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Muslim scholars address Synod of Bishops

By on Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Pope Benedict XVI shakes hands with Muhammad al-Sammak, adviser to the chief mufti of Lebanon (Photo: CNS)

Pope Benedict XVI shakes hands with Muhammad al-Sammak, adviser to the chief mufti of Lebanon (Photo: CNS)

Muslim scholars have told the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East that Islam promotes respect for Christians and Jews and that the entire region will suffer if Christians depart.

Muhammad al-Sammak, Sunni adviser to the chief mufti of Lebanon and secretary general of Lebanon’s Christian-Muslim Committee for Dialogue, and Ayatollah Seyed Mostafa Mohaghegh Damad Ahmadabadi, a Shia professor at Shahid Beheshti University in Tehran, spoke at the gathering at the invitation of the Pope.

Mr al-Sammak said Christians are not the only people suffering in the Middle East or tempted to emigrate.
“We share our sufferings. We live them in our social and political delays, in our economic and developmental regression, in our religious and confessional tension,” he said.

At the same time, he told the Synod, the “new and accidental phenomenon” of Christians being targeted because of their faith is dangerous, and not just for Christians. By attacking Christians, he said, misguided, fundamentalist, politically manipulated Muslims are tearing apart the fabric of Middle Eastern societies where Jews, Christians and Muslims lived side by side for centuries. They also are showing “Islam in a different light than the one it truly reflects” and working against one of the fundamental teachings of Islam: the teaching that differences among people are the result of God’s design and part of God’s will for humanity, Mr al-Sammak said.

The emigration of Christians makes it difficult for the rest of the region’s Arabs to live their identity fully, he said. “They [Christians] are an integral part of the cultural, literary and scientific formation of Islamic civilisation. They are also the pioneers of modern Arabic renaissance and have safeguarded its language, the language of the holy Koran,” he added.

Mr al-Sammak told the bishops he hoped the synod would be “something more than the cry of Christian suffering which echoes in this valley of pain”, which is the Middle East. He said he hoped the Synod would mark the beginning of “Islamic-Christian cooperation that can protect Christians and watch over Islamic-Christian relations, so that the East – the place of divine revelation – remains worthy of raising the banner of faith, charity and peace for itself and for the entire world.”

Ayatollah Mohaghegh Damad said the Koran’s view of Christian-Muslim relations is one of “friendship, respect and mutual understanding,” even though there have been “dark moments” in the relationship over the past 1,400 years.
But the “illegitimate acts of certain individuals and groups” should not be attributed to the religion to which they belong, he said.

In Iran and most other Muslim countries, he said, “Christians live side by side and in peace with their Muslim brothers. They enjoy all the legal rights like other citizens and perform their religious practices freely.”

He said leaders of all religions must recognise that their people no longer live cut off from believers of other faiths, and religious leaders have an obligation to help their faithful understand the respect that is due to the other.

The ideal, he said, “would be the state where believers of any faith freely and without any apprehension, fear and obligation could live according to the basic principles and modes of their own customs and traditions. This right, which is universally recognised, should in fact be practised by states and communities.”

Earlier Mr al-Sammak had said the death penalty for apostasy from Islam to Christianity dated from a time “when changing religions meant joining the enemy – it was punished as an act of treason”. While some still think converts should be punished, he said the “golden rule” of Islam is that “there is no compulsion in religion, that’s what the Koran says”.

Ayatollah Mohaghegh Damad said: “You are free to choose any religion in your heart, because religion is a very, very private matter for everybody, but conversion means something else. If you are no longer a member of your original faith group is an act of unacceptable “propaganda”.

  • Bwaj

    No it doesn't. Read the Qur'an.

  • witness2hope

    Ayatollah Mohaghegh Damad said: “You are free to choose any religion in your heart, because religion is a very, very private matter for everybody, but conversion means something else. If you are no longer a member of your original faith group is an act of unacceptable “propaganda”.

