Friday, April 15, 2005

The new Pope and Islam

Vatican is Rethinking the Relationship with Islam

By Daniel Williams and Alan Cooperman
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, April 15, 2005; Page A20

ROME, April 12 -- After two decades of contact and dialogue with the Islamic world under Pope John Paul II, the Vatican is rethinking an outreach program that critics say is diluting Catholicism and has brought almost no benefits to beleaguered Catholic minorities in Muslim countries.

The late pontiff undertook the drive as part of a broad effort to open channels to other religions. He applied a personal stamp by stepping into a mosque in Damascus and meeting with Muslim groups more than 60 times. He also visited a synagogue in Rome and Jerusalem's Western Wall.

Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, said the next pope might more emphatically demand rights for Christian minorities in Islamic countries and the freedom of all people to choose their faith.


I agree. I think JPII had very little experience with Islam and thus treaded lightly (unlike communism which he had a lot of experience with and was not afraid to engage and tussle with). I think you have to take a tough harder line and not be intimidated. Demand respect. Demand reforms. Demand protections for Christians. Push the envelope. If Islamic regimes do not ease restrictions, then shine the light of publicity and use the bully pulpit of the papacy to expose them. There is no reason in this day and age for Saudi Arabia to do what it does and get away with it. They have gotten away with this religious repression for far too long. I think an African pope, who would have undoubtedly had more experience with Islam would be very helpful on this front.

The European experience with Islam has been antagonistic for centuries. In African there is a different dynamic. The Christian-muslim relationship is far more complex. It is antagonistic, to be sure, but there is that fraternal element/context that at least creates mutual respect. At the least, Africans have a lot of experience engaging with muslims. All MHO.


Blogger Ambrose said...

I said something similar (but briefer) over at Open Book, but I really think the impatience was a little unwarranted (I could be wrong). Christianity and Islam have been at odds for over 1000 years---are we to expect engagement and repaired relations in only a few? When it came to communism, the problem was relatively newer, therefore the response does not take as long to formulate and implement. I think JPII's actions in these two examples were measured and proportional.

6:24 PM  
Blogger Ono said...

Yeah, XTY and Islam is clearly a different animal. We really need someone who is comfortable with Islam to deal with it.

I think JPII had enough on his plate and did his thing. But whoever is next HAS to deal with the Islam issue. Ignore it long enough and it'll come back to bite you in the butt.

It is a very fast growing religion and the extremists are fighting for the soul of Islam by exporting the extreme conservatism from Saudi Arabia.

Mauritania, is a country that is about 98% Islam. Black people are enslaved or forced out by the light-skinned majority. This has gone completely under the radar because no one has an interest in the country. This would be an example in which a pope stands up for these people and perhaps begin to draw people to the Christian faith.

Anyway, I hope the Cardinal recognize that Islam is an issue that is going to have to be engage with in the next couple of decades.

10:26 PM  

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