Does God want religious diversity? Abu Dhabi text raises questions

20190207T0836-24312-CNS-VATICAN-LETTER-DIALOGUE_800-690x450ROME – That many religions exist in the world is a fact, but what that plurality communicates to believers about God is a question that theologians are still discussing.

Pope Francis and Sheik Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar, a leading authority for many Sunni Muslims, stepped into the debate Feb. 4 when they signed a document on “human fraternity” and improving Christian-Muslim relations.

“The pluralism and the diversity of religions, color, sex, race and language are willed by God in his wisdom, through which he created human beings,” the document said.

The document goes on to insist on the basic human right to freedom of religion, appealing to both Christians and Muslims not only to tolerate the religious faith of the other, but to recognize the other’s faith as something “willed by God in his wisdom.”

In other words, the message seems to be, if God “wants” religious diversity, who are human beings to be intolerant of it?

But can God really “want” a variety of religions? And is that what the statement Pope Francis signed really says?

In a post on the document, Father John Zuhlsdorf, a blogger, tried to explain things by saying that God has an “active or positive will” of what he desires and makes happen, and “a ‘permissive will’ by which he allows that things will take place that are not in accord with the order he established.”

In that case, God tolerates other religions.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CRUX NOW

Pope Francis gives historic 1st Mass in the birthplace of Islam

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Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates — Pope Francis ministered on Tuesday to the thriving Catholic community in the United Arab Emirates as he concluded his historic visit to the Arabian Peninsula with the first-ever papal Mass here and a call for his flock to remain meek in following God. A day after making a broad appeal for Christian and Muslim leaders to work together to promote peace and reject war, Francis celebrated what some considered the largest show of public Christian worship on the peninsula, the birthplace of Islam.

Cheers erupted inside and outside the Zayed Sports City Stadium as Francis arrived and looped through the crowd in his open-sided popemobile, as chants of “Viva il Papa” and “We love you!” echoed from the crowd, estimated to be around 135,000.

Organizers said faithful from 100 countries would attend, as well as 4,000 Muslims from this Muslim federation — evidence of the enormous diversity among the 9 million people who live in the UAE.

“We have to say it is really a big event for us which we never expected,” said Sumitha Pinto, and Indian native who has lived in the UAE for nearly 20 years. She attended the Mass with her husband and four sons, the youngest of whom held up sign with the pope’s photo that read: “Welcome Pope Francis. Make Me a Channel of Your Peace.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM CBS NEWS 

‘Never expected this in my life’: Christians of the UAE hail pope’s visit

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ABU DHABI — Sarika Yaqoob and her family left Dubai at midnight to arrive in Abu Dhabi at 3:00 a.m. on Tuesday, the day Pope Francis would deliver a historic mass during what was the first-ever visit by a pontiff to the Arabian Peninsula.

“We’ve been here since 3 a.m., we were walking all the way,” Yaqoob told CNBC at the edge of Zayed Sports City Stadium, where more than 140,000 attendees had gathered for the mass both inside and outside the venue.

Because of blocked roads, her family parked their car some six miles from the stadium and walked. But they aren’t tired, she said, her voice brimming with anticipation. “We are not tired, we are very excited, really energetic … our legs are aching, but it’s something you get to witness once in a lifetime. This is something that is very exciting.”

Yaqoob, whose family hails from Pakistan, is one of the estimated 1 million Catholics living in the United Arab Emirates. The invitation by the UAE government of Pope Francis has drawn attention to the comparative religious freedom enjoyed by its residents, who span more than 200 nationalities, in a region that’s better known for strict Islamic conservatism.

“I never thought I would see this, because it’s a Muslim country,” one attendee, a Filipina resident of Dubai for the past nine years, told CNBC from the stadium stands. “It is so nice … I cannot explain it.”

“This is a very, very big blessing to see him in Abu Dhabi, and was a lifetime experience for us,” said 23-year-old Joshua Sebastian, a Catholic from Kerala, India. “It’s a big deal to see him here in UAE, I’ve only seen him on the internet and videos on Youtube. But seeing him in a close vicinity was like … I have no words for that.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM CNBC

Top cleric urges Middle East’s Muslims to ’embrace’ Christians

_105475518_mediaitem105475514The head of Sunni Islam’s highest seat of learning has urged the Middle East’s Muslims to “embrace” local Christians.

Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of al-Azhar in Egypt, told an interfaith meeting in Abu Dhabi attended by Pope Francis that Christians were “our companions”.

He also called on Muslims in the West to integrate into their communities while maintaining their identities.

In his speech, Pope Francis called for a halt to wars in the Middle East.

The head of the Roman Catholic Church, who is on his first official visit to the Arabian peninsula, said the “fateful consequences” of violence could be seen in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Libya.

