Christ Church Cathedral, an Episcopal church on Monument Circle, invited Hoosiers from the Indianapolis Muslim Community Association to speak before two of its Christmas Eve sermons to come together in solidarity during the church's time of celebration.
"The times are calling upon us to build these bridges," said Eyas Raddad, the representative from the Indianapolis Muslim Community Association who spoke to the congregation. "Fear, especially of those who are different, and the uncertainty that comes with that has been a core cause of the angst in the community."
This is the first time Christ Church Cathedral has done this, but it's not the first time Muslims have been in churches participating in Christmas celebrations, Raddad said. Coming together in a time of celebration will start to build these bridges.
Jesus Christ is also important in Islam, Raddad said, which is not something many know. Jesus and the Virgin Mary are mentioned many times in the Quran, similar to how they're mentioned in the gospel.
"I want to bring a message to people to understand that commonality is much more than they ever tend to appreciate," Raddad said. "Muslims are friends of Christians, and our common values will translate to common actions."
Worshipping God is common to both religions, he said, so there isn't any reason people shouldn't be doing that together as much as possible.
During his speech, Raddad read a passage from the Quran, one that sounded so similar to the Bible that parish member Elaine Klemesrud thought it could have been from either book.
"(The similarities) are amazing, and it makes me want to learn more about the Muslim faith and read the Quran," Klemesrud said.
Klemesrud has been a member at CCC for about two years and said the unified Christian and Muslim introduction was touching. She wasn't aware that both the Bible and the Quran recognized Jesus and the Virgin Mary as holy figures, and said it was neat that she could continue to learn more about the similarities.
"It's important to bring people of different faiths together because we need to be unified in bringing peace and justice to all," she said. "I think all faiths have a common thread of the love of God, and I know at Christ Church Cathedral, it's very central to the theme."
Because Christmas Eve is the night when people celebrate the birth of Jesus, said CCC dean and rector Steve Carlsen, it's a joyous day for everyone.
As he and Raddad stood at the pulpit together—Carlsen in his traditional Christmas robes and Raddad wearing a grey dress coat and plaid scarf— Carlsen welcomed all to the church.
"No matter what background you are, church or no church, Christian or Muslim, you're fully welcome to celebrate with us," he said. "Tonight we are all neighbors and are all friends."
Now more than ever, Carlsen said, people are in need of a message of peace. Many are driving a wedge into the community and are calling for violence. Community members need to work together to make Indianapolis a city that loves and welcomes everyone.
"(Today is) a day of peace, a day of harmony and a day of welcome and there’s absolutely no reason on heaven and Earth why Christians and Muslims can’t stand together today in peace and harmony, blessing and welcoming each other," Carlsen said.
Source: Indy Star