    I have two points to make that I find illogical of Ayatollah Damad:

    a)Religion is not a 'private' matter for everybody because then individuals are worshiping their own image and likeness of God

    b)How is apostasy a propaganda if as, Ayatollah Damad says, religion is a “private matter”? Furthermore, he backtracks his statement of the freedom to choose religion.

  • Bwaj

    As a Catholic what horrifies me is the claim Islam respects Jews and Christians – especially if you read Sur'ah (Chapter) 9 of the Qur'an.

  • JamesH

    “Christians live side by side and in peace with their Muslim brothers. They enjoy all the legal rights like other citizens and perform their religious practices freely.”

    – in Lebanon alone, and even there not consistently!

  • bababoom1

    The usual hand-wringing from a few Muslims who are wholly unrepresentative of Islam as a whole. It is time Christians, Hindus, Buddhists and other oppressed faiths joined together to deliver an uncompromising message to Islamic theologians – reform your totalitarian and fascist belief system which is as great a threat to world peace as Nazism ever was. Or face exclusion from our societies.

  • AncientBriton

    How should one read this report in the light of the Islamic abrogation and taquiya?

  • Auricularis

    Why does the Vatican fall for this ecumenical rubbish?

  • Paul

    A friend has an Indonesian wife…when they visit her family there, and go to Mass, the Catholics are in fear for their lives..there have been hundreds of Church bombings in Indonesia (“A free and democratic society, with Muslims and Christians living together”), according to Muslim propaganda. A Catholic in Pakistan wrote me, “We had a bombing up in the plaza yesterday”. What is needed is for Catholics to wake up and realize the nature of Islam, that it intends to totally eradicate Christianity, and that they have declared war, whether we like it or not. All these soft Islamic words, taqiyya, are just meant to deceive us, and will result in our destruction. Catholics need to end this polite capitulation, and we have to confront Muslims with their violence and the true nature of the Quran, which is the subjugation of all men. “…wherever you find them, cut off their heads, and their fingertips!” That is the Quran. We need to firmly, and politely, tell them, that this Muslim behavior is NOT acceptable. Let's end these useless interfaith Synods. Don't think for one second that those Muslims at the conference are sincere. It's all taqiyya, lying for Mohammed. From now on, Prove it, Muslims. End Jihad. End the violence. End the rioting. End the demands for special treatment for Muslims. End the demand for Sharia to supercede Western law. End the assault on the free press…And please, Catholics, wake up. Don't be deceived by Muslims. They aren't our friends.

  • MaryW

    The Pope's “dialogue” with members of a supremacist ideology is like a debate with satan. The Pope is the spiritual leader of the Catholic faith, of the body of Christ, not a political leader in the worldly sense. The Pope should be holding up, explaining, and preaching the Catholic faith for the whole to see and run to for truth and safety and salvation. The Pope should be exposing the darkness to the light, not accommodating Islam.

  • No Dhimmi

    Jesus said “I send you out as sheep amongst wolves.” When know who the wolves are because they say one thing but the fact is quite the opposite. Other than China and other Communist countries, Christians and other religious minorities are persecuted in the Islamic world. Iran is one of the worst. The Copts in Egypt are experiencing an increase in persecution. Southeast Asia i.e. Indonesia and Malaysia for example are seeing a resurgence in persecuting Christians.

    I am disappointed that Pope Benedict did not bring up these realities when he meet with these Islamic representatives. Actions speak louder than words. Muslims can tell us ad nauseum how much Islam respects Christians but what the Qur'an says and history shows is it is quite the opposite.

    If you would like to learn more about this tragedy, please visit http://www.saintstephenfoundation.org. Our Christian brothers and sisters are suffering horribly. They need our prayers but voices too. The persecution of Christians needs to be seriously addressed from the Vatican down to our congregations.

  • :)

    Read the Quran , don't just jump to conclusions. Thousands of Muslims are dying in Iraq and Palestine. INOCCENT PEOPLE ARE DYING. Its not only Muslims that are in the wrong. Why can't all the different faiths practice there religions freely without no interference!!!!!