Point of Light: Uniting Christians and Muslims through Prayer
Posted by Caitlin Joyce, '11, '18 on Thursday, December 1, 2016 at 10:37 PM PST
Fadi Abouelsaad, ’17, is in his final year of the School of Theology and Ministry’s Transformational Leadership Program and is in the process of becoming a Jesuit. Though not yet ordained Fadi is already an experienced spiritual advisor.
In Fadi’s home country of Egypt, he co-founded “Point of Light,” a 3-day spiritual retreat for Muslims and Christians. This interfaith retreat was born out of a Muslim youth’s desire to attend a Catholic Retreat being led by Fadi. “Mohammed, a Muslim, was interested in attending even after learning the retreat would be based on Christian teachings and stories from the bible and so he was invited to join.”
The response from that retreat was great. The Christian attendees enjoyed having Mohammed there and engaging with him and Mohammed found it to be a wonderful experience himself. It was clear that this was something worth repeating. Fadi and two spiritual partners moved forward with planning a retreat series for both Muslims and Christians to come together in prayer and spirituality.
Point of Light is a 3-day excursion, sometimes hosted in the desert and other times in a retreat center, but never in a chapel or house of worship. “We decorate the space together. It is like we are building our temple. We use a very neutral room and build together with candles and music to create our sacred space,” Fadi said. This retreat skips the dogma of religions and what each group believes, delving straight into spirituality. “Spiritual life gives opportunity to encounter each other and build together. It is an opportunity for peace building, especially in the Middle East where there is so much religious turmoil.”
“We believe that in every human being and religion there is a light, a universal wisdom, and we want to share this wisdom with each other.” Fadi elaborated, “We have been living with Muslims for centuries and we don’t know them and they don’t know us. We believe that this will lead us to the new humanity where we respect each other and we love each other.”
One of the most meaningful aspects of the retreat is the sense of community and safety that is built. “After the retreat, you realize you don’t know who was Muslim and who was Christian, but you were praying together and this is a wonderful feeling.” Following the retreats, participants host meals and meditations at their homes. “After you see these people together, it’s impossible to imagine them fighting over religion,” Fadi shared. “We actually have a problem with people wanting to attend each retreat. They keep coming back to this safe place of community where they can share their doubts and questions.”
Some participants admit they have not prayed for 10 years until this retreat. It served as an opportunity for them to reconcile with their faith, with God and with themselves.
Fadi’s vision for Point of Light is to continue his work and reach more people. “My hope is to build bridges between communities and share not only religions, but different cultures.” Fadi shared that there is a Jesuit Spirituality Center in India that hosts retreats for Hindu, Christians and Muslims. He would love the opportunity to connect with them and learn from the wisdom of their program.