Category Archives: Interfaith Dialogue

Magdi Cristiano Allam speaks of his conversion to Christ

Given that today’s feast is of a saint who brought thousands to Christ, I thought reprinting a recent article about a rather high profile baptism this past year. It is no small thing that a Muslim accepts Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and lives to tell about it. Magdi Allam’s story is unique.


Converted Muslim Tells Story Behind Papal Baptism


By Luca Marcolivio

December 1, 2008

The high-profile baptism of Magdi Cristiano Allam at the Easter Vigil ceremony presided over last year by Benedict XVI has a story behind it. According to Allam himself, his conversion journey was possible because of great Christian witnesses.

One of the directors of the Milan daily Corriere della Sera, he spoke about his conversion and the experiences that led to it when he met with university students of Rome last week to tell the story of his path to Catholicism.

Starting from the Easter Vigil of 2008 — which Allam called the “most beautiful day of my life” — when he received baptism from Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s Basilica, the Italian-Egyptian journalist spoke of his life journey and the reflections that brought him to embrace “a new life in Christ and a new spiritual itinerary.”

Allam.jpg“This journey,” he recalled, “began apparently by chance, [but] in truth was providential. Since age four, I had the chance to attend Italian Catholic schools in Egypt. I was first a student of the Comboni religious missionaries, and later, starting with fifth grade, of the Salesians.

“I thus received an education that transmitted to me healthy values and I appreciated the beauty, truth, goodness and rationality of the Christian faith,” in which “the person is not a means, but a starting point and an arriving point.”

“Thanks to Christianity,” he said, “I understood that truth is the other side of liberty: They are an indissoluble binomial. The phrase, ‘The truth will make you free’ is a principle that you young people should always keep in mind, especially today when, scorning the truth, freedom is relinquished.”

The journalist continued: “My conversion was possible thanks to the presence of great witnesses of faith, first of all, His Holiness Benedict XVI. One who is not convinced of his own faith — often it’s because he has not found in it believable witnesses of this great gift.

“The second indissoluble binomial in Christianity is without a doubt that of faith and reason. This second element is capable of giving substance to our humanity, the sacredness of life, respect for human dignity and the freedom of religious choice.”

The journalist affirmed that the Holy Father’s 2006 speech in Regensburg — which caused uproar within the Muslim community — was for him a reason to reflect.

Allam said: “An event, before my conversion, made me think more than other events: the Pope’s discourse in Regensburg. On that occasion, citing the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus, he affirmed something that the Muslims themselves have never denied: that Islam spreads the faith above all with the sword.”

He added: “There is a greater and more subliminal danger than the terrorism of ‘cut-throats.’ It is the terrorism of the ‘cut-tongues,’ that is, the fear of affirming and divulging our faith and our civilization, and it brings us to auto-censorship and to deny our values, putting everything and the contrary to everything on the same plane: We think of the Shariah applied even in England.

Allam2.jpg“The one called ‘a great one,’ that is, to always give to the other what he wants, is exactly the opposite of the common good, perfectly indicated by Jesus: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ That evangelical precept confirms for us that we cannot want good for the rest if we do not first love ourselves. The same is true for our civilization.

“Contrary to that principle is indifference and multiculturalism that, without any identity, pretends to give all kinds of rights to everyone. A result of multiculturalism was the imposition of social solidity and the development of ghettos and ethnic groups in perpetual conflict with indigenous populations.”

The journalist recounted: “This led me to consider the third great binomial of Christian civilization: that regarding rules and values, a key for a possible ethical rescue of modern Europe. The old world, nevertheless, is a colossus of materiality with feet of clay. Materialism is a globalized phenomenon, unlike faith, which is not.”

Responding to a question about a possible compatibility between faith and reason in Islam, Allam contended that “unlike Christianity, the religion of God incarnate in man,” Islam is made concrete in a sacred text that, “being one with God, is not interpretable.”

“The very acts of Mohammed, documented by history, and which the Muslim faithful themselves do not deny, testify to massacres and exterminations perpetrated by the prophet. Therefore, the Quran is incompatible with fundamental human rights and non-negotiable values. In the past, I tried to make myself the spokesman of an Islam moderate in itself.”

Regarding interreligious dialogue between Christians and Muslims, Allam said that it is possible only “if we are authentically Christian in love, including toward Muslims. If we make dialogue relative, we will instigate our questioners to see us as infidels, and therefore as land to be conquered.”

The journalist emphasized for the students the importance of an education that goes back to transmitting “an ethical conception of life, with values and rules at the center of everything.” A negation of such principles, he contended, “is wild capitalism, which, paradoxically, has its maximum development in communist China.”

“We cannot conceive of the person in ‘business’ terms,” he concluded, “and we have to find rules of co-existence that are not founded on materialism. We should redefine our society based on being and not on having.”

Krakow prayer meeting in 2009 sponsored by Sant’Egidio

Sant Egidio peace.jpgOn November 21, Andrea Riccardi, the founder of the international Community of Sant’Egidio announced that the next international inter-religious encounter, in 2009, will be in Krakow, Poland, honoring the memory of the Servant of God Pope John Paul II and to recall the terrible tragedy of Auschwitz, where evil manifested its ugly face.




World leaders, religious and political, have met for prayer periodically since 1986 when the landmark event was first lived in Assisi.

Sant Egidio member.jpg 

The H2O News video report.


The Community of Sant’Egidio has been in the United States since 1990, more info is found here.


The Wiki article is here.

