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Introduction View Comments
By John Feister

Ten years after the horrific 9/11 attacks on the United States, we are left with many questions. Yes, there are questions of national security, of protecting our borders, of removing terrorism’s roots abroad. But perhaps the biggest long-term question for most Americans is, who are Muslims

Reactions to the terrorist attacks revealed a huge gap in our national mentality—we know almost nothing about Islam, one of the great world religions. When we heard the Muslim origins of the terrorists, and when we learned especially of their distorted, religion clad hatred for the Christian (and Jewish) West, we quickly overgeneralized.

Our ignorance of the growing presence of Islam in the United States became clear: Many of us equated Islam with terrorism. Here, in a nation founded on religious freedom, intolerance of people who hold religious beliefs new to many of us reared its ugly head.

As this month’s anniversary approached, we at St. Anthony Messenger began to ask ourselves what we, a Franciscan, Catholic publication, could contribute to greater understanding. You’re reading the product of our labors over many months. I promise you a rich serving of both inspiration and practical information—and perhaps a bit of a challenge as well.

In this issue you’ll find stories of cooperation among Christians and Muslims in U.S. communities. You’ll find here a primer on Islam and revisit the famous story of St. Francis of Assisi’s encounter with Islam in the 13th century. You’ll hear of Eboo Patel, a Muslim advocate for interfaith understanding, and of Deacon George Dardess’s path to the Catholic diaconate through Muslim friends. You’ll read how some people from different walks of life were changed forever by 9/11. We review some books about Islam for your further reading and offer an editorial nudging all of us beyond simplemindedness.

The bottom line: Let’s engage in conversation about Islam! Let’s overcome fear and prejudice about our brothers and sisters in faith. In doing so we follow St. Francis, who stands with open arms to all peoples, to all creation, holding forth God’s blessing.





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John of Capistrano: It has been said the Christian saints are the world’s greatest optimists. Not blind to the existence and consequences of evil, they base their confidence on the power of Christ’s redemption. The power of conversion through Christ extends not only to sinful people but also to calamitous events. 
<p>Imagine being born in the 14th century. One-third of the population and nearly 40 percent of the clergy were wiped out by the bubonic plague. The Western Schism split the Church with two or three claimants to the Holy See at one time. England and France were at war. The city-states of Italy were constantly in conflict. No wonder that gloom dominated the spirit of the culture and the times. </p><p>John Capistrano was born in 1386. His education was thorough. His talents and success were great. When he was 26 he was made governor of Perugia. Imprisoned after a battle against the Malatestas, he resolved to change his way of life completely. At the age of 30 he entered the Franciscan novitiate and was ordained a priest four years later. </p><p>His preaching attracted great throngs at a time of religious apathy and confusion. He and 12 Franciscan brethren were received in the countries of central Europe as angels of God. They were instrumental in reviving a dying faith and devotion. </p><p>The Franciscan Order itself was in turmoil over the interpretation and observance of the Rule of St. Francis. Through John’s tireless efforts and his expertise in law, the heretical Fraticelli were suppressed and the "Spirituals" were freed from interference in their stricter observance. </p><p>He helped bring about a reunion with the Greek and Armenian Churches, unfortunately only a brief arrangement. </p><p>When the Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, he was commissioned to preach a crusade for the defense of Europe. Gaining little response in Bavaria and Austria, he decided to concentrate his efforts in Hungary. He led the army to Belgrade. Under the great General John Hunyadi, they gained an overwhelming victory, and the siege of Belgrade was lifted. Worn out by his superhuman efforts, Capistrano was an easy prey to an infection after the battle. He died October 23, 1456.</p> American Catholic Blog When we are linked by the power of prayer, we as it were, hold each other’s hand as we walk side by side along a slippery path; and thus by the bounteous disposition of charity, it comes about that the harder each one leans on the other, the more firmly we are riveted together in brotherly love. —St. Gregory the Great

 
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