Today Fr Charlie Burrows, an Irish missionary priest serving in Chilachap, Java, Indonesia, offers another blog post about ongoing efforts towards dialogue and encounter with Muslims. Last month, he described the visit of students from the local Muslim Pesantren school to his church, which included seeing a Christian wedding. Now, he writes about a return visit of Catholic students to the Pesantren, where the focus is on Ramadan and common religious practices such as fasting.
Fr Charlie Burrows & Students Visit the Pesantren
As the Pesantren – run by the head of the “Forum For Communication between Religions” brought his students and teachers to visit our Catholic Church of St.Stephen’s, we decided to make a return visit. It is now the Islam Holy month of Ramadan, preparing for the feast of Idul Fitri, by prayer and fasting and one of the daily events is the “opening of the fast” often attended by non-Islam’s, as a sign of respect and friendship.
We phoned the Pesantren leader and he asked us to come at 16.00 P.M. and give a lesson on the Catholic teaching on fasting and abstinence and the practice of such. When we arrived we were met by the chief Kiai and his staff and the evening’s events were explained to us. We then went into the room where the session would take place.
In the Pesantren students and teachers sit lotus style on the floor but as my bones were “made in Ireland”, I was allowed to sit with “feet under the table.” I gave a little talk and then questions and answers. Then we had prayers before the opening of the fast which always starts at sundown. There was a nice friendly, happy atmosphere and we had a nice meal, followed by photos together and then back into an office for dialogue with the Pesantren committee. They talked about the Islamic groups that reject “Pluralism” and their efforts to promote such among their adherents.
I wore a shirt which was the “uniform” of the members of the Religions Communication Forum as I am seen as a “founder member” and now on “advisor” to the Forum. Hopefully the visit will have some little influence for continued dialogue into the future.