Tag Archives: interreligious dialogue

Islam stagnant & the West has alzheimer’s

An astute observer of religion has to pay attention to the current situation of Christianity and Islam, in all its forms. One person to listen to is Jesuit Father Samir Khalil Samir, a Cairo born Islamic scholar and Catholic theologian teaching at Saint Joseph’s University, Beruit; Father Samir is well-published and well-sought after for counsel on Christian-Muslim matters.

Today at Asia News, Father Samir has a keenly written article on Islam and Christianity as we know it right now. Really, you need to read this article.
You may also be interested in a primer on the basics of Christian and Islamic thought, What Catholics Need to Know About Islam by Sandra T. Keating be helpful to you.

ADL wants to revise Catholic theology

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) wants the US Catholic bishops to revise the statement, Reflections on Covenant and Mission (2002) to emphasize that Catholics don’t want to convert Jews to Christianity. Here’s the US Bishops’ recent statement on clarifications made to RCM. This is not a document of the Roman Catholic Church, i.e., the Magisterium, nor of the US Bishops. It is a work of a group of theologians, Jewish and Catholic, reflecting on mutual interests in theology.

Our theology is such that Jesus Christ is The Way, the Truth and the Life: all people come to salvation in and through Jesus Christ; God’s promises through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are fulfilled in Jesus as the definitive revelation of God. Jews are not the singular group here; Catholics believe this is true for all the world’s peoples. This is revealed by the Lord Himself. It was not dreamed up by a committee. Having said all this, the Church’s missiology is governed by the Vatican II document Nostra Aetate which understands Judaism in special light when it comes to evangelization but nowhere in Vatican II theology (or praxis) does it say that the Church capitulates to another faith group because of its belief is “controversial.”
If someone doesn’t understand or even like or wants to reject this theology, OK. We propose belief in Christ as salvific and not impose this belief on others. We have to be clear on what we believe so as to be clear on the method of sharing our belief. But why does the ADL presume to tell the Church what to believe. Do Catholics tell the Jews what remove from their theology because Catholics don’t like it? Not likely.
I think RCM is fair-minded and accurate. 

Turkey Threatens Christian Monastery

The rights of Christians in Muslim countries is always threatened. A Reuters story sheds some light on the problems that the Mor Gabriel monastery in Midyat, Turkey faces right now. The monastery of Syriac Christian monks has been present on this site for 1600 years and now faces a reduction if not factual extinction. Can you imagine the extinction of a monastery built in A.D. 397 dedicated to the witness to Jesus Christ???

Is this one more reason to consider NOT admitting Turkey to the European Union??? Religious freedom is not a valued in Muslim countries and there are countless examples of this fact. Many will point to the fact that millions of dollars of land and other cultural artifacts have been stolen by the Turkish government over the years but the matter is not merely about the material wealth but about the existence of the Christian presence in the land of their birth. What has to be done is to convince the nations of Islamic rule that religious reciprocity is a value and significant to the greater freedom of all people as well as a part of the cultural heritage of the respective countries. Now a minority Christians were once a majority in many of these Muslim countries.

This article is interesting because of the facts presented, particularly the facts that show how the Christians have diminished since the radical state secularization of the country.

Let us pray to Our Lady of Lourdes, February 11th, on whose feast day the court will determine the fate of the Mor Gabriel monastery.

Benedictines center is haven for Israelis, Palestinians

Dormition Abbey3.jpgJERUSALEM (CNS) — Perched atop Jerusalem’s Mount Zion, just outside the walls of the Old City, the Benedictine Dormition Abbey has long been a place of informal encounters among all residents of the city. Through its concert series held monthly in the basilica, the Benedictine monks have brought adherents of various traditions and many tourists to their monastery to be inspired by the beauty of the music and the monastery. They also quietly have hosted other ecumenical meetings, peace dialogues and interreligious gatherings over the years. But following the outbreak of the second intifada, the monks sensed an urgent need for a more formalized format for peace encounters as a response to the suffering in the Holy Land, said Benedictine Father Johannes Oravecz, a monk at the abbey and director of the new Beit Benedict Peace Academy. But with the increasing level of violence and the ever-growing impasse in Palestinian-Israeli dialogue, the monks felt an urgent need to do more. Thus, in 2003 at the height of the intifada when they presented their annual peace award to two young peacemakers — one Israeli and one Palestinian — the monks realized that they were in a unique position to create a peace academy where both Israelis and Palestinians felt safe and comfortable to meet.


Magdi Cristiano Allam speaks of his conversion to Christ

Given that today’s feast is of a saint who brought thousands to Christ, I thought reprinting a recent article about a rather high profile baptism this past year. It is no small thing that a Muslim accepts Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior and lives to tell about it. Magdi Allam’s story is unique.


