Muslims and Catholics gathered nationwide: A pact of unity renewed

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Qur’an, chapter 5: verse 69; “Surely those who believe and those who are Jews and the Sabians and the Christians whoever believes in Allah and the last day and does good — they shall have no fear nor shall they grieve.”

Since May 18, 1997, when Chiara Lubich, the leader of the Catholic-based Focolare Movement visited the historical Malcolm X Shabazz Mosque in Harlem, NY, there has been a dynamic and productive interfaith relationship with the nationwide Muslim community that adheres to the Islamic teachings of Imam W. Deen Mohammed, the son of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad.

Twenty-seven years later, on May 5, 2024, Focolare Catholics and African American Muslims honored the wisdom of the pact that these two world leaders envisioned, developed and left with their respective communities.

Front and center of this nationwide, 25 city zoom was the launch of the book by Roberto Catalano titled, “The Pact: The Spiritual Friendship between Chiara Lubich and W.D. Mohammed.” Around the USA from New York to Oakland, from Detroit to Houston, Catholics and Muslims gathered to rekindle their relationships over good food in observation of the commonalities that Christians and Muslims enjoy. More than 500 people were gathered in cities that included Rome and Florence, in Italy, and Dublin Ireland.

When Chiara Lubich spoke at the Malcolm Shabazz Mosque in Harlem, New York a large gathering of African American Muslims heard listened intently (via translators) to an Italian Christian woman speak about her spiritual path toward unity, particularly in dialogue with people of other faiths.

After she spoke Chiara asked, “Imam Mohammed, let’s make a pact, in the name of the one God, to work unceasingly for peace and for unity.” Without hesitation Imam Mohamed responded, “This pact is made forever. May God be my witness that you are my sister. I am your friend, and I will help you always.” 

Roberto Catalano’s book captures the essence of the birth and continuation of two distinct faiths coming together and sustaining the pact of unity. Roberto shares with the reader how Imam W. Deen’s and Lady Chiara’s spiritual friendship continues to build tangible results and relationships that disassemble the many unnatural man-made barriers that hinder human progress. While recognizing that early on, some viewed such a “spiritual friendship” as “risky.”

Roberto demonstrates how the two visionary leaders understood that our diversity is our strength. Imam W. Deen speaking in Harlem at the famous Malcolm Shabazz Mosque in May of 2000, shared, “And God has made things different, and human beings too, different, because he wants that unity to progress. The diversity is to provide the unity with legs, with wheels, with movement, so that we can have more movement and more progress.”

Lady Chiara’s statement resonates with W. Deen’s words. Speaking in Washington D.C. in November of 2000, she shared, “I am sure that Allah was pleased, seeing so many of His children, although different in origin, nation, religion, so united in Him. And who knows what blessings He has in store for all of us who have become brothers and sisters!”

The May 5 nationwide event announced three unity activities designed to provide environments for spiritual brotherhood and sisterhood. Annually, on May 18, or on the Sunday closest to that date, the Focolare and Muslim communities will celebrate “Pact Day,” a commemoration of the historic agreement between Chiara Lubich and Imam W.D. Mohammed. And each year the communities will join in two days of service — the weekend following Imam Mohammed’s birthday, October 30, and January 22, Chiara Lubich’s birthday.

This book is available at focolaremedia.com/bookstore/pact.