Muslims for the Pope

Pope Francis has shown understanding many moderate Muslims lack a voice and are in fact the first victims of extremists

Despite much of the popular alarmist talk, Islam is arguably in a deeper crisis than the Christian world, and this is the problem.

Islam has little or no structured unified organization independent from a single state, unlike the Christian world, where the Catholic church is the largest unitary religion, and there are vastly organized Orthodox and Episcopalian churches.

There is no longer a caliph and a publicly recognized caliphate able to muster the faithful of the world.https://d3f71db5a4a064e2a6e289b5f9409def.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html?n=0

There is no Islamic superpower. There are many countries where Islam is important – Indonesia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Egypt, Algeria, Morocco – but they cannot band together. They have very different agendas that have little to do with their religious beliefs.

None can rise to the rank of superpower, challenging the United States, China, Russia, the European Union or even Japan or India.

Unlike in the first Cold War, there is no superpower supporting the Islamic world per se, fighting Israel, portrayed as a puppet of the United States.

There is no longer a strategic asset like oil, which since the 1970s gave the Islamic world clout and influence through blackmail on prices and inflation. Oil is no longer a rare commodity. Gas and oil are plentiful, and new shale technology is revolutionizing the market, taking away the hedge these Islamic countries had in the past.

They do not even have blackmail through the export of terrorism. In the past three decades, some rich Islamic countries paid off radical extremists to wage war on infidels in foreign countries. This policy exported abroad an internal threat and at the same time lent legitimacy to the existing authoritarian regimes.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ASIA TIMES

Muslims, Our Brothers and Sisters in the Abrahamic Faith

Afghanistan has once again been captured by the Taliban, who are known for their complete disregard for human rights and international conventions, sending tremors across the region. The electronic and social media displayed images of Afghan citizens trying to leave the country in fear by hanging on to the planes that took off from the Kabul airport. Who will forget the images of the Afghan women throwing their children over the barbed wires of the airport walls begging American soldiers who were leaving Kabul for good to take them away with them? The situation has become even murkier with many a regional power entering into the embroiled scenario.

Subsequently, prejudices and biases against Islam and Muslims have once again become table-talk across India. People passionately discuss the Taliban brutality and Islamic fundamentalism. It is important to discuss and debate public issues that affect millions of lives in our neighbourhood. However, only informed deliberations will profit us. Discussions driven by bigotry will do no good but remain one-sided and superficial and lead to unfair conclusions. During my conversations with many Christians recently, some portrayed Muslims as ‘communally charged fundamentalists’ who spread fear and unrest among people of other faiths. We do hear many Christians making sweeping statements connecting Indian Muslims and Indian Islam with ‘conspiracies against Christians’. These include members of the clergy and, at times, even members of the hierarchy. This editorial aims at offering in broad strokes some basic understanding of Islam and Muslims that will help us in pastorally engaging with Muslims and dealing with Christian-Muslim controversies.

FULL ARTICLE FROM INDEPENDENT CATHOLIC NEWS (INDIA)

Caritas: ‘Wait and See’ How Taliban Affects Humanitarian Work in Afghanistan

Women in Kabul, Afghanistan, mourn inside a hospital compound after a suicide attack Dec. 28. The Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the attack that has claimed more than 40 lives and wounded dozens more. (CNS photo/Mohammad Ismail, Reuters)

By Inés San Martín

ROME (Crux) — As the Taliban reclaim power over Afghanistan, a question in the mind of many rank and file Catholics is how can they help. Yet the situation is still so convoluted, even Caritas Internationalis, the largest network of Catholic charities is grappling to answer the same question.

Crux spoke with the head of this papal charitable organization on Tuesday, two days after the Taliban took over Kabul and officially took over the government of this Middle Eastern country, to discuss what can this NGO do during the crisis.

[Related: Caritas Italy, Jesuits Suspend Activities in Afghanistan]

The short answer is “wait and see,” since one of the biggest issues to address is to guarantee that Caritas, through local NGOs, can, in fact, help.

“We’re heading to a worsening of the humanitarian crisis, where I don’t know if humanitarian workers will be allowed to work freely, particularly women,” Aloysius John told Crux.

