Sri Lanka’s Christians and Muslims Weren’t Enemies

SRI LANKA-ATTACKSIn November 2016, Sri Lanka’s justice minister announced to Parliament that 32 locals from four families had joined the Islamic State. Given the minister’s ties to some anti-Muslim Buddhist prelates, his claim was quickly dismissed as opportunistic­—even racist. Since then, however, credible evidence has backed him up. Meanwhile, the Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the deadly Easter Sunday bombings that killed around 360 people, including nearly 40 foreigners.

To be sure, the Islamic State has a reputation for taking credit for terrorist acts it had nothing to do with. Its claims must therefore be treated skeptically. At the same time, however, there is no gainsaying that Islamist terrorist groups in South Asia and elsewhere support the Islamic State’s vision for a caliphate and crave alliance with it. And these groups, in solidarity with the Islamic State, have in the past targeted Christians on Easter. One such group is Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, which killed 75 people in Lahore, Pakistan, in March 2016.

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Yet the specifics of the Sri Lankan case make it unusual. For one, given the planning, sophistication, and scale, the attacks there on April 21 rank as one of the worst terrorist acts recorded. But more importantly, the relationship among the country’s Buddhists, Christians, and Muslims makes the targets the attackers picked somewhat strange. After all, why would the Islamic State or those allied with it go after the Christian minority when it is the radical Sinhalese Buddhist nationalists who have perpetrated violence against the island’s Muslims in recent times?

FULL ARTICLE FROM FP

Are Muslims and Christians at war? The data says no

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(CNN)The bombings on Easter Sunday of eight sites in Sri Lanka, including three churches, seemed designed not only to inflict mass casualties but also to send a message.

Initial investigations showed the chain of bombings was carried out by “a radical Islam group,” perhaps as retaliation for mass shootings in March at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, Sri Lanka’s state defense minister, Ruwan Wijewardana, said Tuesday.
ISIS has reportedly taken credit for the slaughter in Sri Lanka but did not immediately offer proof of its involvement.
To some, the bombings, carried out on the holiest day in the Christian calendar, has fed a narrative of religious war. Christians and Muslims, this theory goes, are increasingly at odds and willing to strike at each other’s spiritual hearts — sanctuaries.
To be utterly clear: Any attack on any house of worship is heinous and should be unequivocally condemned. In too many parts of the world, Christians are attacked by Muslims and vice versa.
But taking the long view, the data on terrorist attacks does not support a narrative of incipient religious war or sanctuaries facing increasing threats.
From 1970 to 2017, attacks at houses of worship comprised just 1.45% of all terrorist attacks worldwide, according to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism(START) at the University of Maryland.

Iraqi Christians and Muslims against grand mufti’s words of hatred and divisions

c93b2dae-f94f-4230-a16a-33c9434b9dc3During Friday prayers, al-Sumaidaie said that it was “impermissible” for Muslims to celebrate Christmas or New Year. The Chaldean patriarch slammed such “rhetoric of hatred” that sows “divisions”. In his New Year message, he calls for openness and deeper sharing.

Baghdad (AsiaNews) – Iraqi Christians and Muslims have reacted with outrage to a statement by Iraq’s Grand Mufti Abdul Mehdi al-Sumaidaie, who recently said that it is “impermissible” for Muslims to celebrate Christmas and New Year since they are Christian holidays.

Al-Sumaidaie is one of the country’s most important religious figures and has close ties to the government. The controversy began last Friday, following his sermon at the end of Friday prayers in a mosque in central Baghdad. In it, the prominent Sunni cleric urged Muslims not join Christians on their holy days, noting that those who do so “believe the Christians’ religious doctrine.”

The mufti adheres to a particular brand of Islam that is inspired by Salafism. His views have incensed many people, including non-Christians.  Some have called for him to be removed from office for dividing Iraqi society.

One of the first people to slam the Islamic leader’s claims is the Chaldean patriarch, Cardinal Louis Raphael Sako, who noted that a man of faith, whatever his religion, should favour brotherhood, tolerance and love, not division and sedition.

The patriarch called on the Iraqi government to prosecute those who spread such rhetoric, especially when they do it from official platforms.

“These are misconceptions, misguided and far from the correct knowledge of religions,” Sako said. “Our people today need to deepen the common denominators in order to contribute to the achievement of coexistence, not treachery, atonement and incitement to hatred,” he added.

The Chaldean primate mentioned the issue again in his New Year message, which he sent to AsiaNews. He also praised the Iraqi government for declaring Christmas a national holiday for all citizens.

In the recent past, Christians and others have been targeted to drive them out of their land. In light of this, the mufti’s words are ominous because they can inspire “hatred and exclusion”.

Instead the prelate calls on Christians and Muslims to “open up to the other” and “deepen” what they share so that they can build a “bright future”.

FULL ARTICLE FROM ASIA NEWS (ITALY)

RELIGION IS BLAMED FOR VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN. WE ARE CHRISTIAN AND MUSLIM LEADERS WHO FIGHT IT—TOGETHER

photo_84933_landscape_850x566Despite the #MeToo movement, sexual and gender-based violence is rising, under recognized and urgently in need of redress. It’s so prevalent, and surging so fast that we’re in danger of becoming inured to it, which is why November 25, International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, is worth observing.

