Monday, November 27, 2006

The Pope's Visit to Turkey: An Opportunity Heal Muslim Christian Relationships

Pope Benedict XVI
As Pope Benedict XVI visits Turkey many are talking about the state of Christian-Muslim relations.

The Pope's comments in September quoting a 14th century Byzantine emperor who characterized Islam as “evil and inhuman,” sparked riots in many Muslim countries. He was giving a lecture at the University of Regensburg in Germany, on faith and reason critiquing the “modern western world that excludes God from its life.” He was also attempting to seek common ground with Muslims while making a salient point about religion and violence. His neglect of disavowing the Byzantine emperor’s comment left the impression that he endorsed it. The Pope’s public apology that followed a few days later has remained unconvincing to many Muslims. His visit to Turkey today can provide a significant opportunity for healing that rift.

Living at a time of deep misunderstandings between religions, initiatives that help Muslims and Christians to learn about each other and build relationships as individuals and communities have become critically important.

Other recent incidents highlight this need. Earlier this month at a US airport, six Muslim leaders (imams) were taken off a commercial airliner. Passengers had expressed concern and fear after seeing the men praying in the terminal. They were unaware that Muslims are religiously obligated to pray five times a day, that when they pray they must face Mecca and prostrate themselves, and that this a common sight in many international airport terminals. They were also concerned that they said “Allah” as they boarded the plane. They were again unaware that this is the word for God, and indeed that it is the word that Arabic speaking Christians use as they refer to God.

The National Council of Churches USA nearly five years ago offered a resource called, "God is One: The Way of Islam." It is designed to help Christians understand their neighbors who also trace their religious heritage to Abraham as do Christians and Jews.


At 11:22 PM, Blogger John Kettner said...

The Pope isn't a Christian. He's the Antichrist (John 17:11).


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