International Meeting of Prayer for Peace sponsored by the Community of Sant’Egidio

The Civilization of Peace: Faiths and Cultures in Dialogue


cipro2008.jpgThe meeting, which has been promoted by the Community of Sant’Egidio and the Church of Cyprus, takes place in Nicosia from 16 to 18 November.

The Cyprus date is a further leg of the pilgrimage undertaken by the Community of Sant’Egidio to carry forward the legacy of the historic World Day of Prayer for Peace convened in Assisi by Pope John Paul II on October 27, 1986.

Over these twenty-two years, invitations from the Community have led men and women from diverse cultures and religions onto the pathway of encounter, dialogue and prayer for peace. The pilgrimage has called on various locations around the world, spreading the “Spirit of Assisi”, creating ties of friendship and cooperation, testifying to a common will to create a culture of coexistence.

On opening the last meeting, held in Naples in October 2007, Pope Benedict 16th stated: “In respecting the differences between the various faiths, we are all called upon to work for peace and to make a concrete effort to further reconciliation between nations. This is the authentic “Spirit of Assisi”… religions can and must offer a precious resource for constructing a peaceful humanity, because they speak of peace being at the heart of humankind”.

The Cyprus Meeting constitutes part of this commitment.

The island, lying at the heart of the Mediterranean, touched on by the preaching of St Paul the Apostle, place of encounter between a variety of cultures and religions, will host several hundred figures from every part of the world: representatives of the worlds of religion, of culture and of politics. They will enliven around 20 “round tables”, open – as is the tradition at these encounters – to participation by the public.

The Closing Ceremony will take place on November 18 in the heart of the capital, Nicosia; it will feature the proclamation the Appeal for Peace.

As in previous years, this site will follow the event via a live video web-link.


The Program


Christian-Muslim dialogue: working toward a common destiny or a waste of time?

The (C.I.S.R.O.) is a network of
Angelo Scola.jpgcontacts that gives Christians and Muslims a chance to meet and promote mutual knowledge and understanding. Founded in September 2004 by the Patriarch of Venice,
Angelo Cardinal Scola, as part of the Studium Generale Marcianum, the Centre sees itself as a venue for the exchange of experiences and points of view between people from different ecclesial realities (some churches in Europe and some Christian communities in predominantly-Muslim countries) and Muslims from various backgrounds.

The Centre’s main field of interest is to examine how Christian and Muslim believers actually relate to and interact with one another for the purpose of building the “good life” in personal and social terms in a world like today’s world that is characterised by cross-cultural and intra-civilisational métissage.


A recent introduction to the Oasis journal read:


The first seminar of the Catholic-Muslim Forum belongs to a long line of meetings that have been promoted above all since the Declaration of the Second Vatican Council Nostra Aetate, a point of reference for inter-religious dialogue. The visit of John Paul II to the mosque of Damascus and the visit of prayer of Benedict XVI to the Blue Mosque of Istanbul remain emblematic.

Blue mosque visit of B16.jpgBut the meeting of these days has two new features – one relating to method and the other to contents. At the level of method, the Forum appears on the Muslim side no longer as an initiative of individual personalities or States but as the expression of a general agreement. From the initial response to the Ratisborn address with its 38 signatories to the subsequent declaration A Common Word with the adherence of 138 personalities, which was subsequently expanded, the tendency on the Muslim side has been to achieve basic agreement to dialogue with Christians. This is not a secondary question because agreement for a large part of Muslim theology is one of the sources of the elaboration of doctrine.   

The second new feature is that in this Forum, as in the open letter, the emphasis has been placed in a decisive way on the religious dimension, if not even on the strictly theological dimension. In the communiqué that preceded this event one reads that the composition of the delegations is ‘religious and not political’, ‘is separate from the diplomatic relations of States and was constituted on the basis of sapiential authority’. Indeed, it is evident that the statement of principle contained in the open letter must be verified in the light of its concrete translation into a context which is increasingly difficult for Christian minorities, as the continuing exodus of Christians from the Middle East demonstrates. However, the wish of the two parties is not to dissolve the specificity of the religious fact into, albeit important, geopolitical considerations.

One of the moving spirits of Islamic-Christian dialogue, Father Georges Anawati, loved to repeat that in this field it was necessary to arm oneself with ‘geological patience’. It would, therefore, be illusory to imagine that wounds that go back more than a thousand years can be healed in the space of a few months. The aim of the Forum is to explore the affirmation of love of God and neighbour in its theological and spiritual aspects but also in relation to its practical consequences for the defence of the dignity of the human person and the defence of religious freedom. The fifteen points of the final document offer different points of departure in this direction. It is certainly the case that today there are many questions which must be answered, but for a believer the most burning question is perhaps the simplest one: do Muslims and Christians worship the same God? Without this mutual recognition everything becomes more difficult. The answer on the Catholic side is clear and was proposed by Lumen Gentium, in n. 16: ‘But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Mohamedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind’. This was an answer emphasised yesterday by Benedict XVI in his audience to the participants: ‘I am well aware that Muslims and Christians have different approaches in matters regarding God. Yet we can and must be worshippers of the one God who created us and is concerned about each person in every corner of the world’

On the Muslim side Seyyed Hossein Nasr stated: ‘For both us and you, God is at once transcendent and immanent, creator and sustainer of the world… the lover whose love embraces the whole of the created order’. This is the basic belief that inspires the continuation of dialogue.

All the articles and other documentation is archived here.

cis 317.JPGAlso, you might want to read a good, brief introduction to the field of Catholic-Muslim theology, What Catholics Should Know about Islam by Dr. Sandra T. Keating published by the Catholic Information Service.

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]
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