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Muslim-American scholar to speak at Spirit of Assisi service

Oct 25, 2013 |

St. Bonaventure University will welcome Dr. Khalid J. Qazi, clinical professor of medicine at the University at Buffalo, as its guest speaker for an interfaith prayer service at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 30, in the University Chapel.

The service will be held in honor of the first World Day of Prayer for Peace, or the Spirit of Assisi. On Oct. 27, 1986, Pope John Paul II led the first World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi, Italy, home of the founder of the Franciscan friars, St. Francis, to celebrate the unity amongst all people. This is St. Bonaventure’s third annual celebration of the Spirit of Assisi. This year’s theme is “widening the circle of friends.”

Representatives of many faiths, including the Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, Buddhist, Hindu, Baha’i and Christian communities, will also participate in the service to emphasize this event’s celebration of diversity.

Qazi, a native of Kashmir, has worked in the Buffalo area since 1977, promoting diversity and the advancement of civil rights for American Muslims. He was named an Outstanding Citizen by the Buffalo News in 2002 for his efforts to promote understanding of Muslim culture.

In addition to teaching at the University at Buffalo, Qazi also serves as president of the Muslim Public Affairs Council of Western New York. He serves on the Board of Directors for the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles, the Independent Health Foundation and United Way of Buffalo and Erie County. He also received St. Bonaventure’s Gaudete Medal in March for exemplifying the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi for his community work.

The Spirit of Assisi event at St. Bonaventure is coordinated by Sr. Suzanne Kush, C.S.S.F.

“The Spirit of Assisi is an opportunity for us to come together as a community,” said Kush. “It is an expression of the inherent belief of the dignity of each human person. In prayer, while words and expressions may vary, we express one desire to live in peace and to embrace each other as sister and brother. As persons of various traditions gather in Assisi, Italy, the City of Peace, may we who gather to pray for peace and unity create a rippling effect of ‘widening the circle’ of friendship that will reach out far beyond us.”

Fr. Francis Di Spigno, O.F.M., executive director of University Ministries at SBU, said, “when we widen our circle of friends, we lose nothing of ourselves but gain the insight of someone who sees our self, the world and God, from a different perspective. If our goal is to understand and grow in knowledge then why would we not seek that with everything that God gives us? The people who are not like us, hold different beliefs than us, look differently than we do, only add to the richness that is ours.”

The Spirit of Assisi, he said, is the celebration of the unity that exists among all of God’s creation.

“For me, one of the most appealing aspects of St. Francis was that he was able to build bridges between his brothers and sisters to all of creation, including the Sultan and his Muslim brothers in Egypt. St. Francis was able to speak with everyone, and no one was afraid to speak with him.  It is our hope that The Spirit of Assisi will continue to remove fear from our hearts and minds so that we can truly see all of creation as being in relationship as brother and sister,” said Fr. Francis.

Some of those who plan to participate Wednesday shared their thoughts about the prayer service.

“Each of the great world’s religions teach The Golden Rule: Treat all others as you would wish to be treated. If we take this basic teaching to heart, would we not widen our circle of friends, cease thinking of others as ‘enemies,’ and, so, establish genuine peace?” added Richard Reilly, Ph.D. Reilly is president of the Board of Directors of the Olean Meditation Center and a philosophy professor emeritus at SBU.

Anne Goergen, a member of Temple B’nai Israel of Olean and director of prospect research at SBU, said, “I am happy that we are continuing the ideals from the first Spirit of Assisi at St. Bonaventure. The Olean area has embraced interfaith dialogue and has been ‘widening the circle’ since 9/11. It’s good that the university has taken a role to foster this movement.”

For more information, please contact Sr. Suzanne Kush, C.S.S.F., at (716) 375-2358.

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About the University: The nation’s first Franciscan university, St. Bonaventure University cultivates graduates who are confident and creative communicators, collaborative leaders and team members, and innovative problem solvers who are respectful of themselves, others, and the diverse world around them. We are establishing pathways to internships, graduate schools and careers in the context of our renowned liberal arts tradition. Our students are becoming extraordinary.     

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