Violence against women is everywhere. It’s a key factor prompting migration to the US from Latin America, including in the caravan. A new report found that violence against South African women doubled year after year, prompting a summit this month in Pretoria to grapple with the problem. The World Health Organization estimates that one in three women (35 percent) worldwide experience sexual violence.

In the U.S., it may be as high as nearly two in three women (63 percent, including 19 percent who are raped, and 44 percent who experience some other form of sexual violence). Violence against women in the U.S. is getting worse, fed by rising domestic violence rates (including murder of women by their partners) and growth in domestic terrorism targeting women, as in this month’s Tallahassee shooting—by no means an isolated incident.

On this issue, faith groups have much to answer for. The Catholic Church has been rocked by sexual abuse scandals it hasn’t adequately addressed. A recent Vatican synod proposed language affirming the Church’s commitment to combatting sexual violence, and even that was controversial. But the Church isn’t alone in this. Other denominations and religions haven’t always assured safety, equal access and status for women, either. Historically Christianity embraced patriarchy. Islam relies on a similar understanding of the status of men.

FULL ARTICLE FROM NEWSWEEK MAGAZINE

Why Muslims See the Crusades So Differently from Christians

image-placeholder-titleThey weren’t all battles and bloodshed. There was also coexistence, political compromise, trade, scientific exchange—even love.

Muslim forces ultimately expelled the European Christians who invaded the eastern Mediterranean repeatedly in the 12th and 13th centuries—and thwarted their effort to regain control of sacred Holy Land sites such as Jerusalem. Still, most histories of the Crusades offer a largely one-sided view, drawn originally from European medieval chronicles, then filtered through 18th and 19th-century Western scholars.

But how did Muslims at the time view the invasions? (Not always so contentiously, it turns out.) And what did they think of the European interlopers? (One common cliché: “unwashed barbarians.”) For a nuanced view of the medieval Muslim world, HISTORY talked with two prominent scholars: Paul M. Cobb, professor of Islamic History at the University of Pennsylvania, author of Race for Paradise: An Islamic History of the Crusades, and Suleiman A. Mourad, a professor of religion at Smith College and author of The Mosaic of Islam.

HISTORY: Broadly speaking, how do Islamic perspectives on the Crusades differ from those of the Christian sources from Western Europe?
Suleiman Mourad: If we wrote the history of the Crusades based on Islamic narratives, it would be a completely different story altogether. There were no doubt wars and bloodshed, but that wasn’t the only or dominant story. There was also coexistence, political compromise, trade, scientific exchange, love. We have poetry and chronicles with evidence of mixed marriages.

FULL ARTICLE FROM THE HISTORY CHANNEL 

Muslim-Christian meeting in Taizé helps young people dialogue

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Young Muslims and Christians discuss their respective beliefs as they share a meal together at Taizé. (Photo by Guillaume Poli/Ciric)

 

Young Christians and Muslims from across France who participated in a three-day event at Taizé Ecumenical Community say they not only experienced dialogue for common good but also became aware of fundamental faith questions.

Filling three rows under a church marquee, participants addressed a series of tough questions from the organizers, including: Do you admire anything in each other’s religion? Has this diminished your commitment to your own religion?

Among those attending were Samia, a Muslim from Syria; Eglantine, Sylvain and Anne-Sophie, all French Catholics; Lydia, a German who was raised in a “strict” Protestant family; Marvin, a Muslim from Guinea; and Bart, a Pole who lives in the United Kingdom.

Their discussion began with a key question: How to engage in dialogue without renouncing the belief that one’s own religion leads to the Truth?

Each participant sought to answer to this delicate question, drawing on the comments by Auxiliary Bishop Jean-Marc Aveline of Marseille, who is president of the Council for Interreligious Dialogue of the Bishops Conference of France (CEF).

“If I claim to have the truth, it implies that I have had a good look around,” Bishop Aveline said. “Thus, I think that God enables me to discover the faith a little more deeply through others.”

FULL ARTICLE FROM LACROIX INTERNATIONAL

Easter Should Be A Time For Christians And Muslims To Bond

The religions share a deep heritage based in love, which can’t be confused with the actions of misguided, fire-breathing followers on both sides.

For the Sufi mystic and poet Jalaluddin Rumi, spring was more than spring: it was a reflection of all that was divine, in our lives and history.

In his poem, “Spring is Christ,” he writes of how a flower is more than a flower, a tree more than a tree and the wind more than just wind. He writes of a love so strong it permeates everything it comes into contact with. And he writes about Jesus and his mother, Mary: Jesus as the spring that brings plants into bloom after a lifeless winter, and Mary as the tree that gives life, refuge and shade.

 Surprisingly for many in the West today, Islamic mystical poetry is full of allusions to Jesus and Mary. The only religion besides Christianity that accepts Jesus as a prophet, Islam confirms his unique birth and the Qur’an refers to him as the “Messiah,” the “Messenger,” the “Prophet” and the “Word and Spirit of God.”
OMAR SANADIKI / REUTERS
A girl stands near candles inside Al-Saleeb church during Palm Sunday in Damascus, Syria on April 9, 2017.

It is a commonality that is often overlooked by fundamentalists on both sides who choose to focus on the points of divergence. And yet, at this moment, when so many seem to be rooting for a collision between the Christian West and Islamic East, there has never been a greater need for both sides to acknowledge their shared heritage.

FULL ARTICLE FROM HUFFINGTON POST