The United Arab Emirates is part of a Saudi-led coalition whose intervention in the conflict in Yemen has helped trigger the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Sheikh Ahmed and Pope Francis addressed a gathering of religious representatives at the Abu Dhabi Founder’s Memorial on Monday night after signing a “Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together”.

The document calls on leaders of the world to work together to “spread the culture of tolerance” and to “intervene at the earliest opportunity to stop the shedding of innocent blood and bring an end to wars, conflicts, environmental decay and the moral and cultural decline the world is presently experiencing”.

It also includes a strong condemnation of those using God’s name to justify violence. “God, the Almighty, has no need to be defended by anyone and does not want His name to be used to terrorise people,” it states.

Christians – and members of other religious minorities – have been attacked repeatedly by Islamist extremists in countries across the Middle East in recent years. They have also faced restrictions on their ability to practice their religion, as well as legal and social discrimination.

FULL ARTICLE FROM BBC

Pope Francis hails UAE as a ‘model of co-existence’ in video message before papal visit

pope-francis-featured-963x400Pope Francis extended his warm greetings to the people of the UAE in a video message released by the Vatican on Thursday, ahead of his visit to Abu Dhabi next week.

He began the video, posted in Italian, with the Islamic greeting “salam alaikum” (peace be upon you all) before saying he was pleased to be visiting the UAE, a “country which strives to be a model for co-existence and human fraternity and a meeting point of different civilisations and cultures”.

He also thanked Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, for inviting him to “take part in a dialogue of religions”.

On Thursday, Sheikh Mohamed responded by welcoming the Pope to the country, saying that he is looking forward to the “historic” interfaith meeting.

“We are hopeful that generations to come will prosper in peace and security,” Sheikh Mohamed said on Twitter.

محمد بن زايد

@MohamedBinZayed

We warmly welcome you Holy Father, Pope Francis and look forward to the historic Human Fraternity Meeting between you and His Eminence Dr Ahmad Al Tayyeb, Grand Imam of Al Azhar Al Sharif, in Abu Dhabi. We are hopeful that generations to come will prosper in peace and security.

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Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak, Minister of Tolerance, said it would be “an honour to welcome the Pope to the UAE” and that he would be visiting a country that had learned the value of tolerance.

He said the Vatican and the UAE each “embrace diversity and recognize the special talents of various population elements of the global society.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATIONAL 

Tolerance-plus: Pope in Abu Dhabi will build on relations with Muslims

imageWhen Pope Francis visits Abu Dhabi Feb. 3-5, he will visit a land where interreligious tolerance is mandated by law; while Catholics in the United Arab Emirates count their blessings for that, the pope is expected to nudge for something more.

Tolerance is praiseworthy, and Catholics in the Emirates do not take it for granted. But for Pope Francis, the next step — and often a big one — is mutual knowledge, respect and cooperation.

As the pope said in Bangladesh in late 2017, “respect and shaping a culture of encounter, dialogue and cooperation in the service of our human family” requires “more than mere tolerance. It challenges us to reach out to others in mutual trust and understanding, and so to build a unity that sees diversity not as a threat, but as a potential source of enrichment and growth.”

The Apostolic Vicariate of Southern Arabia cares for the almost 1 million Catholics living in the Emirates, Oman and Yemen. The faithful belong to 16 parishes — with Mass offered in a dozen languages in churches, chapels and meeting rooms, sometimes simultaneously.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ANGELUS NEWS 

Abu Dhabi priest’s book about Jesus in Arabia to be published in Arabic

na25-JUL-Religious-Tolerance.jpgJesus of Arabia was translated by a four-person Christian and Muslim Arab team from publishers Motivate

A UAE-based Christian priest’s book showing how Jesus had more in common with Arabian Islamic culture rather than western is to be published into Arabic.

Jesus of Arabia was penned by Rev Andy Thompson, the chaplain at St Andrew’s Anglican Church in Abu Dhabi, and it also examines the bridges between Islam and Christianity.

The book was first published in English in 2014 and now the Arabic version will launch at St Andrew’s on Tuesday. It is rare that a book written by a Christian resident about Jesus receives such a treatment and Rev Thompson says the event is a pre-Christmas celebration of Jesus for both Muslims and Christians.

“A lot of conversations between Muslims and Christians get bogged down in dogma and it is not really helpful,” said Mr Thompson. “I want to promote education between our two communities which is different from proselytising.

“Education helps us to know one another – meeting with respect and mutual acceptance and we can only do that by recognising our shared heritage in Jesus,” he said.

The Arabic version took about a year to produce, spans 200 pages and was translated by a four-person Christian and Muslim Arab team from publishers Motivate over a two to three-month period. The team carefully translated the text to maintain the respectful tone of the English version.

“Getting the Arabic flavour for that was important so we need both Christian and Muslim Arab translators to make it work. There was an ongoing dialogue between them,” said Mr Thompson.

Over the centuries, Jesus has been recreated in a western image.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE NATIONAL (UAE)