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Inter-faith dialogue is vital

February 19, 2006
From the Toronto Sun
Earlier this month, the Vatican condemned the publication of caricatures of Mohammed in the Western press, as well as the violent reaction of the Muslim world.
"Reaction in the face of offense cannot fail the true spirit of all religion," the Holy See said. "Real or verbal intolerance, no matter where it comes from, as action or reaction, is always a serious threat to peace."
The massive protests, which have included burning down buildings, and resulted in the loss of innocent lives, have done little to educate the world about Islam.
This past August, after meeting with Jews at a synagogue in Cologne, Germany, Pope Benedict XVI met with representatives of some Muslim communities. His words then are important for the world to hear today:
"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 wholeheartedly, 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."
On Feb. 2, Jordan's King Abdullah II promoted moderation in Islam to the evangelical-dominated National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. The young Jordanian monarch said:
"In every generation, people of faith are tested. In our generation, the greatest challenge comes from violent extremists who seek to divide and conquer. Extremism is a political movement under religious cover ... Its adherents want nothing more than to pit us against each other, denying all that we have in common."
Extremists in Iraq kill Muslims every day, he said. "Such violence stems from hatred, not from true religious faith ... They do not preach the Islam of the Koran or the prophet Mohammed. Theirs is a repugnant political ideology which violates the principles and statutes of traditional Islamic law.
Be just!
"The Koran commands us: 'Let not the hatred of others make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice. Be just! It is closer to piety.'"
The young Muslim leader added that "while we respect and revere freedom of speech, we condemn needless desecration and injury of Islamic sensibilities, such as the recent cartoons misrepresenting and vilifying my ancestor, the prophet (Mohammed)."
It is essential that dialogue between Christians and Muslims not be reduced to an optional extra in today's world. It is a necessity, on which in large measure our future depends.
The data of the world religions must become part of the Christian religion. This does not mean that I, as a Catholic, must accept the view that the truths in all religions are equally true; rather, it means that religious pluralism is part of the context in which the church exists and within which I must articulate the Christian tradition in our multicultural society.