Imam Saahir reflects on his 40 year interfaith journey
The Interfaith Ambassador of 2019
By Imam Michael “Mikal” Saahir
Written February 13, 2019
Indianapolis Recorder, February 21, 2019
The Center for Interfaith Cooperation (CIC) under the leadership of Mr. Charlie Wiles has deemed it proper to honor me and my wife Carolyn as the Interfaith Ambassadors of 2019. We are both humbled. Even more we are committed to prove ourselves worthy of this recognition by such an esteemed interfaith group. CIC consists of myriad faith traditions that cover the full spectrum of religious life in central Indiana and beyond and we are grateful to be a part of their legacy.
Interfaith means a lot to me and Carolyn. It’s interactions and connectivity has been a part of our lives that began with our respective conversions to Al-Islam over 40 years ago. But interfaith as a purpose and a mission began to pulsate in our lives when Imam W. Deen Mohammed instructed his community – following the noble example of the Prophet Muhammed of Arabia – to get involved with people of other faiths; firstly with Christians and Jews, two faiths that Muslims accept as our “religious siblings”, the children of our collective father, Abraham.
Imam W. Deen Mohammed demonstrated for us how to get involved with sustained interfaith relations. It was his demonstrating interfaith that connected us with Chiara Lubich’s internationally Catholic-based Focolare Movement that is headquartered in Rome, Italy but established and operating in over 180 countries worldwide. I’ve been blessed to visit Focolare centers in Rome, Jordan, and the Philippines.
As the Imam of the Nur-Allah Islamic Center our membership has invested greatly in interfaith working with many churches and synagogues as well as with Habitat for Humanity. In 2008 I accompanied Charlie Wiles as he led an interfaith delegation to Amman, Jordan to build a Habit for Humanity home for a Palestinian family.
Our interfaith life has placed us in the company of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama on numerous occasions. We’ve been the guest of the Vatican in Rome quite a number of times. Over the years we have developed interfaith relationships with very many churches, synagogues and temples.
Being blessed to attend Martin University under the tutelage of Father Boniface Harden and our special lady Sister Jane Schilling gave us the perfect setting for growing our interfaith muscles. The two faith-education leaders encouraged me to pursue a degree in Humane Exchange. I’m quite thankful for their guidance. This field of study only increased my interfaith abilities. My struggles and learning at Martin University resulted in my earning a Bachelor’s degree (graduating Summa Cum Laude) in 2003.
Our interfaith life was greatly enriched by the Honorable Reverend Dr. Andrew J. Brown and his son Dr. Thomas L. Brown. We have also enjoyed interfaith success with Dr. T. Garrett Benjamin and Dr. David Hampton of Light of the World Christian Church. These men are faith leaders who readily accepted the beauty and the challenges of interfaith without diluting or shying away from their personal faith convictions.
Being honored as the Interfaith Ambassadors of 2019 is a recognition of pass achievements; however, Carolyn and I accept it as a beckoning that we can and must do more interfaith so that future generations may have a testimony of what G_d is doing with His human family – bringing us all together as ONE FAMILY that is diverse yet united.
Interfaith has strengthened me and Carolyn as believers in Al-Islam while also strengthening our belief in the human excellence in people of other faiths. The Qur’an is quite clear that Allah is an inclusive Creator. Chapter 2: verse 62 reads, “Those who believe (in the Qur’an), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.”
If you want to support an excellent organization while witnessing interfaith in action please join us at the annual CIC 5th Annual Interfaith Banquet on Sunday March 24, 2019 at 5:00 p.m. at Martin University located at 2171 Avondale Place in Indianapolis, IN. For more information please visit: http://www.centerforinterfaithcooperation.org/5th-annual-interfaith-banquet.