“The work of charity can always be a means for dialogue, and this is the way we have to look at it,” he added. “We’re waiting to see what we can do, but we have some experience on this and we will continue to do our best in order to bring support to the people.”

John spoke with Crux over the phone on Aug. 17. What follows are excerpts of that conversation.

Crux: How would you describe the situation in Afghanistan right now?

John: The situation in Afghanistan today is something we were able to envisage a long time ago when the US decided to withdraw its troops. Today, the Afghan people have been left to their own, alone, and there is a huge, two-fold crisis: On the one hand, there is a political crisis, and on the other side, a humanitarian crisis.

We’re heading to a worsening humanitarian crisis, where I don’t know if humanitarian workers will be allowed to work freely, particularly women.

An internally displaced child from the northern provinces of Afghanistan, who fled with his family due the fighting between Taliban and Afghan security forces, sleeps at a public park in Kabul Aug. 10, 2021. (Photo: CNS/Reuters)

Our main concern today is to see what we can do for the people on the move, what we can do from a humanitarian point of view, as the humanitarian crisis continues to worsen in Afghanistan.

People today are leaving en masse, so there will be an important increase in displacements and it will be very difficult to control this, and we also have to see what can be done to guarantee that people have access to basic services.

An estimated 99% of the population is Muslim. Why is Caritas, a Catholic NGO, worried about the humanitarian crisis in this country?

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE TABLET.ORG

Interfaith services pray for refugees, herald their strength, courage

WASHINGTON — On June 20, communities from around the globe celebrated World Refugee Day, established by the United Nations as an international day to acknowledge the strength and courage of people forced to flee their home countries due to conflict or persecution.

Yet, the commemoration of World Refugee Day comes at a record low for refugee resettlement.

Despite the long tradition of welcoming refugees in the United States, largely supported by faith-based organizations such as the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Migration and Refugee Services, the number of refugees resettled in the United States was at its the lowest in 2020 since the founding of the resettlement program in 1980.

At the same time, the past year marks a record high number of people forcibly displaced around the world.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees estimates there are currently 26 million refugees who have been forcibly displaced due to “well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, or membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”

In response to the current climate for refugees, World Refugee Day interfaith prayer services were organized across the United States by MRS, in collaboration with the Roundtable Association of Catholic Diocesan Social Action Directors and the Princeton University Religion and Resettlement Project, to pray publicly for the well-being of refugees in the United States, across religious and political lines.

According to Todd Scribner of MRS, one of the principal organizers of the event, part of the purpose of these nationally coordinated services was to pray with and for refugees as a way to rebuild relationships with these communities, and highlight “the religious traditions out of which many of these communities have emerged and embraced.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM NATIONAL CATHOLIC REGISTER

Pope Francis and Islam: three cornerstones of a magisterium

A common thread links Pope Francis’ keynote speeches given in Baku, Cairo and Ur, which indicate the need for an authentic religiosity to worship God and love our brothers and sisters, and a concrete commitment to justice and peace.

Pope Francis, right, meets with Iraq’s leading Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Najaf, Iraq, Saturday, March 6, 2021. The closed-door meeting was expected to touch on issues plaguing Iraq’s Christian minority. Al-Sistani is a deeply revered figure in Shiite-majority Iraq and and his opinions on religious matters are sought by Shiites worldwide. (AP Photo/Vatican Media)

By Andrea Tornielli

There is a common thread linking three important interventions of Pope Francis regarding interreligious dialogue, and Islam in particular.

It is a magisterium that indicates a road map with three fundamental points of reference: the role of religion in our societies, the criterion of authentic religiosity, and the concrete way to walk as brothers and sisters to build peace. We find them in the speeches that the Pope gave in Azerbaijan in 2016; in Egypt in 2017; and now during his historic trip to Iraq, in the unforgettable meeting in Ur of the Chaldeans, the city of Abraham.

The interlocutors of the first speech were the Azerbaijani Shiites, but also the other religious communities of the country. The second speech was mainly addressed to the Egyptian Sunni Muslims. Finally, the third was addressed to a wider interreligious audience made of a Muslim majority, yet including not only Christians but also representatives of the ancient Mesopotamian religions.

