Building Bridges of Understanding

On Thursday, February 12th, the HFCC “Building Bridges of Understanding Lecture Series” hosted our friend and neighbor, Imam Hassan Qazwini, who spoke on “Islam in America Today.” Imam Qazwini is the spiritual leader of the Islamic Center of America, the grand mosque on Ford Road, right around the corner from our campus. Since his appointment to that post, Imam Qazwini has frequently visited our campus. The Imam has become something of a national spokesman for American Muslims in recent years, having appeared on CNN, NPR, BBC, and VOA and within the pages of the New York Times, Detroit News, and the Detroit Free Press. He has also counseled with our mayor, governor, and President Bush as well as offering the prayer for the opening session of the 108th Session of Congress.

As with our preceding speakers in this series who represented the African American religious experiences, Mormonism, Zen Buddhism, and Judaism, Imam Qazwini’s visit was not about converting people to his faith, but about sharing knowledge about it. His concise and elegant address touched upon some key themes of Islam: the life of the prophet Muhammad, the nature of Islam’s revealed scripture, the Holy Quran, the basic beliefs and practices of his faith, and a bit about “Jihad.” Anyone who has heard the word would know that “Jihad” is holy war. Wrong! The primary meaning of jihad refers to the struggle every one of us must engage in order to live up to humanity’s highest ideals: peace, love, and understanding.

Imam Qazwini very generously gave over half of his presentation to questions from the room- what about conflicting passages in the Quran? The rights of women? Shias and Sunnis? Terrorists? The Imam addressed these issues honestly and warmly. My impression from his visit is one of humility and compassion. The goal of Islam, he said, is to “know and align oneself with the truth and behave accordingly. That means that all should be treated with honor, respect, and justice”.

On Thursday, February 28th, Michael Hovey, Coordinator of Relations with Christians and non-Christians for the Roman Catholic Church in Detroit, offered a lecture entitled “Christianity: a Love story.” Once again, our featured speaker invoked a tone of warmth and friendliness as he offered his take on his religion to our typically diverse HFCC audience.

“Ultimately, our faith isn’t about rules. It’s about love. The harsh words of Jesus turn things upside down for people. Jesus said ‘it’s not an eye for an eye, rather, turn the other cheek. Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you…’”

To bring these words to life, Hovey recounted stories from his days as a service missionary amongst impoverished peasants in Peru. In the Christian scriptures, it is written that Jesus came to “proclaim good news to the poor.” Michael asked his peasant friends “what would be good news to you?” They responded “give us jobs!” Christianity, according to Michael, isn’t just about forever happiness in heaven. It’s about helping out right here and now. Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing compared to love in dreams.

Michael Hovey spoke in a warm and friendly tone, but he issued a prophetic challenge to any of us in the audience who tend towards the complacency of our own busy little agendas.

The next speaker in our series is Reverend Roger Mohr, minister of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Detroit. He will address “Humanism as the Foundation of All Religions” on Thursday, March 28th from 11:10- 12:30 in room L-14.

If you would like to know more about the diverse religions and cultures in America today, the good news is that the seven featured speakers of the Building Bridges Lecture Series will be among the approximately 33 presenters at the upcoming HFCC Building Bridges of Understanding Conference. This big event will take place in our Conference Center on Friday and Saturday, April 5th and 6th. The event is open and free of charge to all HFCC students and personnel. Meals will also be free including a lavish banquet Friday evening.

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