" and are "also a part of the U.S. military. There are about 18,000 Muslims in the U.S. military."
In response to a question about the treatment of Muslims in America, Hendi said: "Have Muslims lost their rights as American citizens? I don't think so. Have Muslims been completely [under] siege? No. Have Muslims been in hiding? No. If anything, ... Muslims have been out there [in the public eye] in the last six months more than [they have been during] the 250 years in the history of the United States."
The imam added, "Muslims in America appeared on TV, radio, in churches, synagogues, temples, universities publicly since September 11 [more] than ever before. Muslims have not been hiding."
While some in the United States lashed out against Muslims, the negative cases were marginal, Hendi said. There was a "strong message from those in charge of the [American] government," he said, "that the government will not tolerate any backlash against Muslims in the United States of America. American Muslims are a part of the American fabric and they will continue being that way."
The positive, decisive actions taken by the American government toward Muslims in the United States underscored the "pluralism in America and the freedoms that Muslims in America enjoy," Hendi said.
The scholar is currently awaiting publication of two of his books, "Jesus in the Koran" and "The Women of the Koran."
Muslim Chaplain Opens Session for U.S. House of Representatives,
November 19, 2001
(Imam Yahya Hendi Marks Ramadan with Prayer in Congress)
The U.S. House of Representatives opened its session on November 15 with readings from the Koran and a Muslim prayer, led by Imam Yahya Hendi.
Standing before the American flag and the Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, in the House chamber, Imam Hendi first read verses from the Koran, and then offered a prayer. The occasion marked the beginning of Ramadan, and also underlined that Islam is part of the mainstream religious landscape of the U.S. This was not the first time Muslim prayers have been offered in Congress.
Imam Hendi is the Muslim Chaplain at Georgetown University, and the Imam of the Islamic Society of Frederick, Maryland. He serves a member and spokesman of the Islamic Jurisprudence Council of North America, and also directs the Public Education and Assistance Conference (PEACE) office of the Muslim American Society.
During this session of the House of Representatives, several Representatives made statements noting the importance of Islam in American life.
The transcript of Imam Hendi's readings and prayer are given below.
Chaplain Yahya Hendi: Reading from the Holy Koran:
In the name of God the Compassionate, the Merciful
And remember the favor of God unto you and his covenant which he ratified with you when you said, "We hear and we obey." Fear God, for God knows well the secrets of your hearts. All you of faith stand up firmly for God as witnesses to fair dealings. Let not the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just. That is next to righteousness. Fear God, for God is well acquainted with all that you do.
And now let's bow our heads before God and pray.
Loving God, source of justice, goodness and generosity, we ask you to guide our men and women of Congress with your divine light, to empower them with your wisdom, to enable them to be agents of peace in this nation and around the world. Help them lead us to act as brothers and sisters. Empower them to help us work out our differences. Help them help us confront hatred wherever it exists that we all may live as one nation united under God. God, receive our thanks and hear our prayers.
The Palestinian delegation, consisting of Christians and Muslims, was led by Zoughbi Zoughbi, Director of the Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center in Bethlehem. Zoughbi said his group's mission is to encourage Americans to take a thoughtful look at this issue.
We want to entice collective responsibility, Zoughbi said, referring to the U.S. funding that makes up a quarter of Israel's budget. We want Americans to ask, 'Where are our taxes going?
Zoughbi also said he tries to provide trauma relief to victims of violence and locate jobs for Palestinians restricted to live within a few miles of land.
White said he thought Israeli Jews could invite peace by leaving all settlements on the West Bank, initiating joint projects with Palestinians and continuing cultural exchanges.
"I don't think we Jews have done enough," White said. "There's nothing that beats face to face contact."
MSA Press Release
Bismillah Walhamdulillah Was Salaatu Was Salaam ‘ala Rasulillah,
Br. Yahya has considerable experience serving Muslim communities in
The MSA of Georgetown University believes that the appointment of this position is in the best interests of our Muslim community, and it is for this reason that we have pursued this project for four years. We hope that Muslim students across the country will push towards similar options to provide the growing numbers of university-bound Muslims with appropriate sources of counseling, guidance, and support. A Muslim representative working within the university’s administration is an invaluable asset. Br. Yahya will help us to ensure the recognition and respect of obligations of the Islamic faith, teachings, and values.
