Catholic scholar of Islam: “The average Muslim sees Islam as a religion of peace”


A November 2015 Pew Research Center poll showed that only 28% of Muslims in Pakistan had an unfavorable view of the Islamic State. A Pew Research poll in 2013 showed that only 57% of Muslims worldwide disapproved of al-Qaeda, and only 51% disapproved of the Taliban. Two-thirds of Muslims in Britain would not report a terror plot to the police.

Fr. Michel says: “The document Nostrae [sic] aetate says that the Church has ‘esteem’ for Muslims. It doesn’t mean that we should just tolerate Muslims or put up with Muslims. ‘Esteem’ means to try to see what people have that’s good and appreciate them for that.”

That’s a good and charitable thing to do with anyone. But does it free us from the obligation to protect our families and loved ones from genuine threats? Does the obvious decency of innumerable Muslims excuse us from recognizing the reality of the jihad doctrine that mandates the conquest and subjugation of unbelievers under the hegemony of Islamic law?

Should our esteem from Muslims lead us to be silent about the Muslim persecution of Christians? “Fr. Michel noted that when the Fathers of the Council taught us, they didn’t deny the past conflict and tension between Catholics and Muslims, but they did say that it is in the past.” They were wrong. It isn’t in the past, as even the most cursory knowledge of the decimation of the ancient Christian communities of Iraq and Syria should show. “We have to understand that totalitarianism based on Islamic creed is the worst among all systems of government. Yes, my friends, the very survival of Christians in the cradle of Christianity is quite in danger.” So said the patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church of Antioch, Ignatius Joseph III Younan.

Yet the Church as a whole has said almost nothing at all. Why? Why are Church leaders in the West so uniformly silent about the Muslim persecution of Christians? Out of “esteem” for Muslims? Jean-Clément Jeanbart, the Melkite Greek Catholic Archbishop of Aleppo, gave an interview to a French reporter in which he was highly critical of the mainstream media and even of his fellow bishops for ignoring the Muslim persecution of Middle Eastern Christians. “The European media,” he charged, “have not ceased to suppress the daily news of those who are suffering in Syria and they have even justified what is happening in our country by using information without taking the trouble to verify it.” And as for his brother bishops in France, “the conference of French bishops should have trusted us, it would have been better informed. Why are your bishops silent on a threat that is yours today as well? Because the bishops are like you, raised in political correctness. But Jesus was never politically correct, he was politically just!”

Archbishop Jeanbart was not the first to say this. “Why, we ask the western world, why not raise one’s voice over so much ferocity and injustice?” asked Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, the head of the Italian Bishops Conference (CEI). Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignatius Ephrem Joseph III Younan himself has in the past appealed to the West “not to forget the Christians in the Middle East.” The Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III has also said: “I do not understand why the world does not raise its voice against such acts of brutality.”

But the Patriarch should have understood, since he is a major part of the problem. After all, he himself said: “No one defends Islam like Arab Christians.” It is to defend Islam that Western clerics do not raise their voice against such acts of brutality. It is to pursue a fruitless and chimerical “dialogue” that bishops in the U.S. and Europe keep silent about Muslim persecution of Christians, and enforce that silence upon others. Robert McManus, Roman Catholic Bishop of Worcester, Massachusetts, said it on February 8, 2013 as he was suppressing a planned talk at a Catholic conference on that persecution: “Talk about extreme, militant Islamists and the atrocities that they have perpetrated globally might undercut the positive achievements that we Catholics have attained in our inter-religious dialogue with devout Muslims.”

Remember that Mohamed Atta, about the plane he had hijacked on September 11, 2001, told passengers over the intercom: “Stay quiet and you’ll be OK.” The Catholic Church appears to have adopted that statement as its policy regarding Muslim persecution of Christians.

“Leave them; they are blind guides. And if a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 15:14)

“Priest: We need to praise what is good, true in the Muslim faith,” by Hannah Brockhaus, Catholic News Agency, February 28, 2017:

Vatican City, Feb 28, 2017 / 06:02 am (CNA).- Not only is there a good deal in common between Muslims and Christians, but Catholics are called to respect and work together with those who practice the Muslim faith in recognition of truth and goodness they do possess, said Islam scholar Fr. Thomas Michel.

Fr. Michel, who holds a Ph.D. in Islamic Theology and worked under Pope John Paul II as head of the Vatican Office for Relations with Muslims, told CNA that Benedict XVI, like both St. John Paul II and Pope Francis, have all repeated the same message regarding Muslims – that of the Second Vatican Council.

“The document Nostrae [sic] aetate says that the Church has ‘esteem’ for Muslims,” he said. “It doesn’t mean that we should just tolerate Muslims or put up with Muslims. ‘Esteem’ means to try to see what people have that’s good and appreciate them for that.”

The major “common point” between Christianity and Islam, Fr. Michel said, is that both faiths believe in the existence of only one God, and that both are trying to do what this one God wants.

Therefore, “how can we be enemies with people who are also, like us, trying to worship the one God?” he said. “Since the time of the Second Vatican Council, we’ve seen that part of our work as Christians is to be in dialogue with people of other faiths.”

“And this means not only talking to them and listening to them, but it also means cooperating with them, working together with them for good.”

This dialogue, Fr. Michel emphasized, isn’t just about making peace with each other, although that is important, but is about “the kind of world we live in” and how that makes it important that we all come to know each other better.

Fr. Michel noted that when the Fathers of the Council taught us, they didn’t deny the past conflict and tension between Catholics and Muslims, but they did say that it is in the past, and “what we have to do now is work together for the common good.”

The document Nostrae [sic] aetate is the declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions from the Second Vatican Council, promulgated by Pope Paul VI on October 28, 1965.

Fr. Michel referenced a part of the document that says that the Church “rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings which, though differing in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that Truth which enlightens all men.”

“The Church, therefore,” it continues, “exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.”

Four ways we can collaborate with Muslims or those of other faiths, Fr. Michel said, is by together working to build peace, and to promote social justice, “true human values,” and “true human freedom.”

A Jesuit, Fr. Thomas Michel has lived and worked among Muslims himself for many years, particularly in Turkey. He first went to Indonesia, joining the order’s Indonesia Province, in 1969….

If worried about Islamic extremists or that the Muslim religion will overwhelm Christian values in Western society, Fr. Michel said to try to remember that in the case of refugees, they “want the same things that normal Americans want.”

They want “to raise their children to be good God-fearing people, and to have a life, to have a job, to enjoy simple enjoyments. They’re no different than we are,” he said.

He said that in his experience, those who have negative attitudes about Muslims have only experienced the religion through TV or the newspaper, but that those “who know Muslims…have a very different attitude.”

“I’ve lived among thousands of Muslims…The people that I’ve lived with in many different countries, they go from birth to death, and from children to grandchildren, and there’s no violence in their lives,” he said.

“The average Muslim sees Islam as a religion of peace.”

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