A clash of civilizations between the West and Islam is not inevitable, asserts the head of the U.S. Catholic community's official international humanitarian agency.
"In his recent speech in Cairo to the Muslim world, he (President Obama) sought out the common ground and values that unite all people of good will, noting that America and Islam 'share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings,'" noted Ken Hackett, president of Catholic Relief Services, over the weekend.
"As someone who leads a humanitarian organization that works in the five nations in the world with the largest Muslim populations, I could not agree more," he stated.
In making his case, Hackett reported how his organization has built strong and effective relationships with a multitude of Muslim communities around the globe.
"These relationships, built around shared values, are examples of the type of partnership that President Obama spoke of," the CRS leader noted.
According to Hackett, partnerships with Muslim communities must be characterized by mutuality and solidarity, recognizing that each partner brings unique resources to the table, such as knowledge, history, finances, expertise and relationships. And, each partner must be accountable to the other for achieving results.
"In our successful partnerships with Muslims communities, we have found that working together to meet the needs of real people helps demystify our respective religions and cultures and fights attempts to demonize the other," Hackett stated.
"As a result, our staff have benefited from amazing generosity, hospitality, and even protection from those we work with," he added. "As the President noted, interfaith dialogue can and should lead to interfaith cooperation in service to others."
As one of the world's largest networks of Catholic development and relief agencies, CRS works to alleviate suffering and provides assistance to people in need in more than 100 countries, without regard to race, religion or nationality.
Through its work, the agency seeks to foster within the U.S. Catholic community a sense of global solidarity, providing inspiration to live out their spiritual tradition of compassionate service to the world.