What Pope Francis is proposing and implementing is not an approach that forgets differences and identities in order to equalize all. Instead, it is a call to be faithful to one’s own religious identity in order to reject any instrumentalization of religion to foment hatred, division, terrorism, discrimination, and at the same time, to witness in increasingly secularized societies that we need God.

In Baku, before the Sheikh of the Muslims of the Caucasus and representatives of other religious communities in the country, Pope Francis recalled the “great task” of religions: that of “accompanying men and women looking for the meaning of life, helping them to understand that the limited capacities of the human being and the goods of this world must never become absolutes.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM VATICAN NEWS

Syria: Church perseveres in spite of war

cq5dam.thumbnail.cropped.750.422Archbishop Samir Nassar, of the Maronites (Syria) speaks on the presence of the Church in war-torn Syria.

By Benedict Mayaki

The archbishop of Damascus reiterates the important presence of the Catholic Church in a country where violence has claimed hundreds of thousands of human lives and has led to the forced migration of millions.

Syria has been at war for the past nine years. What began as protests against the regime of President Assad in 2011 degenerated into a war between the Syrian government and anti-government rebel groups.

Speaking to the Vatican Radio, Archbishop Samir Nassar, of Damascus of the Maronites in Syria, touched on pertinent issues such as justice, inter-religious dialogue between Christians and Muslims, migration, and the application of the social teachings of the Church in the context of Syria.

What’s the Church’s relationship with Islam?

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Scholar: Church urges Catholics to engage in dialogue, cooperation with Muslims on peace and social justice issues

Lonsdale priest Father Nick VanDenBroeke apologized Jan. 29 after remarks he had made in a homily about Muslim immigration and Islam being “the greatest threat in the world” sparked national controversy. “My homily on immigration contained words that were hurtful to Muslims. I’m sorry for this,” said VanDenBroeke, pastor of Immaculate Conception, in a statement. “I realize now that my comments were not fully reflective of the Catholic Church’s teaching on Islam.” In a separate statement, Archbishop Bernard Hebda noted he had spoken with Father VanDenBroeke Jan. 29 and reiterated that the Catholic Church holds Muslims in esteem, quoting Popes Benedict XVI and Francis.

To further explore the relationship between the Catholic Church and Islam, The Catholic Spirit interviewed Rita George-Tvrtkovic´, an associate professor of theology at Benedictine University in Lisle, Illinois. She specializes in medieval and contemporary Christian-Muslim relations. Her books include “A Christian Pilgrim in Medieval Iraq: Riccoldo da Montecroce’s Encounter with Islam” (Brepols, 2012); “Christians, Muslims and Mary: A History” (Paulist Press, 2018); and a co-edited volume, “Nicholas of Cusa and Islam: Polemic and Dialogue in the Late Middle Ages” (Brill, 2014). She earned her PhD at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, and is the former associate director of the Archdiocese of Chicago’s Office for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

George-Tvrtkovic´ will be speaking at the University of St. Thomas Feb. 18 on “What Muslims Can Teach Catholics about Christianity.” The Catholic Spirit received her responses via email. They are edited for length and clarity.

Q. What does the Church teach in general about Islam?

A. The basis for all Catholic relationships with Muslims today is the Second Vatican Council document “Nostra Aetate” (“On the Church’s Relation to Non-Christian Religions,” 1965). The document’s introduction says that “the Church rejects nothing that is true and holy in (other) religions” and encourages interreligious dialogue in general, but it also has two sections devoted to Judaism and Islam in particular.

Section 3 on Islam says that the Church regards Muslims “with esteem” and outlines areas of theological agreement (that God is creator, merciful, powerful, revealer; that Christians and Muslims believe in judgment and resurrection of the body; that they have similar practices such as prayer, fasting and almsgiving; and that they revere some of the same figures, such as Mary).

