Last of two parts
DEAR friends, I am profoundly convinced that we must not yield to the negative pressures in our midst, but must affirm the values of mutual respect, solidarity and peace. The life of every human being is sacred, both for Christians and for Muslims. There is plenty of scope for us to act together in the service of fundamental moral values.
The lessons of the past must help us to avoid repeating the same mistakes. We must seek paths of reconciliation and learn to live with respect for each other’s identity. The defence of religious freedom, in this sense, is a permanent imperative, and respect for minorities is a clear sign of true civilization. In this regard, it is always right to recall what the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council said about relations with Muslims.
“The Church looks upon Muslims with respect. They worship the one God living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to humanity and to whose decrees, even the hidden ones, they seek to submit themselves whole-heartedly, just as Abraham, to whom the Islamic faith readily relates itself, submitted to God…. Although considerable dissensions and enmities between Christians and Muslims may have arisen in the course of the centuries, the Council urges all parties that, forgetting past things, they train themselves towards sincere mutual understanding and together maintain and promote social justice and moral values as well as peace and freedom for all people” (Declaration Nostra Aetate, n. 3).
What we are witnessing today are extremists who try to monopolize the religious leadership, whether it is Christians, Jews or Muslims. To kill in the name of religion is not only an offence to God, but it is also a defeat for humanity. No situation can justify such criminal activity, which covers the perpetrators with infamy, and it is all the more deplorable when it hides behind religion, thereby bringing the pure truth of God down to the level of the terrorists’ own blindness and moral perversion.
Uniting our voice to that of Pope Francis, we say: ‘any violence which seeks religious justification warrants the strongest condemnation because the Omnipotent is the God of life and peace. The world expects those who claim to adore God to be men and women of peace who are capable of living as brothers and sisters, regardless of ethnic, religious, cultural or ideological differences’ (Ankara, 28 November 2014)”.
What is the role of religious leadership in this crisis? It must show an equal sense for the dignity of every human being as a child of God, in order to give each one his part in the land of God. Exclusiveness or one-sidedness will harm both sides; it will harm the process of peace, the land itself and the church’s vocation as bearer of salvation for humankind. Authentic religious leadership has to deal with religious extremism, wherever it is and from whomever it comes. Muslim leaders and moderate Muslims need to condemn acts of violence and terror.
The three communities of Abrahamic faith – Muslims, Christians and Jews -– are witnessing among some adherents the exploitation and manipulation of religion, fostering fanaticism with crude idols shaped by what is evil in ourselves. Jews, Christians and Muslims today venerate Abraham as their common “father of faith” in the one God who blesses all the peoples of the Earth. God does not permit his love for one people to become an injustice to other people. Believers who demand justice, respect and equality for themselves, in the name of God should demand the same for their neighbors.
In the wake of the deadly terror attacks in Paris on Friday, in which at least 129 people were killed, and hundreds more seriously wounded, the Director of the Press Office of the Holy See, Fr. Federico Lombardi, SJ, told Vatican Radio that the upcoming Holy Year is a message of mercy to drive out fear.
“In these sad days, in which murderous violence has reared its insane, horrible head, many wonder how to respond. Some people are already asking how to live the experience of these last days of waiting before the opening of the Jubilee [of Mercy]. Be on guard: these murderers, possessed by a senseless hatred, are called ‘terrorists’ precisely because they want to spread terror. If we let ourselves be frightened, they will have already reached their first objective. This, then, is one more reason to resist with determination and courage the temptation to fear. …A message of mercy, that love of God which leads to mutual love and reconciliation. This is precisely the answer we must give in times of temptation to mistrust.”
In today’s world where God is tragically forgotten, Christians and Muslims are called in one spirit of love to defend and always promote human dignity, moral values and freedom. Our common pilgrimage to eternity must be expressed in prayer, fasting and charity, but also in joint efforts for the condemnation or terrorism and violence in the name of God, for peace and justice, for human advancement and the protection of the environment.
An underlying problem in dealing with Islamic nations is the lack of separation between religion and the state. Part of the dialogue with Islamic religious and political authorities should be aimed at helping to develop such a separation. By walking together on the path of reconciliation and renouncing in humble submission to the divine will any form of violence as a means of resolving differences, these two great world religions will be able to offer a sign of hope, radiating in the world the wisdom and mercy of that one God who created and governs the human family.
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Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB is the English language attaché for the Holy See Press Office and CEO of Salt and Light Catholic Media Foundation