Our Lady provides common ground for Catholics and Muslims

Pope Francis burns incense in front of a statue of Mary (CNS)

I often feel hopeless when I read about the persecution of Christians. The global situation is grim. A recent report by Aid to the Church in Need explains that the most pernicious persecution of Christians happens in predominantly Muslim countries. We would do well to remember that in these same countries, Muslims are often persecuted by their fellow Muslims.

As as this Catholic Herald View suggests, we would do well to seek out Muslims “who are dedicated to prayer, peace and charity”.

Over the past five years of living in London, experience has shown me an area of common ground. Muslims and Christians are like-minded when it comes to revering Our Lady. I discovered this because as my name is Mary, many Muslims say sincerely to me, “that’s a lovely name”. A Muslim friend of mine engages in mental prayer to Our Lady. He gives very difficult prayer intentions to Our Lady and he says that, “it’s incredible how many prayers get answered by asking her”.

No other woman is given as much space in the Koran as Our Lady. Reviewing sections of the Koran that concern Our Lady, she is revered as the one woman who was chosen, “above the women of all nations”. If you ask Muslims who have a devotion to Our Lady, they will simply say, “she was the best woman ever”. The Koran corroborates Catholic doctrines such as the Immaculate Conception and Mary’s immaculate virginity.

Would it not make sense to make Our Lady the foundation of our inter-faith discussions? It needn’t be very formal. Devout Catholics could open a discussion on respecting Our Lady with their Muslim friends, neighbours and colleagues.

This is not to disregard the doctrinal shaped elephant in the room. We hold Our Lady as the Mother of God. Muslims believe Our Lady to be the mother of a prophet. But they do hold her as the most holy woman who ever lived and they have a fear of offending her.

I’m taking the risk that I’ll be mocked for proffering a pious strategy. I know that, “Unite Christians and Muslims on the grounds of their shared love of Our Lady”, is not likely to become foreign policy any time soon. But without basic strategies, we are back to hopeless handwringing. In order for this to work, it needs the oxygen of our conversations with Muslims. Maybe we should, “let go and let Our Lady”.

It needs a few sparks of publicity. For starters I invite my fellow Catholic writers and bloggers to take the plunge and try out this strategy. Then blog any conversations and encounters. My guess is that they’ll be pleasantly surprised by the smiles that mention of Our Lady brings to the faces of many Muslims. No wonder Our Lady is called, ‘Cause of our Hope’ and ‘Smile of Heaven’.


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