Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Lebanese Christians, Muslims Celebrate Annunciation Together

From AsiaNews.it, excerpts:
Islamic-Christian celebration to honour the Virgin Mary, symbol of national unity

On the occasion of the Feast of the Annunciation, Lebanon’s government launches a joint Christian-Muslim celebration in honour of Mary who is venerated in both communities. In the square in front of Lebanon’s National Museum a statue of Our Lady will be erected surrounded by a crescent. The initiative might be extended to other countries. . .

. . .The idea of making the Virgin Mary a symbol of a joint Christian-Muslim celebration came to Sheikh Mohammad Nokkari, general secretary of Dar el-Fatwa, or ‘House of Decree”, during Annunciation celebrations at Jamhour College.

Emir Harès Chehab and Mohammad Sammak, who co-chair the Islamic-Christian National Dialogue Committee, welcomed the initiative as did Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

Beirut Mayor Abdel-Monhem Ariss responded positively to a demand by the initiative’s promoters to erect a statue of Mary in front of Lebanon’s National Museum. The square where the statue will be located is actually a major intersection and might be renamed in honour of the Virgin Mary. The statue itself would “reproduce a stylised Virgin Mary surrounded by a crescent moon,” Islam’s symbol par excellence.

A religious ceremony is scheduled for tomorrow in the chapel of Our Lady College in Jamhour, during which “Christians and Muslims will be able to pray together to the Virgin Mary.”

In addition to prayers, there will be songs, psalms, sacred music, testimonials, readings, as well as audio and video tapes.

Sheikh Amr Khaled, one of the Arab world’s most important preachers, will attend the ceremony. Mgr Salim Ghazal, chairman of the Commission for Islamic-Christian dialogue of the Assembly of Maronite Patriarchs and Bishops, will also be there.

Calls to mind this interesting chapter, Mary and the Moslems, from Fulton Sheen's The World's First Love.