Monday, September 18, 2006

The controversy over the Pope's lecture

Amy Welborn: "This is not an effective way to argue against someone who has questioned your religion's relationship to violence:"

More photos:

Outside the Vatican embassy in Indonesia. The caption reads: "Let's crucify the Pope."

And a British blogger had this experience when going to Mass at a Cathedral (he/she also has some photos):

Unfortunately after Mass today at Westminster Cathedral it was shoved in my face. Holy Mass on a Sunday is the very source and summit of the Catholic week, so my family decided this Sunday to make the trip to Westminster Cathedral together. As we came out about 100 Islamists were chanting slogans such as "Pope Benedict go to Hell" "Pope Benedict you will pay, the Muja Hadeen are coming your way" "Pope Benedict watch your back" and other hateful things. I'll post more pictures of it when I get more free time. It was a pretty nasty demonstration. From 11 - 3pm they chanted absurd things, literally just outside the Cathedral. And from 11- 3pm (and indeed all day, every day) like every day of the week, faithful Catholics and non-Catholics (mainly tourists) wondered in and out of the magnificent Church, largely ignoring the furor of hatred this crowd of muslims was trying to stir up.

All this is very disturbing and sad. Can't these Muslim brothers and sisters voice their outrage in a more peaceful and rational manner? Do they need to insult and humiliate the Pope in such ways?

The Pope already said his apology, and earlier in a statement he said that his speech was taken out of context. How many of these Muslim brothers and sisters of ours actually read the Pope's statement in its entirety before reacting the way they did? How can they so easily jump to such a conclusion about the Pope that led them to express such anger and hatred towards him?

What does the Pope think about Islam? This is a speech he gave in a meeting with Muslims last year in Cologne:

It is in this spirit that I turn to you, dear and esteemed Muslim friends, to share my hopes with you and to let you know of my concerns at these particularly difficult times in our history.

I am certain that I echo your own thoughts when I bring up one of our concerns as we notice the spread of terrorism. I know that many of you have firmly rejected, also publicly, in particular any connection between your faith and terrorism and have condemned it. I am grateful to you for this, for it contributes to the climate of trust that we need.

Terrorist activity is continually recurring in various parts of the world, plunging people into grief and despair. Those who instigate and plan these attacks evidently wish to poison our relations and destroy trust, making use of all means, including religion, to oppose every attempt to build a peaceful and serene life together.

Thanks be to God, we agree on the fact that terrorism of any kind is a perverse and cruel choice which shows contempt for the sacred right to life and undermines the very foundations of all civil coexistence.

If together we can succeed in eliminating from hearts any trace of rancour, in resisting every form of intolerance and in opposing every manifestation of violence, we will turn back the wave of cruel fanaticism that endangers the lives of so many people and hinders progress towards world peace.

The task is difficult but not impossible. The believer - and all of us, as Christians and Muslims, are believers - knows that, despite his weakness, he can count on the spiritual power of prayer.

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 dignity of the person and the defence of the rights which that dignity confers must represent the goal of every social endeavour and of every effort to bring it to fruition. This message is conveyed to us unmistakably by the quiet but clear voice of conscience. It is a message which must be heeded and communicated to others: should it ever cease to find an echo in peoples' hearts, the world would be exposed to the darkness of a new barbarism.

Only through recognition of the centrality of the person can a common basis for understanding be found, one which enables us to move beyond cultural conflicts and which neutralizes the disruptive power of ideologies.

During my Meeting last April with the delegates of Churches and Christian Communities and with representatives of the various religious traditions, I affirmed that "the Church wants to continue building bridges of friendship with the followers of all religions, in order to seek the true good of every person and of society as a whole" (L'Osservatore Romano, 25 April 2005, p. 4).

Past experience teaches us that, unfortunately, relations between Christians and Muslims have not always been marked by mutual respect and understanding. How many pages of history record battles and wars that have been waged, with both sides invoking the Name of God, as if fighting and killing, the enemy could be pleasing to him. The recollection of these sad events should fill us with shame, for we know only too well what atrocities have been committed in the name of religion.

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).

For us, these words of the Second Vatican Council remain the Magna Carta of the dialogue with you, dear Muslim friends, and I am glad that you have spoken to us in the same spirit and have confirmed these intentions.

You, my esteemed friends, represent some Muslim communities from this Country where I was born, where I studied and where I lived for a good part of my life. That is why I wanted to meet you. You guide Muslim believers and train them in the Islamic faith.

Teaching is the vehicle through which ideas and convictions are transmitted. Words are highly influential in the education of the mind. You, therefore, have a great responsibility for the formation of the younger generation. I learn with gratitude of the spirit in which you assume responsibility.

Christians and Muslims, we must face together the many challenges of our time. There is no room for apathy and disengagement, and even less for partiality and sectarianism. We must not yield to fear or pessimism. Rather, we must cultivate optimism and hope.

Interreligious and intercultural dialogue between Christians and Muslims cannot be reduced to an optional extra. It is in fact a vital necessity, on which in large measure our future depends.

The media is partly guilty of this, I think. I forgot which newspaper carried this banner; it was an international daily. It read: "Pope Slams Islam" or words to that effect. Such headlines only provoke and foment anger. These media outlets should be responsible enough with the way they carry their news.

Finally, this is from a French Muslim leader:

The rector of the Mosque of Aix in Marseilles Mohand Alili thinks his fellow Muslims are making too much of the Regensburg citation.

"The Muslim can't expect that the Pope is going to glorify them. All he did was what a Pope would do," said Alili to France Info.

"Others have said similar things before....Moreover, he's not Muslim, never has been. He's the Pope. What do they want him to do? Why would he preach Islam over Christianity?"

"Benedict XVI," he said, "stands up for who he is. Now why can't Muslims say, '"All right, and this is who we are,' but there's no need to go into all the polemics."

"Besides, I don't see why they should be taking it out on the Pope when they should have it out among themselves, among those who have discredited Islam. No, I don't see why I should be angry at the Pope."

Check Amy Welborn's blog (and also Carl Olson's: Insight Scoop) regularly for running commentaries and updates on the controversy.


HILLBLOGGER & Hillblogger Jr said...

Hi Bisayanarsing,

Things are coming to a head as far as Europe is concerned.

The Pope has said his piece (or pieces); his latest apology should quell all the hotheads but if that cannot quell them, the Islamists in our midst here will be pushing the moderate and the reasonable Catholics and Christians into a corner.

The people of Islam faith who are continuing with their onslaught against the Pope and burning Catholic houses of prayers will be losing the tide of sympathy that they've been enjoying since Bush invaded Iraq on a lie.

Time for them to calm down and enter into a dialogue with the Christians.

The majority of Christians in Europe are not Christianofanatics - they are moderates, reasonable and do not subscribe to violence.

It would do well for people of the Islamic faith to remember that.

dante said...

A dialogue between Christians and Muslims may be a long time coming. It might take a long time before the anger and hatred will subside.

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