Texas Wesleyan University Offers Prayer Room for Muslim Students
The Rambler, the student publication for the university, published an article on November 19th about the prayer room, explaining its purpose, the story behind its inception and its uses.
“The reasons for this (prayer room) are twofold,” Chaplain Dr. Robert K. Flowers told the publication. “One, to show hospitality to our foreign students and, two, our campus needs to be open and tolerant of other faith traditions whether it is Islam, Hindu, Jewish, or otherwise.”
The prayer room was established last year at the request of Mohamed Khalid Alshafei, the president of the Saudi students club, who met with university President Frederick Slabach about the matter. The article noted that Saudi–or Muslim–students pray about five times a day and have certain rituals surrounding their observances.
“We have to be cleaned before we pray,” Alshafei stated. “We believe that when we pray, we will be between the hands of God.”
Therefore, the prayer room is held in the Morton Fitness Center and faces Mecca in compliance with Islamic requirements.
According to the university website, Texas Wesleyan University, founded in 1890 by the Methodist Episcopal Church, welcomes students of all religions, even though its history is rooted in Methodism.
“Throughout its history, the University has remained closely affiliated with the United Methodist Church,” it explains. “The University maintains special relationships with several United Methodist congregations, and some of the trustees are representatives of the United Methodist Church.”
But, “[i]n keeping with Methodist tradition, the university welcomes individuals of all faiths and is thoroughly inclusive in its practices,” the site continues.
However, some are expressing concerns about the university’s prayer room, stating that a school that identifies as being affiliated with the United Methodist Church should not accommodate those of the Islamic faith.
“Texas Wesleyan has dangerously aligned itself with Islam, not unlike most colleges across the United States. However, the Methodist affiliated private university, which doesn’t mean the school is Christian by any stretch of the imagination, is caving to sharia,” reporter Janna Brock wrote on Freedom Outpost. “All in the name of ‘interfaith’ worship, which is surely the most outrageous claim. Islam does not co-exist.”
She said that she questions whether the room is really an interfaith venue, or is really a capitulation to Islam.
“Never does ‘interfaith’ mean anything but non-Christian activities, namely New Age practices,” she stated. “Today, the word ‘interfaith’ can be directly translated to mean Islam, with full sharia compliance.”
Comments under the Rambler article also expressed disapproval.
“I am disgusted by this submission to Islam. What’s next, a room for Rastafarians? How about Voodoo? Santa Ria? Devil worshippers?” a reader named Mark wrote. “You are supposed to be a Methodist university. What is wrong with this school?”
“I am appalled by this Methodist university,” another wrote. “My great grandfather Gifford was a Methodist circuit rider minister. He is probably rolling in his grave.”
Pope expresses hope for reunion with Orthodox Patriarch
By Kerri Lenartowick
“You Holiness, beloved brother in Christ, this is the first time that I address you on the occasion of the feast of the Apostle Andrew, the first-called. I take this opportunity to assure you of my intention to pursue fraternal relations between the Church of Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarchate,” he wrote on Nov. 30 in the message delivered by Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.
Cardinal Koch had led a delegation from the Holy See to Istanbul for the feast of St. Andrew. After taking part in a Liturgy presided over by Patriarch Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church, Cardinal Koch delivered Pope Francis’ message.
“It is for me a source of great reassurance to reflect on the depth and the authenticity of our existing bonds, the fruit of a grace-filled journey along which the Lord has guided our Churches since the historic encounter in Jerusalem between Pope Paul VI and Patriarch Athenagoras,” the Pope’s message said, referencing the momentous event of 1965 in which the leaders of the two churches lifted the excommunications that had been placed on each other in 1054.
Pope Francis explained, “God, the source of all peace and love, has taught us throughout these years to regard one another as members of the same family.”
“For indeed, we have one Lord and Savior. We belong to him through the gift of the good news of salvation transmitted by the apostles, through the one baptism in the name of the Holy Trinity, and through the holy ministry.”
The Bishop of Rome then reflected on the current state of relationship between the churches and indicated his hope for the future. “United in Christ, therefore, we already experience the joy of authentic brothers in Christ, while yet fully aware of not having reached the goal of full communion.”
“In anticipation of the day in which we will finally take part together in the Eucharistic feast, Christians are duty-bound to prepare to receive this gift of God through prayer, inner conversion, renewal of life and fraternal dialogue.”
Pope Francis also took time to consider the difficulties faced by Christians in the East who are persecuted for their faith.
“The memory of the martyrdom of the apostle Saint Andrew also makes us think of the many Christians of all the Churches and Ecclesial Communities who in many parts of the world experience discrimination and at times pay with their own blood the price of their profession of faith,” he reflected.
“Christians of the East and West must give common witness so that, strengthened by the Spirit of the risen Christ, they may disseminate the message of salvation to the entire world.”
Earlier on Saturday, Pope Francis had met with pilgrims from the Greek Melkite Catholic Church, expressing similar concern for Middle Eastern Christians who face serious persecution.
“My thoughts go immediately to our brothers and sisters in Syria, who have been suffering a ‘great tribulation’ for a long time; I pray for the many who have lost their lives and for their loved ones,” he said to those gathered in the Vatican’s Clementine Hall.
“We believe firmly in the strength of prayer and reconciliation,” emphasized Pope Francis.
“For centuries, your church has known how to coexist peacefully with other religions and is called to carry out the task of fraternity in the Middle East.”
Moreover, he insisted, the presence of Christians in the Middle East is crucial: “we are not resigned to thinking of the Middle East without Christians.”
Those Eastern Christians who remain in communion with the Catholic Church, such as those of the Melkite tradition, are a “visible sign to all of our Eastern brethren of the desired communion with the Successor of Peter,” he added.