CARDIFF, Wales (Catholic Online) – Interreligious dialogue between Catholics and Muslims should be founded on what unifies both faiths and toward building a world of respect and peace for the next generation, said a British cardinal to an Islamic group.
In a June 9 address, “Christian and Muslim Perspectives on Interreligious Dialogue,” to the Muslim Council of Wales at the University of Cardiff here, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor of Westminster said that Muslims and Christians should use their ties as worshipping the same creator God to build a stronger bond on which to work toward freedom of religion, the eradication of poverty and peace.
Noting his commitment to “enhancing and maintaining this dialogue” between Christians and Muslims, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said that religion “is very much back on the agenda” of the international community, which is looking at it not “as a nuisance factor or enemy of enlightenment” but rather as having a profound effect on society.
He noted that since the attacks in the United States in 2001 “the spotlight has been locked on to Islam,” adding that this has created “an atmosphere where ordinary Muslims feel very uncomfortable and unfairly singled out by people who often seem not to understand them at all.”
Into this situation, religious believers are challenged to contribute to social cohesion, he said, while policymakers “have had to question earlier notions that religion might naturally fade away in our enlightened society.”
“We all believe not only that there is a God, but also that our religion commits us to working for good in the world,” the cardinal told the Muslim council meeting.
He criticized those who would seek to “make sure religion has no public voice” as working against an interfaith dialogue that has “to be a public one” and an understanding of the culture “in search of its spiritual identity.” He pointed to the fact that both Muslims and Christians in Britain experience the feeling of not being “free to express our deeply held convictions,” sometimes for reasons connected to “political correctness.”
“Religious communities have a role to play in British society, but that role can be played well only if the various religions are able to be open and honest about each other,” Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said. Both Muslims and Christians must “avoid offering the world caricatures of each other” and “being tricked by prejudice into thinking we understand more than we do,” he added.
Trust must be built up and based upon those things that “unites us,” such as believing in the same God who is our creator, and being “open to differences,” he said. Yet, he pointed to the Christian understanding of the trinity as an example of stumbling blocks still existent in dialogue between Christians and Muslims.
“Dialogue becomes fruitful only when everyone involved feels able to say what he or she believes, or what identifies him or her as a Muslim or as a Christian,” he said. “This obviously requires a capacity to listen without correcting the other person’s standpoint, a willingness to accept diversity together with a desire to learn from the other without ever feeling one’s own beliefs are being belittled or criticized.”
In building a stronger, more fruitful dialogue to shape the world of the next generation, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said Muslims and Christians should work to aspire to “a globalization of solidarity,” whereby, for example, economists of both faiths work together “to see what we can learn from each other in the sphere of genuine commitment to solidarity with the poor.”
A commitment to work for the freedom of religion is another issue that could build bridges between members of both faiths, the cardinal said.
Religious freedom for all faiths, he said, should be “seen as a natural right of every human being, to be respected by every government.”
“We prove that we believe in religious freedom when we are prepared to speak up for other people’s right to exercise it, and not just our own,” Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said. “If we can learn to act together in favor of religious freedom for all, we shall certainly influence tomorrow’s world for the better.”
The president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales concluded his remarks with a plea for peace.
“I thank the God who made us all that, in recent years, the leaders of all Britain’s major religious communities have stood together in front of politicians, in front of the media, in front of our fellow-citizens, pleading for those who have influence to do all in their power to achieve peace, rather than the catastrophic and obscene waste of life that so many news bulletins bring into our living rooms,” Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor said.
“We all know the children of tomorrow’s world deserve better, and we know the human race can do better,” he said. “As long as we continue to say this together, we shall be building healthy foundations on which future generations can build.”
Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for December 2013
General Intention: Victimized Children. That children who are victims of abandonment or violence may find the love and protection they need.
Missionary Intention: Prepare the Savior's Coming. That Christians, enlightened by the Word incarnate, may prepare humanity for the Savior's coming.