As a private, Catholic institution,
We call to Allah for His Mercy and Forgiveness, we ask Him to give guidance to Br. Yahya and to our MSA; we thank Him for the success he has granted the Muslim community at
Saturday, August 28, 1999; Page B09
Yahya Hendi, 32, a doctoral candidate in philosophy and comparative religions at
Founded by Jesuits in 1789,
Jewish and 180 are Muslim. The university does not track the religious identities of its 6,000 graduate students.
Wackerman said the office of campus ministry has been reorganized this year "to reach out pastorally . . . to a wider number of students." The university now has 11 full-time chaplains: eight Catholic priests, two rabbis and one imam. At least three Protestant clergy of different denominations
will be hired within a few weeks, he said, to fill new part-time positions, bringing the number of part-time chaplains to seven.
"It is exciting and enriching for us to have Imam Hendi as our first Muslim chaplain," university Chaplain Adam Bunnell said in announcing the appointment. "His vast experience will be a great asset to our vibrant Muslim community on campus."
Hendi holds degrees from the
National Institutes of Health.
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company
New York Times
August 28, 1999
By GUSTAV NIEBUHR
Evidence that the
In another sign of that trend, there is the news this month from
The new chaplain, Imam Yahya Hendi, 33, who has served as a chaplain at the
Father Bunnell, a Franciscan, presides over a corps of 20 chaplains, some of whom are part time. Half are Catholic, and the others are Protestant, Jewish and Eastern Orthodox. He said the university, with about 6,000 undergraduate and 6,000 graduate students, does not know exactly how many Muslims are enrolled.
''I know it's been a growing population in the last decade,'' Father Bunnell said. ''We assume it's between 5 percent and 8 percent.''
It is a diverse population, made up of foreign students, the children of immigrants and converts to Islam, he said. (By comparison, the university said that in 1998, among those undergraduates who indicated a religious background, 57 percent were Catholics.)
Mr. Hendi, whose appointment was first reported by Religion News Service on Thursday, was chosen by a search committee made up primarily of Muslims at the university, but which also included a rabbi from the campus ministry and other
Mr. Hendi, who was born in the West Bank city of
degree he ''developed an interest in interfaith work and really began to see its value.''
He described the Muslim population at
Mr. Hendi said that he looked forward to interfaith discussions on campus, too, and that perhaps something could be done around the religious holidays at the year's end, where students would have an opportunity to talk about their own faith and its meaning to them.
''To me, the month of December can really be utilized to bring about some understanding,'' he said.
New Orthodox Archbishop
On the subject of appointments, one that reverberated among Greek-Americans recently was that of
Metropolitan Demetrios, the Greek theologian, as the next head of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese
His appointment, by the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate in
restlessness among Greek Orthodox leaders in the United States angry with Patriarch Bartholomew's
choice of Archbishop Spyridon as head of the archdiocese in 1996.
Lay people, priests and, eventually, the metropolitans, or regional leaders of the archdiocese,
petitioned Patriarch Bartholomew to remove Archbishop Spyridon. The Archbishop resigned on
Aug. 19; the Patriarch transferred him to a jurisdiction in
Demetrios would come to the
This week the Archdiocese said the new Archbishop, who is 71 and studied and taught in the United
States in the 1970's and 80's, will arrive in
enthroned in his new office, in a ceremony to be held at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New
© Copyright 1999 The New York Times
September 1, 1999
First Muslim chaplain at US University takes charge
Yahya Hendi has been serving as an official university chaplain at
As chaplain at
According to a press release from
Hendi has set an ambitious program to bolster Islamic identity at
during the school year. Hendi also hopes to eventually facilitate weekly Islamic discussion for university credit.
The 32 year-old Hendi received a Bachelors degree from the
a current doctoral candidate in Philosophy and Comparative Religion at
A significant benefit of having a Muslim chaplain, he told iviews.com, is that the Muslim voice can be represented by someone inside the administration. As a chaplain, Hendi would also serve as a resource on Islam for other teachers and students.
The Islamic Society at Stanford University (ISSU) president Narjes Misherghi told iviews.com on September 1 that any university with Muslim students needs to have a Muslim elder in "a power position." While stressing the ISSU’s appreciation for the recent Stanford appointment of Ibrahim Musa as one of four university Deans of Religious Studies, Misherghi said the appointment of a Muslim chaplain, or a like scholar specifically devoted to the needs of Muslim students on campus, was "necessary."
Hendi told iviews.com that it was his dream other universities would follow