Christmas celebrations at Open Mosque

From left: Jedidjah Slagter of Scarborough, Sarah Dekker of Muizenberg, Liz Hood of Fish Hoek, Vanessa Rivera de le Fiente of Bonteheuwel, and Brian Robertson of the Catholic Church in Constantia attended the event.

The Open Mosque in Lester Road, Wynberg, held its third annual Christmas supper on Saturday December 17. Mosque president Dr Taj Hargey said this was the only mosque in the world that hosted such an event, to which guests from various religious denominations were invited.

“I’m so glad to see a nice gathering of people, Muslim, Christian and others,” Dr Taj Hargey, the president of Open Mosque said.

“This is all part of our interfaith outreach. We believe that Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Janes, jedis, atheists, secularists, vegetarians vegans, whoever, we should all be working together.

“Our religion is about getting together,” Dr Hargey said. “This is a joyous occasion. We want to celebrate the birth of this man that even Muslims celebrate – Jesus Christ. This is the only mosque in the world that does this. We don’t want to convert you. My only hope is that you will become better Christians.”

Dr Hargey said the event was also aimed at fostering peace.

“Not all Muslims are bloody-minded terrorists. We reject that with the utmost condemnation. It’s not what Islam teaches. The last thing I want is this happening on this side of the world. I don’t want that toxic mentality happening here and there are already signs of it.”

During his keynote address Dr Hargey spoke about “The role and status of Jesus in the Qur’an”, explaining how Islam’s beliefs about Jesus differs from the teachings of Christianity and Judaism.

Faith leaders from varying Christian denominations also spoke at the event.

Father David Musgrave of Our Lady of the Visitation in Constantia said: “Anything that builds bridges between people right across the spectrum is welcome, especially in the difficult and demanding field of interfaith. Here in South Africa we are very fortunate and very blessed that we don’t have all this conflict and divisions between religions. Here we are open to one another, we care for one another and we respect one another.”

Anglican priest, Natalie Arendse, of St Phillip’s in Kenwyn, said that during her interfaith work over the past 10 years she has found that youth are more open to dialogue.

“Young people find it a lot easier to talk about the differences than their parents do.”

She added that apartheid had also separated religions.

“Once we were separated we were indoctrinated to stay apart. Now we have to unlearn that.”

Reverend Alwyn Carstens of the Dutch Reformed Church in Parow said respecting the beliefs of others is what distinguishes between true and false faith.

“Religion is false when it forces you to believe a certain way,” he said. “The Open Mosque is doing a phenomenal job by getting people together to listen to each other.”