South African Ambassador to the United States, Ebrahim Rasool has helped to plan a service in which for the first time in American history, Muslims will offer prayers at the historic National Cathedral in the heart of Washington DC.
According to reports, the idea for the invitation originated during the planning stage for the memorial service for Nelson Mandela as talks between the cathedral’s liturgical director, Gina Campbell, and Rasool, who is a Muslim took place, reports Christian News Network.
“This is a dramatic moment in the world and in Muslim-Christian relations,” Rasool says in a press release issued by the Cathedral. “This needs to be a world in which all are free to believe and practice and in which we avoid bigotry, Islamaphobia, racism, anti-Semitism, and anti-Christianity and to embrace our humanity and to embrace faith.”
The cathedral states that the goal of the event is to facilitate greater acceptance between Christians and Muslims, calling the Islamic Jumaa prayers at the house of worship a “powerful symbolic gesture.”
“Leaders believe offering Muslim prayers at the Christian cathedral shows more than hospitality. It demonstrates an appreciation of one another’s prayer traditions and is a powerful symbolic gesture toward a deeper relationship between the two Abrahamic traditions,” says the National Cathedral press release.
While the national cathedral has hosted interfaith gatherings in the past, the Islamic Jumaa prayers to be presented this Friday at the historic Episcopalian site will be the first time the cathedral has invited Muslims to lead their own prayer service there.
In addition to Campbell and Rasool, Masjid Muhammad of The Nation’s Mosque, representatives from the All Dulles Area Muslim Society, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Islamic Society of North America and Muslim Public Affairs Council are all expected to be in attendance. The event is also facilitated so that Muslims will face Mecca during the Jumaa prayers.
The prayers will also be webcast live from the Cathedral’s website, reports Liveleak.com.
Washington’s National Cathedral has traditionally been recognised as the cathedral of the presidents, being used for inaugural-based prayer services for the past 106 years. It has also hosted the funeral services for Presidents Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford and Dwight Eisenhower, and was dubbed the “National House of Prayer” by the US Congress.
Christian News Network says more than two thousand people joined President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden for an interfaith service surrounding the president’s re-inauguration on January 22, 2013.