Wednesday, June 07, 2006

A Ratzingerian turn II: Cardinal Lajolo

Cardinal Lajolo's talk, given to a session of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants, has tons of stuff in there. "Reciprocity" --- which has become a kind of buzzword when it comes to this Pontificate's understanding of relations with Islam --- is a threat that runs throughout. There's much else as well, especially on the section dealing with migrants and immigration. There is certainly an acknowledgement of the need for religious liberty, freedom of conscience, for all citizens and foreigners, even when there is an established church or religion, but there is also a refreshingly honest assesment of the challenges posed by a resurgent and often hostile Islam.
Nevertheless, one notices a recent general tendency of the Muslim-majority countries to promote, even outside their own borders, an increasingly radical form of conduct in conformity with Islamic precepts, and to assert a greater public presence of such conduct. This phenomenon, which sometimes results in a religious fanaticism that exerts strong social and institutional pressure upon minorities of other faiths, is due in part to the Salafi and Wahhabi groups that are spreading from Saudi Arabia. In the Shiite sphere, the revolution of Ayatollah Khomeini and the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran have had great influence.
In some Muslim-majority countries, especially in Africa, the first victims of the persecutions for religious reasons are the practitioners of a form of Islam that is considered unorthodox. But the growing radicalization to which we have already referred is particularly worrying because of the cases of Christians unjustly brought before Islamic courts on account of their faith.

If there are calls from many quarters for at least reciprocal respect and concessions (freedom of worship, construction of places of worship), nevertheless this concept, which has now entered into the explicit regulation of relations (for example, in fiscal matters) among many countries in various continents, for now seems to exclude religious matters for many Muslim countries, which invoke for their citizens living abroad the full recognition of rights that they do not grant to the migrants of other faiths living in their territories.
Also interesting was this list of two Islamic organizations that, basically, work against religious liberty:
– The Congress of the Muslim World, or World Islamic Congress, with headquarters in Karachi, Pakistan: this aims to increase the sense of solidarity in the Ummah – the Islamic world as a whole – and promotes political, economic, religious, educational, and cultural interests;

– The Worldwide Muslim League or League of the Islamic World, a non-governmental organization headquartered in Mecca; its aim is to defend and spread the knowledge of the teachings of the Islamic faith, to safeguard the interests of Muslims, and to resolve their problems. It pays particular attention to the African continent. It finances social programs in countries with a strong Muslim component, and it has a significant presence in international forums. One of its departments is dedicated to fighting against Christianization. The League sponsors bodies like the Supreme Council for Mosques, which works on the construction of mosques, in particular in areas where the inhabitants are converting. Its tasks include blocking the broadcast of Christian radio and television programs in Islamic countries;
Finally, (and there's much more in the text itself, from evangelization to the Islamic world, treatment of converts to the status of Christians in Muslim-majority countries), the call for each episcopal conference to have a prelate overseeing the presence of Islam in society ...
It thus seems opportune that in the episcopal conferences of the countries concerned in this immigration there should be at least some prelate charged with following with attention and active interest the presence of Islam and of its faithful. Analogously, it is useful to form groups of laypeople who specialize in this area, who could help the bishops and priests with opportune initiatives of dialogue and encounter, beyond those of contrast.

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