-Article by Victoria College
Three local religious leaders discussed their beliefs, the presidential election campaign and other current issues during a “Faith Forum” on Tuesday at Victoria College’s Student Center.
About 40 people attended the event, which was hosted by VC’s Catholic Student Association and emceed by VC Professor of Music and Fine Arts Department Chair Jonathan Anderson.
Catholic Bishop Brendan Cahill of the Diocese of Victoria, Pastor Sharon Wiggins of St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in Cuero and Imam Osama Hassan of the Victoria Islamic Center fielded questions from Anderson and guests ranging from their favorite prayers to the challenge of maintaining an unbiased position in front of their followers during the current political season.
Hassan used the forum as an opportunity to dispel misconceptions of the Muslim faith portrayed by the media.
“When I told people my name was Osama, people got scared,” said Hassan, who moved to the U.S. from Egypt 15 years ago. “My name was a big problem. I was asked, ‘Why did your parents name you Osama?’ I said, ‘I had nothing to do with that.’
“Some people have told me that they are scared to come into our mosque. That is very saddening.”
Hassan said the Quran does not encourage Muslims to commit terrorist attacks and those that are involved in such incidents are perverting his faith.
“The Quran says if you save a soul, you save the entire mankind,” Hassan said. “But if you hurt a soul, indeed, you hurt the entire mankind. … Islam is not how it is made in the media and it is not about killing or seeking to kill anybody.
“God would never like to see servants hurt one another. I challenge anyone to find in the Quran where it says to kill somebody. God says if someone attacks you, then you can defend yourself. … We condemn anything that hurts anybody here or anywhere else on the earth.”
Cahill and Wiggins said Muslims and Christians worship the same god.
“Like the Catholic faith, the Jewish and Islam faiths have the same belief in one god,” Cahill said. “Some Catholics think the Islam god is a different god.”
“Allah and God are not two different gods,” Wiggins said. “It’s just two different languages.”
Cahill said a misconception of Catholicism he deals with is the perception that his faith isolates itself from other beliefs.
“A lot of people believe it’s the Catholics against everyone else,” Cahill said. “Our desire, through our faith, is the unity of all humanity and to profess the love of God to all people. … So many people think we hate people who do not think like we do. That’s why I appreciate things like this forum.”
All three agreed that the current presidential campaign has fueled emotions and partisanship among their followers.
“We’ve had a lot of fun with it in our adult Sunday School class,” Wiggins said. “We’ve managed not to beat each other up, but there have come a few times we’ve gotten real, real close. I make a distinction between partisan politics and politics.
“We need to talk about politics. We all have our own politics. That’s just a way of life. Partisan politics is when we start picking teams. When we can start talking to each other again and bring everybody’s radical ideas to the middle of the table, we can throw them up in the air and let the Holy Spirit go through them. The chaff will get blown away and the good wheat will come back to the ground.”
Cahill said it is a challenge to conceal his personal political beliefs.
“It is kind of difficult,” Cahill said. “According to our tradition, the Catholic Church does not endorse candidates. We publish documents about issues we think are important. People think I should endorse a candidate. We can’t. I do get some heat about it, but it doesn’t bother me too much.”
Hassan said Islam encourages its followers to vote and ended the forum with a humorous comment he saw on social media concerning the election.
“We teach your vote is very important,” Hassan said. “We must choose the one who is best to lead the country and not choose on our emotions.
“I read somewhere on Facebook where someone wrote, ‘If Jesus is coming back, I hope he comes before the election.’ “