Watch Can Christian and Muslim communities coexist

first_imgFor the past few years, Balzan Parish Church has been organising a session of prayer and reflection, which has seen Catholics and Muslims coming together. Those in attendance include representatives from the Islamic Centre, clergy from the parish and members of the Commission for Interreligious Dialogue, among others. This year, the event took place at the Islamic Centre for the first time. Newsbook.com.mt interviewed Rev. Dr Joseph Ellul who lectures at the Faculty of Theology at the University of Malta. He also heads the Commission for Interreligious Dialogue which was founded in March 2011, with the aim to establish ties between the Catholic Church in Malta and non-Christian communities in Malta. One of its principal aims is to contribute towards the formation of the Roman Catholic community in Malta so that it may better recognise its mission in a society which is becoming more multi-ethnic and multi-religious.Rev. Ellul said that its role also includes updating and advising the Archbishop on situations or challenges which the community may face. Currently, he explained, the Commission, in collaboration with the University of Malta, is preparing a handbook on various religions aimed at professionals such as doctors and social workers.During the interview, Rev. Ellul was asked various questions relating to the similarities and divergences between Catholicism and Islam, and whether the two communities can co-exist. Rev. Ellul referred to Nostra aetate, which is the Declaration on the Relation of the Church with Non-Christian Religions of the Second Vatican Council, saying that both communities have co-existed for many centuries. He said that while each religion begins with God, the religions are then made up of human beings, and therefore there are good and bad elements. He explained that in societies where you have the two communities co-existing, one can witness a lot of collaboration among the different communities. Rev. Ellul explained that this has happened since forever, citing examples of Catholic communities in predominantly Muslim countries such as Egypt, Iraq and Syria. Asked about the similarities between the two religions, Rev. Ellul said that in both Catholicism and Islam one finds the belief in one God. He further explained that one finds several similarities especially if one reflects upon the Old Testament. He explained that various attributes to God can be found in both the Quran and the Bible, such as God as the creator, God as the judge and God as the merciful. Rev. Ellul further explained that various messages pronounced by the prophets are found in both the Bible and the Quran. When asked where the two religions diverge, Rev. Ellul said that there are two main points of divergence. The first was on the question of God as a Trinity, explaining that while the Quran speaks about a trinity, in the Quran God is the father, Jesus the son, and Mary the mother. He explained that this influence could have easily come from Christian communities present in Arabia at that time, which were on the periphery, adding that, “it is not a big deal that heretic communities existed which may have believed so”. The second point, Rev. Ellul added, was that for Islam, it is inconceivable that God became man. He explained that for a Catholic, the Quran cannot be recognised as a holy scripture in the same sense as the Bible. For the Catholic, the Bible was ‘closed’ when the last apostle died, meaning that there are no more scriptures after that. Rev. Ellul added that Catholics believe that Jesus is the revelation of God, saying that if one who is Catholic had to consider the Prophet Muhammad as a prophet in the Biblical sense then it would mean that Jesus is not the complete revelation of God, and therefore it would mean that something is lacking in the Catholic revelation. Rev. Ellul explained that this does not turn the Prophet Muhammad into a ‘false prophet’, as he was referred to in the dialogues between Timothy I of Baghdad, a Patriarch, and Caliph al-Mahdi in the Eight Century (781CE), when Caliph al-Mahdi had asked the Patriarch what he thought of Muhammad. The Patriarch had replied that Muhammad deserves all the praise he gets, because he followed in the footsteps of the prophets, and those who love God. Rev. Ellul said that through that answer, Timothy I had recognised Muhammad and his message; however he could not refer to him as a prophet in the biblical sense. When asked about the difference between Muslims and Islamists, Rev. Ellul said, “there is a huge difference between the two”, explaining that a Muslim is one who believes in Islam, while an Islamist is one who has transformed his religion into an ideology. He underlined that in the latter case, it is dangerous. Finally, Rev. Ellul referred to a decision by the Council of Ministers in Lebanon, which had declared the feast of the Annunciation of Mary as a national Islamic-Christian holiday. He explained that even at the peak of the crusades, many Marian sanctuaries were visited by Catholics and Muslims alike. WhatsApp <a href=’http://revive.newsbook.com.mt/www/delivery/ck.php?n=ab2c8853&amp;cb={random}’ target=’_blank’><img src=’https://revive.newsbook.com.mt/www/delivery/avw.php?zoneid=97&amp;cb={random}&amp;n=ab2c8853&amp;ct0={clickurl_enc}’ border=’0′ alt=” /></a> SharePrintlast_img

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