(CNSNews.com) – From the speaker’s podium at the National Cathedral, an Episcopal church, and in an interview with CNSNews.com, a Muslim leader said that American Muslims are opposed to the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities in the Middle East.
“We condemn persecution of Christians – of any minorities in Muslim-majority countries,” Rizwan Jaka, chairman of the board of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, told CNSNews.com at the Washington Natural Cathedral in Washington, D.C. on Friday where a Muslim prayer service was held.
When asked about the significance of the Muslim prayer service being held in a Christian church – an event that drew harsh criticism from some Christians and attracted one woman who tried to disrupt the service by shouting that Jesus Christ is the risen savior – Jaka said it reflects the country’s values.
“The significance is that America is a beacon of religious freedom and harmony, and that the Christian community embraces the Muslim community and that’s the message to the world,” Jaka said. “Look at the beautiful pluralism and democracy and harmony that we have in the United States of America.”
“And we ask that the world take that as an example that minorities in Muslim-minority countries should be treated with respect, treated with religious freedom, and that they should have the right to worship and the right to have equal rights and that we have to protect the churches and temples and synagogues in Muslim majority countries,” Jaka said.
When asked whether it was true that Christians are being persecuted in the Middle East, Jaka repeated his condemnation of the practice.
“We condemn persecution of Christians, of any minorities in Muslim-majority countries,” Jaka said. “We have actually had many initiatives – like I said the fundraising we do to rebuild churches is an example of that.”
CNSNews.com also asked the Rev. Canon Gina Gilland Campbell, who is a United Methodist clergy who oversees worship at the Episcopalian-founded church, why the decision was made to have a Muslim service in the cathedral.
“Today is just another example of what we try to do here every day, which is to live into our identity as a house of prayer for all people,” Campbell said. “And so we welcome people from many different traditions every single day of the week, and this is just a specific day for a specific community to come and pray with, and we are just delighted that the Muslim community is here today.”
The prayer service was held in an alcove of the church without any Christian symbols visible and large prayer rugs facing east were installed for the men and women who attended.
Haris Tarin, director of the Washington office of the Muslim Public Affairs Council, told CNSNews.com that prayer was the focus of the event.
“The purpose of this event is to show people that there is nothing more Christian, there’s nothing more Muslim and there’s nothing more American than praying together,” Tarin said. “That is what our Founding Fathers envisioned; that is what we as faith communities around this country do on a daily basis.”
“So why not bring it to the national level to the National Cathedral, which is a symbol of faithfulness in America in our nation’s capital,” said Tarin.
At the event, Jaka distributed a document to reporters with links to news stories about how mosques around the country have hosted Christian services, including one about a mosque in Sacramento, Calif., that allowed a church to hold its Easter service there.