Interfaith event to explore parallels in Lebanon and U.S.

Two leading scholars of Christian-Muslim dialogue in the Middle East, Dr. Mary Mikhail and Dr. Muhammad Sammak, will be making a stop on the shared campus of McCormick Theological Seminary and the Lutheran School of Theology (LSTC) at Chicago on Monday, October 26.

Co-sponsored by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Interfaith Listening Project, the Presbytery of Chicago, McCormick Theological Seminary, and LSTC’s Center for Christian Muslim Engagement for Peace & Justice, the day will consist of informal fellowship and formal discussion about how religious life in Lebanon compares with religious life in the United States.

Beginning at noon, Mikhail and Sammak will participate in a special Global Conversations luncheon hosted for the seminary community by the Language Resource and Writing Center, a shared resource of McCormick and LSTC. At 4 p.m. in McCormick’s McGaw Common Room, the two speakers will engage the broader Hyde Park and Chicago communities on the topic, “Christian-Muslim Engagement in Lebanon: Religious Revival and Leadership for the Future.” Following an extended question and answer period, a reception will be given in the speakers’ honor.

Dr. Mary Mikhail is President of the Near East School of Theology in Beirut. She is a recognized authority on the church in the Middle East and a noted writer and lecturer on Christian theology and the position of women in the church. She also serves on the executive and theological committees of the Fellowship of Middle East Evangelical Churches.

Dr. Sammak is a noted scholar, author, columnist, and counselor to the Mufti of Lebanon and the Prime Minister. As the General-Secretary of the Christian-Muslim Committee for Dialogue and the Islamic Spiritual Summit of Lebanon, he was a participant in the 2007 open letter to Christian leaders around the world entitled "A Common Word between Us and You," an invitation to cooperation as a step toward peace.

Sammak and Mikhail’s visit to McCormick and LSTC is part of a larger venture organized by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Interfaith Relations Office, which conducts the annual Interfaith Listening Program. The program is designed to bring to the United States a team of international, inter-religious partners to offer a window into how communities of different faiths and cultures negotiate life together elsewhere in the world.

The tour brings the two speakers to several seminaries, mosques, and churches in the U.S. with an extended, three-day stop in Chicago. The Presbytery of Chicago has partnered with the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago to host two gatherings on Sunday, October 25, the first of which is “A Common Word from Lebanon” at Presbyterian Church of Wheaton, Illinois. The second event is at 3 p.m. at the Villa Park Islamic Center, where among other highlights a declaration will be signed in recognition of the Year of Muslim-Presbyterian Dialogue.  On Tuesday, October 27, Mikhail and Sammak will meet with Presbyterian Women at the Presbyterian Church of Western Springs, Illinois, to discuss “Women in Leadership Roles in the Middle East.”