Local News

A Historic Moment of Interfaith Solidarity

A moment of interfaith solidarity took place on Thursday May 13 as St. Philip Benizi Catholic Church welcomed the Islamic Center of Fullerton to their campus to host in-person Eid-al-Fitr prayers marking the end of Ramadan.

Father Dennis Kriz spoke to the Muslim population, welcoming them to the space.

Religious services during the pandemic were put to a halt due to the risks of transmission of the virus in large crowds. This didn’t allow the Islamic Center of Fullerton to have an in-person gathering for Eid last year. The Islamic Center of Fullerton typically operates out of a small office space and were looking for a venue to accommodate their growing congregation for an in-person celebration of Eid this year. But after searching with no success, the Islamic leaders of ICOF approached Father Dennis Kriz, clergy of St. Philip Benizi, who was excited to help.


A group of young boys sit together waiting for the prayers to begin.

Hundreds of men, women, and children came onto the St. Philip Benizi campus on Thursday morning to pray and celebrate. Mohammad Raghib, President of the Islamic Center of Fullerton, said that this was a historic moment that reflected the vision of the Prophet Muhammad who welcomed Christians who were visitng Medina into a mosque to pray.

The congregation listened to Dr. Faisal Qazi as he spoke.

“This feels like the same. Giving back to us in the same way,” Raghib said. “I’m very, very excited and thankful for the community [and] the church that they can give us this opportunity to meet. Last year we were devastated that we didn’t have any place. This year, praise to God that we are able to do it.

Muslim congregation members participating in the Eid prayer.

A few members of the congregation pose for a photo after the prayers.

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5 replies »

  1. I love this welcoming atmosphere. I detest the barriers and false separations practiced by so many congregations. This shows how we should interact.

  2. I suppose that no one really expects to have a hand in something historic 😉.

    Here I’d like to say that our granting of the request of the Muslim Community of the Islamic Center of Fullerton to hold its Eid al-Fitr/Mubarak celebration on our grounds (after duly running the request by the Diocese) was BOTH in line with the direction of the Catholic Church since the Second Vatican Council AND not a “one off” gesture on our part at St. Philip Benizi.

    First, it was during the pontificate of St. John Paul II that the first mosque in Rome was dedicated _with the Vatican’s blessing_ and during the summer of 1995 the Vatican’s Osservatore Romano demanded DAILY ON THE FRONT PAGE that NATO intervene to break the siege of predominantly Muslim Sarajevo (I was in Rome studying in the Seminary when both occurred). St. John Paul II also convened MULTIPLE meetings of the world’s religious leaders including Muslims in Assisi to call for peace and our current Holy Father, Pope Francis has visited Muslim leaders in both Dubai and Iraq.

    Further, last year, just before the Covid-19 crisis began, we invited Rabbi Nico Sokolovsky, to give our Lenten Parish Mission entitled “Partners with God” at St. Philip Benizi, a Mission that since he was an Argentinian native, he was able to deliver to both our English and Spanish speaking communities and as a result, he has become absolutely beloved in our Parish community ever since.

    Imam Qaisar’s words last Thursday were also beautiful. Yes, he mentioned the conflict that had just erupted the day before again in Israel / Gaza, he simply _had to_. BUT he also repeatedly stressed Quranic passages and Haddiths (sayings) that stressed peace. “Peace is always stronger than violence” and “it is always better to make a friend than to make an enemy.”

    Such words on such a day – both so full of possibility, and so full of pain – can not but give one hope.

    But certainly, let us not minimize the pain.

    First both Imam Qaisar’s and Rabbi Nico’s communities know people who have been directly affected by the conflict, as frankly we at St. Philip Benizi — we have a couple Palestinian Christian families in our parish that come from the Old City of Jerusalem.

    Further, the reasons for the conflict as well as its history is known painfully by all. Here I would add that the sins of the Western, historically Christian, world – from Colonialism to 2000 years of often brutal anti-Semitism ending of course with the murder of six million Jews in the Holocaust – are very much _at the base_ of the conflict playing out there now.

    And yet in this tragedy lies the possibility of hope, that through the acknowledgement of the pain and the guilt of all involved, accommodation and even eventual reconciliation can be found.

    The Christian West is seemingly in a check on both sides:

    No one from the historically Christian West is really going to tell the Jewish Community after 2000 years of suffering at our hands that we’re not going to recognize the legitimacy of their country in Israel. We have all read the Bible. Yes, it’s a thousands of years old claim, but it is a claim. And in the face of MILLIONS of ghosts of those who our kin murdered (or stood by while they were tortured and murdered), NO ONE in the Christian Community is going to argue.

    YET we ALSO know that we dumped this problem on the Palestinians, both Christians and Muslims who have lived on the territory in the intervening 2000 years.

    So honestly, LET US HELP. Yes, let the West buy everybody off.

    That’s in effect what post-WW II Germany did with regard to the Sudeten Germans of my parents’ country in the decades after that war. That too would have seemed like an intractable situation with two peoples living side by side and not particularly liking each other for hundreds of years. Yet after the war, Germany feeling SO GUILTY for what it did to the Czechs as well as to so many others, was willing to accept and buy off the Sudeten Germans who were thrown off their lands and into defeated Germany by vengeful (honestly with some legitimacy) and angry Czechs.

    Applying that approach to the situation here: Does the Right of Return (of Palestinians thrown off their lands during the 1948 and 1967 conflicts) have to mean _actual return_? Could it honestly mean getting “a check”? Could it honestly be A BIG CHECK?

    In these days we see Gaza being bombed, again. Honestly, what if it was bombed with money?

    From where? From the West (!), from the Arab world (yes, it could definitely “chip in”), from Israel itself (as it could as well). For $20 billion, too little?, okay $50 billion (frankly, whatever it takes), PUT DOWN YOUR GUNS and we’ll turn (or _let you_ turn) Gaza into the Mideast’s Silicon Valley, or otherwise center of innovation, a center of crystalline minarets, and into a land where water comes from the sea, etc, etc.

    It can be done, and it would be just. Let us be creative. Let us not leave this situation hopeless again.

    But honestly, let us not remain _non-friends_ forever.

    Imam Qaisar was right. It’s always better to make friends.

  3. I would love to thank Father Dennis and the OC Observer for such wonderful coverage .
    We are eternaly forever grateful for this moment of love and respect.

    May the Lord of the heavens unite our hearts always in love and peace Ameen

  4. May these earnest efforts for the harmony amongst the creation of God be rewarded immensely.

  5. Our deepest gratitude to Father Dennis and church community for extending a friendship hand and space to gather for Eid celebration. I am sure it means a lot to the Muslim community. Also thank you for sharing a theme of suffering and oppression of the past that are being repeated today in parts of the world. May we come together as communities to support each other and stand against oppression no matter who is experiencing it. Thank you for this coverage, much needed when our hearts sink with suffering seen around the world.

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