Converted Muslim Tells Story Behind Papal Baptism


By Luca Marcolivio


December 1, 2008

The high-profile baptism of Magdi Cristiano Allam at the Easter Vigil ceremony presided over last year by Benedict XVI has a story behind it. According to Allam himself, his conversion journey was possible because of great Christian witnesses.

One of the directors of the Milan daily Corriere della Sera, he spoke about his conversion and the experiences that led to it when he met with university students of Rome last week to tell the story of his path to Catholicism.

Starting from the Easter Vigil of 2008 — which Allam called the “most beautiful day of my life” — when he received baptism from Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s Basilica, the Italian-Egyptian journalist spoke of his life journey and the reflections that brought him to embrace “a new life in Christ and a new spiritual itinerary.”

Allam.jpg“This journey,” he recalled, “began apparently by chance, [but] in truth was providential. Since age four, I had the chance to attend Italian Catholic schools in Egypt. I was first a student of the Comboni religious missionaries, and later, starting with fifth grade, of the Salesians.

“I thus received an education that transmitted to me healthy values and I appreciated the beauty, truth, goodness and rationality of the Christian faith,” in which “the person is not a means, but a starting point and an arriving point.”

“Thanks to Christianity,” he said, “I understood that truth is the other side of liberty: They are an indissoluble binomial. The phrase, ‘The truth will make you free’ is a principle that you young people should always keep in mind, especially today when, scorning the truth, freedom is relinquished.”

The journalist continued: “My conversion was possible thanks to the presence of great witnesses of faith, first of all, His Holiness Benedict XVI. One who is not convinced of his own faith — often it’s because he has not found in it believable witnesses of this great gift.

“The second indissoluble binomial in Christianity is without a doubt that of faith and reason. This second element is capable of giving substance to our humanity, the sacredness of life, respect for human dignity and the freedom of religious choice.”

The journalist affirmed that the Holy Father’s 2006 speech in Regensburg — which caused uproar within the Muslim community — was for him a reason to reflect.

Allam said: “An event, before my conversion, made me think more than other events: the Pope’s discourse in Regensburg. On that occasion, citing the Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus, he affirmed something that the Muslims themselves have never denied: that Islam spreads the faith above all with the sword.”

He added: “There is a greater and more subliminal danger than the terrorism of ‘cut-throats.’ It is the terrorism of the ‘cut-tongues,’ that is, the fear of affirming and divulging our faith and our civilization, and it brings us to auto-censorship and to deny our values, putting everything and the contrary to everything on the same plane: We think of the Shariah applied even in England.

Allam2.jpg“The one called ‘a great one,’ that is, to always give to the other what he wants, is exactly the opposite of the common good, perfectly indicated by Jesus: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ That evangelical precept confirms for us that we cannot want good for the rest if we do not first love ourselves. The same is true for our civilization.

“Contrary to that principle is indifference and multiculturalism that, without any identity, pretends to give all kinds of rights to everyone. A result of multiculturalism was the imposition of social solidity and the development of ghettos and ethnic groups in perpetual conflict with indigenous populations.”

The journalist recounted: “This led me to consider the third great binomial of Christian civilization: that regarding rules and values, a key for a possible ethical rescue of modern Europe. The old world, nevertheless, is a colossus of materiality with feet of clay. Materialism is a globalized phenomenon, unlike faith, which is not.”

Responding to a question about a possible compatibility between faith and reason in Islam, Allam contended that “unlike Christianity, the religion of God incarnate in man,” Islam is made concrete in a sacred text that, “being one with God, is not interpretable.”

“The very acts of Mohammed, documented by history, and which the Muslim faithful themselves do not deny, testify to massacres and exterminations perpetrated by the prophet. Therefore, the Quran is incompatible with fundamental human rights and non-negotiable values. In the past, I tried to make myself the spokesman of an Islam moderate in itself.”

Regarding interreligious dialogue between Christians and Muslims, Allam said that it is possible only “if we are authentically Christian in love, including toward Muslims. If we make dialogue relative, we will instigate our questioners to see us as infidels, and therefore as land to be conquered.”

The journalist emphasized for the students the importance of an education that goes back to transmitting “an ethical conception of life, with values and rules at the center of everything.” A negation of such principles, he contended, “is wild capitalism, which, paradoxically, has its maximum development in communist China.”

“We cannot conceive of the person in ‘business’ terms,” he concluded, “and we have to find rules of co-existence that are not founded on materialism. We should redefine our society based on being and not on having.”

About the author

Paul A. Zalonski is from New Haven, CT. He is a member of the Fraternity of Communion and Liberation, a Catholic ecclesial movement, and an Oblate of Saint Benedict. Contact Paul at paulzalonski[at]yahoo.com.
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