Where Islam & Christianity Meet

Saint Moses in the Syrian desert

To reach the Monastery of Saint Moses (Mar Musa in Arabic), you’ll need determination, patience, and a good pair of walking shoes. Yet while it may not be easy to get there, many people find it even more difficult to leave.

I first heard about Mar Musa from a Jesuit friend living in Jordan, who had never visited but had heard of this mixed- gender, ecumenical community recently founded at the site of an ancient monastery. My instructor in Islamic studies at Yale (also a Jesuit) encouraged me to head out to visit the monastery, not only for a retreat but also to report on the monastery’s interest in dialogue with Muslims. He too had never visited. So I set out from the comfortable surroundings of the Jesuit community in Beirut for the Syrian desert, on a hot August day, prepared only with a map that a friend had jotted down on a piece of notebook paper.

From Beirut, my first obstacle was getting into Syria. The border guards told me they would be happy to renew my expired visa, but that their boss was having a nap. After waiting several hours for him to wake up, I crossed the border on foot (my taxi gave up waiting for me) and found a bus that took me to the city of Homs. Unfortunately, all of the buses leaving from Homs to Nebek (my destination) had left. "No problem," a newfound friend told me, "catch a bus to Damascus and ask them to slow down when you pass Nebek." The bus slowed just enough so that I...

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About the Author

Gabriel Said Reynolds is professor of Islamic studies and theology at the University of Notre Dame and co-director of the International Qur'anic Studies Association.