Christian Krokus, Ph.D., an associate professor and chair of the theology and religious studies department at the University of Scranton, was the featured speaker at the annual McNulty Lecture Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, at Niagara University’s Castellani Art Museum. Krokus’ discussion focused on Louis Massignon, the French Catholic scholar of Islam, and his life’s work with Christian-Muslim dialogue that has made a large impact on religious study today.
Krokus noted that Massignon was largely influential in bridging the gap between Christians and Muslims. Born in 1883 outside of Paris, Massignon grew up Catholic, but was possibly atheist. Later in life, he worked in a Muslim section of Baghdad. Massignon was criticized particularly because he was a white man working in this part of the city; however, he had a local Muslim family defending him. He was later arrested after being accused of being a spy for the Ottoman Empire. After a failed suicide attempt, he had a “visitation of the stranger,” which Krokus described as “an encounter with the absolute transcendent one.” This is what would spark him on his journey of learning more about Muslim faith.
Massignon saw that there were similarities between the way Christians and Muslims lived, and his work caused a shift in the relationship between Christians and Muslims--it went from being “a rivalry to becoming a fraternity,” said Krokus.
“Interreligious friendships are key to interreligious learning,” Krokus continued, pointing out that they bridge religious gaps and enable people to come together through their beliefs. “It’s not about erasing or conquering each other; we want to help each other and keep our religious communities alive.”
The McNulty Lecture Series is devoted to questions of faith in the contemporary world, especially the topics of social justice and interreligious dialogue. The series was established by the late Rev. Thomas P. McGourty, C.M., a professor of religious studies at NU, in memory of his late aunt and uncle.