Catholic and Muslim leaders from several West Coast states met May 21-23 to discuss common values reflected in the biblical tale of Joseph — called the prophet Yusuf in the Quran, the sacred book of Islam.

The meeting, designed along the lines of a spiritual retreat, was held at the Mary and Joseph Retreat Center in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. A press release giving the highlights of the gathering was released June 19 in Washington by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The story of Joseph is told in the Bible in Chapters 37-50 of Genesis and in the Quran in Surah 12. Participants found that sharing a reading of the Hebrew Scriptures and the Quran helped them approach those ancient texts in a new light.

They identified common ground in understanding virtues exemplified in the story of Joseph: fidelity, forgiveness, family relationships, integrity, loyalty, perseverance, patience rooted in trust in God, astuteness, compassion and wisdom.

Father Rafael Luevano, head of ecumenical and interreligious affairs for the Diocese of Orange, described the Joseph narrative as a profile of the virtues prized by the ancient Israelite community. He also noted the impact of the narrative on modern literature and even psychology, where the story figures in Sigmund Freud’s “Interpretation of Dreams.”

Iraqi-born Imam Sayed Moustafa al-Qazwini, founder and director of the Islamic Education Center of Orange County, called Joseph a model of those who are completely loyal to God.

Co-chairing the dialogue on the Muslim side were Imam al-Qazwini and Muzammil H. Siddiqi, director of the Islamic Society of Orange County. The Catholic co-chairman was Bishop Carlos A. Sevilla of Yakima, Wash. Participants also included Professor June O’Connor, University of California at Riverside; Rt. Rev. Alexei Smith, Ecumenical and Interreligious Officer, Archdiocese of Los Angeles; Kalim Farooki, Shura Council of Southern California; Father José Antonio Rubio, Ecumenical and Interreligious Officer, Diocese of San José; Msgr. Dennis L. Mikulanis, Ecumenical and Interreligious Officer, Diocese of San Diego; Hussam Ayloush, Executive Director, CAIR Los Angeles; Father Paul D. Wolkovits, Office of the Synod, Archdiocese of Los Angeles; Imam Taha Hassane, Islamic Center of San Diego; Father Canon Francis V. Tiso, associate director, USCCB Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs; and Khalil Momand, Islamic Center of South Bay.


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