Areas of disagreement are also mentioned, the most prominent being how Christians and Muslims understand Jesus (Christians believe he is the Son of God, while Muslims consider him a prophet). Section 3 ends with a plea to engage in dialogue and cooperation with Muslims on peace and social justice issues. Since Christians and Muslims are the largest and second largest religions in the world, respectively, it seems especially urgent for our planet that Christians answer this call to collaborate for the common good.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE CATHOLIC SPIRIT

Religious fundamentalism is a ‘plague,’ pope says

20191118T1114-31850-CNS-POPE-INTERRELIGIOUS-ARGENTINA_800-690x450ROME – Interreligious dialogue is an important way to counter fundamentalist groups as well as the unjust accusation that religions sow division, Pope Francis said.

Meeting with members of the Argentine Institute for Interreligious Dialogue Nov. 18, the pope said that in “today’s precarious world, dialogue among religions is not a weakness. It finds its reason for being in the dialogue of God with humanity.”

Recalling a scene from the 11th-century poem, “The Song of Roland,” in which Christians threatened Muslims “to choose between baptism or death,” the pope denounced the fundamentalist mentality which “we cannot accept nor understand and cannot function anymore.”

According to its website, the Institute for Interreligious Dialogue was founded in Buenos Aires in 2002 and was inspired by then-Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio as a way “to promote understanding among men and women of different religious traditions in our city and the world.”

The pope welcomed the members of the institute who are in Rome to reflect on the document on “human fraternity” and improving Christian-Muslim relations, which was signed Feb. 4 by Francis and Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, the grand imam of al-Azhar and a leading religious authority for many Sunni Muslims.

“This is key: Identity cannot be negotiated because if you negotiate your identity, there is no dialogue, there is submission. Each (religion) with its own identity is on the path of dialogue,” he said.

FULL ARTICLE FROM CRUXNOW

Pope seeks more freedom in theology, dialogue with Islam

190417_aptn_pope_thunberg_hpMain_16x9_1600Pope Francis called Friday for a reform of the way theology is taught in Catholic schools, saying students must learn about dialogue with Judaism and Islam, and that overall there must be greater freedom in theological research and academic pursuits.

The Jesuit pope made the call during a speech at the Jesuit-run theology university in Naples. It follows his outreach this year to the Muslim world with the signing of a joint statement with the imam of Cairo’s Al Azhar, the seat of Sunni learning, establishing the relationship between Catholics and Muslims as brothers, with a common mission to promote peace.

In his speech, Francis said dialogue and partnership with the Muslim world is necessary “to build a peaceful existence, even when there are the troublesome episodes by fanatic enemies of dialogue.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM ABC NEWS

Notre Dame and Al-Aqsa Fires Give Christians and Muslims a Chance to Work Together to Repair Their Sacred Spaces |

gettyimages-975008304The world watched as the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris burned, due to a disastrous inferno that nearly crippled the 850-year-old church. Nearly 3,000 miles away, the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem also dealt with an apparently accidental fire of its own.

The al-Aqsa fire received much less attention in the news, but the burning of this 984-year-old mosque draws our attention to two of the important sites in Christendom and the Islamic world. While the fires are indeed unfortunate, they provide an opportunity for Christians and Muslims to reflect upon their common humanity and assist each other in the repairing of sacred spaces.

Outside of Saint Peter’s Cathedral in Rome, Notre Dame Cathedral is considered one of the holiest places in Christendom. For Muslims, al-Aqsa is the third holiest site in Islam behind al-Masjid al-Haram in Mecca and al-Masjid an-Nabawi in Medina.

Thankfully, two of the Catholic holy relics in Notre Dame—the Crown of Thorns and the Fragment of the Cross—survived the devastating blaze. No news outlets have reported any damage to al-Aqsa, which was built on the Temple Mount, known as Haram esh-Sharif to Muslims.

The significance of the two fires pushes us beyond the mere structure of the buildings. Notre Dame and al-Aqsa symbolize the challenges and hopes for Christians and Muslims in their respective histories. For centuries, Notre Dame was the epicenter of Christianity on the European continent. Al-Aqsa is the place where Muslims believe Prophet Muhammad was transported during his Night Journey. For Muslims, al-Aqsa is not the most impressive mosque in the world, but it represents the permanent symbol of the Islamic faith in the holy land.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NEWSWEEK