Theme of the 2018 New York Encounter

New York – As part of its continual efforts in Community Cohesion, a delegation from Imam Mahdi Association of Marjaeya (I.M.A.M.), led by its Chairman, Sayyid M.B. Kashmiri, attended and participated in the annual New York Encounter for 2018. The three-day event, which took place January 14-16, 2018, at the Metropolitan Pavilion in lower Manhattan, had attendees numbering in the several thousands. The I.M.A.M. delegation received a warm reception from program organizers, special guest dignitaries, and other attendees.

As described by the organizers,

The Encounter aims to discover, affirm, and offer to everyone truly human expressions of the desire for truth, beauty, and justice. The Encounter, thus, becomes a meeting point for people of different beliefs, traditions, and cultures striving for reciprocal understanding, mutual building, and true friendship.

The theme for this year’s event was “An ‘Impossible’ Unity”:

We naturally yearn for unity and long to be part of a real community: life blossoms when it is shared.

And yet, we live in an age of fragmentation. At the social level, we suffer profound divisions among peoples and religions, and our country is ever more polarized along ideological lines, corroding our unity. At the personal level, we are often estranged from our communities, family members, and friends. When we discover that someone doesn’t think the way we do, we feel an embarrassing distance, if not open hostility, that casts a shadow on the relationship. As a result, either we become angry or we avoid controversial issues altogether, and retreat into safe territories with like-minded people.

But the disunity we see around us often begins within ourselves. We are bombarded by images of what we are “supposed” to be, but they generally do not correspond to who we really are. In fact, our truest self seems to escape us. The full scope of our humanity, with all its vast and profound needs and desires, may suddenly emerge, elicited by memories, thoughts or events, but usually quickly fades, without lasting joy or real change. And unless our relationships are rooted in the common experience of such humanity, we don’t even have real dialogue; we just chat, gossip, text or argue.

In the end, the unity we long for seems impossible.

But what if it is possible? How can it happen?

Sayyid M.B. Kashmiri delivers his remarks (Photo: New York Encounter)

The three-day event included many noteworthy discussions, such as the experiences of being and having a father, a dialogue on the shared bonds and ideals in today’s American society, and more.

I.M.A.M. represented the Muslim perspective in a panel discussion called Abraham and the Birth of ‘I’. This discussion featured representatives of the three main monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and their views on the story of the man considered as the father of their faith (Prophet Abraham (p)) and on the relationship between God in human history and the discovery of one’s own identity.

Several thousand attendants took part in this year’s event (Photo: New York Encounter)

Joseph Weiler, Joseph Straus Professor of Law, New York University, shared Jewish perspectives. Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, shared Catholic perspectives.  Sayyid M.B. Kashmiri, Chairman of I.M.A.M. and representative of the Jurist, shared Muslim perspectives. John McCarthy, dean of the School of Philosophy at The Catholic University of America, Washington, DC, moderated the panel.

(A complete copy of Sayyid Kashmiri’s remarks on the Muslim perspective is available below.)

As the event ended later that evening, the I.M.A.M. delegation received a great deal of gratitude for participating in this year’s event and an invitation to return for future events.

Community Cohesion has been a cornerstone of I.M.A.M.’s activities throughout North America, and has included visiting Islamic organizations across the continent, hosting programs and conferences, and most notably, by conducting inter-faith and intra-faith meetings and projects, as well as supporting the Council of Shia Muslim Scholars in North America.

Through its participation in the New York Encounter, I.M.A.M. furthered efforts to build good interfaith relations and opened new doors for dialogue and cooperation for the betterment of the larger North American Muslim Community.

An Impossible Unity