Scranton Lecture Explores Christian-Muslim Understanding

Mar 16, 2012

Interreligious dialogue will be the subject of an upcoming lecture by Thomas Michel, S.J., at The University of Scranton. Fr. Michel will present “A Catholic Priest Among Muslims: What I Have Learned” in room 133 of the Loyola Science Center. The lecture, scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, March 22, is free and open to the public.

“Interreligious dialogue, specifically Muslim-Christian dialogue, must never be separated from dialogue with cultures,” wrote Fr. Michel in an article titled “Toward a Dialogue of Liberation with Muslims.” He states that if such dialogues exclude voices of the poor, women, indigenous peoples, children and even the unborn, it loses its effectiveness as a means of social transformation.

The heart of Fr. Michel’s message is that Christian-Muslim dialogue should focus on “our magnificent ideals and our all-too-often sad realities, our sincere efforts, as well as our shameful failures, our wonderful experiences of God’s love, and our selfish refusal to share that love with others.”

Ordained a Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis in 1967, Fr. Michel entered the Society of Jesus in 1969, and after studying Arabic and Islamic studies in Egypt and Lebanon, he received a doctorate in Islamic theology at the University of Chicago. In 1978, he traveled to Indonesia, where he taught Islamic studies at the Catholic Faculty of Theology in Sanata Dharma University and Christian theology at Islamic theological institutes.

In 1981, Fr. Michel began work in the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, where he became head of the office for relations with Muslims. During his tenure with the Vatican, he taught an introduction to Christian theology in universities in Turkey.

From 1994 to 2008, Fr. Michel served as executive secretary for the Office of Interreligious and Ecumenical Affairs, based in Bangkok, Thailand, and as secretary for Interreligious Dialogue for the Jesuits, based in Rome. In 2008, he became a Visiting Fellow of the Woodstock Theological Center in Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Fr. Michel received the International Tschelebi Peace Prize from the Zentralinstitut-Islam-Archiv-Deutschland in Soest, Germany, in 2008, and in 2009, he received the Ali Shir Navai Award from the International Turkish Olympiad in Ankara, Turkey. In 2010, he was awarded the degree of Doctor of Theology by the Catholic Theological Union of Chicago, Ill.

Fr. Michel is a member of the board of the academic council of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding at Georgetown University, the international advisory board of the Khalidi Library in Jerusalem, and the advisory board of the Center for Civilizational Dialogue at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

A prolific writer, Fr. Michel has published 20 books and about 350 articles in books, scholarly reviews, journals of opinion, popular newspapers and magazines, and encyclopedias.

For more information about the lecture, contact Christian Krokus, Ph.D., assistant professor of theology and religious studies at The University of Scranton, at 941-4546.

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