Learning from our Muslim neighbours: Archbishop John Neill with Dr Ali Selim (left) and Patrick Comerford (right) during a recent visit to the Mosque in Clonskeagh, Dublin
Today there are over 30,000 Muslims living in Ireland. Many people still see Muslims as being different or foreign, although many Muslims in Ireland were born here.
The very negative reactions to the recent comments by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, show how difficult it is for Christian leaders to suggest that there is something of value, something we can learn, from our Muslim neighbours.
But I have always been impressed by the way Muslims are able to express the core values of their faith in simple words that are easily understood. I wonder how many Christians could express their faith with such confidence. How many would not be ashamed to confess it so openly?
Faithful Muslims pray five times a day. How many Christians can say our daily life is punctuated by a rhythm of prayer?
Muslims say giving to the needy is a religious obligation, and that charity is something that goes beyond religious obligation. If Christians were equally generous I imagine we could make major inroads into solving the problems of poverty in Ireland and globally.
Muslims are required to fast throughout the month of Ramadan. Their commitment to this puts to shame my half-hearted efforts at Lent or Advent.
And every Muslim tries to make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their life. If only I could remind myself constantly that life itself is one long pilgrimage!
These five pillars of Islam are five imaginative and generous ways my Muslim neighbours remind me of the core values and challenges at the heart of my Christian faith.
This contribution to A Living Word was first broadcast on 15 July 2008 on RTÉ Radio 1. A Living Word is broadcast Monday to Friday at 6:40 a.m. as part of Risin Time with Maxi and repeated Tuesday to Saturday at 12:58 a.m. as part of Late Date. A Living Word is Radio 1's long-standing two-minute daily meditation. The archives are available at:
Canon Patrick Comerford is Director of Spiritual Formation, the Church of Ireland Theological College