Bridgetown, Barbados, Apr 11th 2013: Imam of Barbados Jumma mosque, Sh. Aakil Bhula, today welcomed the Catholic Bishop of Bridgetown (Barbados) and Kingstown (St.Vincent), Charles Jason Gordon, on a courtesy visit to the Muslim community.
Members of the Muslim community, including Imams and representatives of the other mosques were present to meet the Bishop who was accompanied by a Bishop Anthony H. Dickson (r’td), Bishop Emeritus of Bridgetown. The visit was historic as it marked the first time an official visit was taking place by a Catholic Bishop to the mosque in Bridgetown. Bishop Gordon who is Trinidadian remarked that it was his first time in a mosque in Barbados but was familiar with Islam and Muslims from his living in Trinidad.
The Jumma mosque is the oldest and largest mosque on the island having opened its doors in January 1951. In addition to the performance of five times daily prayers and Juma, the mosque also host a daily religious school from Monday to Friday with a student enrollment of over 100. The Catholic Bishops were able to witness first hand the teaching of the Holy Quran and Religious Studies to these students ranging in ages from 4 years to 15 years. Several students eagerly recited verses from the Holy Quran for the guests.
The Bishops were also treated to some light refreshments and discussions were held on a wide variety of topics. Bishop Gordon indicated that the new Pope, Pope Francis regarded Muslims as friends. At the conclusion of their visit a gift of books on various Islamic topics including a translation of the Holy Quran in English were given to the Bishops.
The Catholic community is not the largest Christian denomination on the island but several prominent and older churches are Catholic. Their history on the island is one in which in the beginning Catholics were not allowed to practice their faith as the ruling class was predominantly Anglican. History records that the early Catholics practiced their faith in secret sometimes in caves in the countryside.
Story by Suleiman Bulbulia