How do Jesuits approach Islam and Muslims in the various contexts of countries and works? How do the Spiritual Exercises guide our perception and action within the Christian-Muslim relationship and what can we learn in listening to Muslim spiritual experience?
These were some of the main questions asked in the international meeting “Jesuits Among Muslims” which took place in Rome, hosted by the Gregorian University. 37 Jesuits from five continents participated in the meeting, highlighted by the visits of Father General and Cardinal Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council of Interreligious Dialogue.
American Jesuit, Father Patrick Ryan’s paper “Looking at Islam with Ignatian eyes – Reading Ignatius with Muslim Eyes” opened this circle of reflection on Jesuit foundations, followed by a fruitful discussion about “Ignatian Discernment: Relevant for our Modus Procedendi with Muslims Today.”
“Certain images and themes in the spirituality of Ignatius have a certain parallelism with themes in Islamic spirituality, without suggesting any derivation of either from the other; the similarity between the Quranic motif of the fall of Iblis (the Devil) for refusing to bow before Adam and the medieval Christian sense that the sin of the angels was their rejection of the planned Incarnation as the background for Spiritual Exercises # 50 (the sin of the angels); the centrality of election in the spirituality of Ignatius and the similarities with and differences from Islamic istikhara ; imagery from military life in both Muslim mystical jihad al-akbar (“the greater jihad”) and the Crusade/Reconquista imagery in some of Ignatius’ most famous writings,” commented Fr. Ryan.
The meeting aimed on the one hand to a reflection on the shared spiritual-theological basis underlying and inspiring all the very different apostolic engagement of Jesuits which reaches from the courageous pastoral presence in difficult situations as in Algeria or Pakistan to the scholarly reflection on the Arab-Christian heritage in Beirut (Universite Saint Joseph) and Rome (Jesuits at the Pontifical Institute of Oriental Studies, others at the Pontifical Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies).