In April 2005, Pope Benedict XVI sparked tension between Catholics and Muslims by implying that early Muslims spread their religion by violence. Many Muslims were offended. American Muslims called on the archdioceses in America to establish more dialogue between Muslims and Catholics and offered to the American public a free book or DVD on the life of Muhammad.
One must seize the opportunity to bring about success from every adversity. Last year Muslim leaders and scholars around the world signed a letter entitled, "A Common Work Between Us and You." The letter called for understanding between Christians and Muslims. It can be found at www.acommonword.com.
It was with open arms that I welcomed Pope Benedict to the United States. I hope and pray that his visit will make us take a hard look at ourselves and question our commitment to justice and peace. We must learn to put aside differences and understand that we are all God's creation. It is only with love, understanding and respect that we will be able to live in peace and harmony. People of influence must set an example and be ambassadors to humanity.
As a person who strives to build bridges of understanding, I have experienced the fruits of participating in interfaith events. Only when people challenge themselves to go beyond boundaries will they be able to reap any benefits. Let the pope's visit be a source of inspiration to Americans and an example to the world.
America today is on the verge of electing a new president, one of whom is an African American. This speaks volumes about how America is moving beyond its own boundaries. Let us capitalize on this chance to send a message to the world that regardless of race, color or religion, America is a land of opportunity.
ALTAF ALI, executive director, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Pembroke Pines