John Allen, Jr., reports on discussions at the Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, being held in Rome from October 10-24, about Muslim-Christian relations in the Middle East:
Greek-Melkite Patriarch Gregorios III Laham of Syria offered perhaps the most forceful diagnosis, warning that the steady migration of Christians out of the region poses a whole series of worrying consequences.
“It will make Arab society a mono-color society, exclusively Muslim, facing a society in Europe that’s said to be Christian,” Laham said. “If that happens, and the East is emptied of its Christians, it could mean a new clash of cultures, civilizations and religions, a destructive conflict between an Arab Muslim East and the Christian West.”
In order to convince Christians to stay put, Laham said, it’s time to speak frankly to Muslims about why Christians are afraid.
That, he said, means talking bluntly about “the separation between religion and the state, ‘arabness,’ democracy, whether the nation is Arab or Muslim, human rights and laws that propose Islam as the lone or principal source of legislation – which constitute an obstacle to the equality of Christians as citizens before the law.”
“There are also fundamentalist parties, Islamic integralism, to which are attributed acts of terrorism, killings, burnings of churches, extortion, all in the name of religion, which rely on the strength of being a majority to humiliate their neighbors.”
All of that, Laham said, makes peace-making the great challenge of the region – what he called its Great Jihad.”
Harés Chéhab, the secretary general of a national committee for Islamic-Christian dialogue in Lebanon, insisted that the exodus of Christians out of the Middle East cannot be understood solely as a function of the region’s economic problems.
“If that were the case, the entire region would be depopulated,” he said. “It’s obvious that discrimination, persecution in some places, fear in other, the absence of freedom, [and] a disparity in rights are at the basis of this movement.”
Chéhab spelled out the challenges: “The relationship between religion and the state, in other words between with is spiritual and what’s temporal, secularity, extremism, fundamentalism, terrorism.”
He called for a more direct language in discussing these realities with Muslims, in order to “make them aware of the reality of our problems.”
I vaguely recall that when Pope Benedict XVI used moderately direct language regarding some serious philosophical problems within Islamic thought (and as a springboard for a longer critique of the Enlightenment), he was blasted for being rude, tone deaf, insensitive, and lacking any knowledge of public relations. So, what shall it be: direct language about injustices and persecution, or the employment of hyper-tolerant public relations meant to make fidgety Westerners feel better about themselves? Practical questions also arise, such as: how do you talk rationally and peacefully with a terrorist?
Some books worth reading on this topic include Faith, Reason and the War Against Jihadism by George Weigel, 111 Questions on Islam by Samir Khalil Samir S.J., and The Closing of the Muslim Mind by Robert R. Reilly.
Related IgnatiusInsight.com Links/Articles:
• Christians and Muslims, Living Together | Preface to English Edition of 111 Questions on Islam | Samir Khali Samir, S.J.
• The Regensburg Lecture: Thinking Rightly About God and Man | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
• Is Dialogue with Islam Possible? Some Reflections on Pope Benedict XVI's Address at the University of Regensburg | Fr. Joseph Fessio, S.J.
• Benedict Takes the Next Step with Islam | Mark Brumley
• Spartans, Traitors, and Terrorists | Dr. Jose Yulo
• Martyrs and Suicide Bombers | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
• On the Term "Islamo-Fascism" | Fr. James V. Schall, S.J.
• Plato's Ring in the Sudan: How Freedom Begets Isolation of the Soul | Dr. Jose Yulo
• The Echo of Melos: How Ancient Honor Unmasks Islamic Terror | Dr. Jose Yulo