BY Martin Dunlop | August 16 2013 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print


Violence threatens religion

Pope calls for mutual respect between Christians and Muslims as religious attacks increase

Pope Francis is calling on Christians and Muslims to foster mutual respect, through the education of the young, as religious persecution and violence increase in several trouble spots throughout the world.

The Holy Father spoke during his Sunday Angelus to reiterate that he hoped Christians and Muslims would strive to ‘promote mutual respect, especially through the education of the new generations,’ a call that has been echoed here in Scotland.

The Holy Father’s words, marking the conclusion of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, come coincide with a number of attacks on Christians, their places of worship, and other places of worship around the world in the past few days, including the unconfirmed murder of a Jesuit priest in Syria.

“Particular respect is due to religious leaders and to places of worship,” the Pope said in an earlier personal message to Muslims last week. “How painful are attacks on one or other of these.”

That personal message was sent from Pope Francis to the global Muslim community in place of the traditional Vatican greeting at the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month dedicated to fasting, prayer and almsgiving. In it he said he believes that ‘we are called to respect the religion of the other, its teachings, its symbols, its values’ and ‘have to bring up our young people to think and speak respectfully of other religions and their followers, and to avoid ridiculing or denigrating their convictions and practices.’

As the Holy Father spoke of the importance of inter-faith respect, the suffering of many persecuted Christians in Syria, a country currently engulfed by a civil war, worsened.

Unconfirmed reports have also suggested that a ‘pro-rebel’ Italian Jesuit missionary priest, who was abducted by Islamists in northeastern Syria at the end of last month, has been killed. The Vatican has stated it has ‘no information’ on the plight of 59-year-old Fr Paolo Dall’Oglio. However, Lama al-Atassi, secretary general for the Syrian National Front, wrote on her Facebook page that the priest has been killed.

Fr Dall’Oglio has been a Jesuit missionary to Syria since the early 1980s. A vocal critic of the Syrian regime led by President Bashar al-Assad, he was expelled from the country by government authorities in June 2012 but re-entered in January this year. Last year, he urged Pope Francis to support the Syrian rebels’ cause, accusing the regime of using the Church as a propaganda tool against the rebellion.

Reports from Syria coincided with news that a mob of 4000 had looted Christian-owned businesses in Bani Ahmed, an Egyptian town near Cairo, and burned down houses. A crowd also surrounded the local Coptic Orthodox church, preventing Christians from attending their place of worship.

Meanwhile in Turkey, a group of young Kurdish Muslims stormed a Syrian Orthodox monastery in the town of Midyat on Sunday and attacked staff.

Also on Sunday, gunmen attacked a mosque in Konduga, Nigeria with automatic weapons, killing at least 44 people, a local police official said. Islamist group Boko Haram issued a video around the same time boasting that it was gaining in strength.

The Holy Father’s message of mutual respect between Christians and Muslims has been supported here in Scotland.

In his own message to Muslims marking the end of Ramadan, Archbishop Emeritus Mario Conti of Glasgow, chairman of the Committee for Inter-Religious Dialogue of the Catholic Church in Scotland, echoed the Holy Father’s sentiments.

“I can assure you of my commitment and that of my colleagues, the Bishops of Scotland, to educate the members of our community, particularly our young people, to understand and respect the faith of others and to engage with you in dialogue and cooperation,” Archbishop Conti said.



—This story ran in full in the August 16 edition print of the SCO, available in parishes



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