When Zia Rahman celebrated the opening of the first mosque in Voorhees less than two years ago, he and fellow congregation members found they had built more than a house of worship.

They had built bridges to other faiths.

While addressing the concerns of opponents to the mosque – who worried about parking, traffic, and even about possible terrorist ties – the Muslims made friends with Christians, Jews and others.

As managing director of the Muslim American Community Association, which operates the mosque, Rahman became the group’s goodwill ambassador, visiting community groups, churches and synagogues to encourage a better understanding of Islam.

Tomorrow, his work will bear fruit in a rare agreement of cooperation and understanding between the association and the Roman Catholic Diocese of Camden – believed to be one of only two pacts in the nation between the faiths.

Rahman, Bishop Joseph A. Galante of the Diocese of Camden and others are scheduled to sign the document at 7 p.m. at the mosque, located at Lafayette Avenue and Haddonfield-Berlin Road.

The agreement calls for the establishment of a commission of Catholics and Muslims that will foster mutual respect for each other’s beliefs, “champion each other’s just causes” and promote understanding for each other’s history and traditions.

It also creates a Catholic-Muslim Institute that will provide educational programs at the mosque and at churches.

“Things have unfolded in a much better way, by the grace of God, than I had envisioned,” said Rahman, a native of Pakistan and retired director of corporate information technology at Rohm & Haas Co. “This is all His blessing.

“I don’t think I could have imagined signing an agreement with a community of a half-million Catholics in such a short time,” he said. “History is being made.”

In a statement, Galante called the agreement “a significant step toward a deepening respect and understanding” between area Muslims and Catholics. (MORE)


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