Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Jesus' Resurrection Left a Footprint Within History

Biblical Reflection for Easter Sunday, Year A

By Father Thomas Rosica, CSB

TORONTO, APRIL 19, 2011 ( In reading the Resurrection chapters of the four Gospels, the differences between the accounts are very obvious.

Not one of the evangelists recounts the actual Resurrection. It is an event that is taking place within the mystery of God between Jesus and the Father; by its very nature, the resurrection event lies outside human experience.

What lessons can we learn about the Resurrection from each of the Gospel accounts, particularly from Matthew’s story that we hear proclaimed today?

Mark's call to the cross

In the earliest Gospel account in Mark's Gospel (Chapter 16), the last scene is a startling one ... for the story ends with "[The women] came out and fled from the tomb, for they were possessed by fear and trembling, and they said nothing to anyone" (16:8).

The most striking aspect of Mark's ending is that we never encounter the Risen Lord. Instead, we see an awe-inspiring, almost eerie scene.

In the darkness of early morning, the women arrive at the tomb to accomplish a nearly impossible task. These women are the only ones who follow Jesus to the foot of the cross and to the tomb. They find the tomb opened and empty, and are greeted by a heavenly figure who gives them a commission: "Go and tell his disciples and Peter that he goes before you into Galilee; there you will see him as he told you" (16:7).

Mark's Resurrection account is meant to disturb the Christian reader; to undo the ease that makes one forget that the call to discipleship is the call to the cross. Readers of Mark's account are invited to view their lives in the shadow of the cross.

Matthew's living Christ

Matthew tells the story of the resurrection in four scenes: the women’s experience at the tomb (28:1-7); their short encounter with the risen Lord (28:8-10); the Jewish leaders’ attempt to suppress the story (28:11-15); the appearance to the disciples in Galilee (28:16-20). The final scene, ending with the Great Commission (28:19-20), stands on its own as a programmatic conclusion to the entire Gospel.

The women present in Matthew's Resurrection chapter do not witness the Resurrection. They do experience the earthquake, the appearance of the angel, and the emptiness of the tomb -- all of which are signs or traces of divine activity that has brought these things about.

Matthew literally makes Jesus present in the last scene of the Gospel on the mountain where Jesus had directed the disciples to go (28:16-20). At the end of the Gospel, he points us back to the first programmatic sermon of Jesus on the mountain in Galilee (5:1-7:21).

Matthew's meek and humble Jesus is the teacher as well as the example of meekness and humility. In revising Mark's Gospel, Matthew deliberately completes the picture of Jesus and of the Christian life.

The bleak image and invitation of the cross and the dead Jesus are filled out with a living and present Jesus, whose words, reflected upon the Scriptures of Israel, offer a consoling and learnable "way" for those disciples willing to learn. Matthew issues the call to learn of the meek and humble Jesus.

Luke's symphony

The Easter chapter of Luke's Gospel (24), like a beautiful symphony, presents us with a biblically oriented pastoral practice and distinct way of Christian living. In the first movement (25:1-12), God alone breaks open a helpless situation. In the second movement of the marvelous story of Jesus and the disciples on the road to Emmaus (25:13-35), God, in the person of Jesus, accompanies people on their journeys through despair. The stories of the third movement (25:36-53) lead people into an experience of community.

John's Risen Lord

John tells of appearances of the Risen Lord in both Jerusalem and Galilee. The resurrection stories of the fourth Gospel are a series of encounters between Jesus and his followers that reveal diverse faith reactions.

Whether these encounters are with Simon Peter and the Beloved Disciple, Mary Magdalene, the disciples or Thomas, the whole scenario reminds us that in the range of belief there are different degrees of readiness and different factors that cause people to come to faith.

A new dimension of existence

Benedict XVI writes about "The Nature of Jesus' Resurrection and Its Historical Significance" in "Jesus of Nazareth Part 2: Holy Week -- From the Entrance Into Jerusalem to the Resurrection" (Ignatius Press, 2011).

I would like to highlight several points made by the Pope in this masterful text: "Jesus did not simply return to normal biological life as one who, by the laws of biology, would eventually have to die again. [...]

"Jesus is not a ghost ('spirit'). In other words, he does not belong to the realm of the dead but is somehow able to reveal himself in the realm of the living. [...]

"The encounters with the Risen Lord are not the same as mystical experiences, in which the human spirit is momentarily drawn aloft out of itself and perceives the realm of the divine and eternal, only to return then to the normal horizon of its existence. Mystical experience is a temporary removal of the soul’s spatial and cognitive limitations" (pp. 272-273).

Benedict XVI continues: "[The resurrection] is a historical event that nevertheless bursts open the dimensions of history and transcends it. Perhaps we may draw upon analogical language here, inadequate in many ways, yet still able to open up a path toward understanding: as already anticipated in the first section of this chapter, we could regard the Resurrection as something akin to a radical 'evolutionary leap,' in which a new dimension of life emerges, a new dimension of human existence" (p. 273).

He added: "As something that breaks out of history and transcends it, the Resurrection nevertheless has its origin within history and up to a certain point still belongs there. Perhaps we could put it this way: Jesus' Resurrection points beyond history but has left a footprint within history. Therefore it can be attested by witnesses as an event of an entirely new kind" (p. 275).

Fathoming a mystery

In our highly technological world, the reality of the Resurrection becomes increasingly difficult to fathom. So many spend their lives explaining it away rather than probing the depths of its mystery. And they try to do this alone, separated from a believing community of Christians, locked in the prison of self and of ideas, frozen before a computer screen as they try to fathom what happened on Easter morning.

Some people state quite frankly that the whole story is simply out of date. But the Resurrection is not a matter of the head, of theory and ideas, but a matter of the heart that can only be experienced and learned through a community’s worship and liturgy. To be fully experienced and grasped, the Resurrection requires an environment of hauntingly beautiful music, of smoke and incense, bread and wine, murmurs of greeting and shouts of joy, dazzling colors and most of all, three-dimensional bodies of real people, even those who aren't necessarily "regulars" of our parish communities, who gather together every year to hear the Easter proclamation.

One doesn't sit at a computer and tap out "Jesus is risen." It has to be performed and enacted. If the Resurrection were meant to be a historically verifiable occurrence, God wouldn't have performed it in the dark without eyewitnesses. The Resurrection was an event transacted between God the Father and God the Son by the power of God the Holy Spirit.

Not a single Gospel tells us how it happened. We don't know what he looked like when he was no longer dead, whether he burst the tomb in glory or came out like Lazarus, slowly unwrapping his shroud and squinting with wonder against the dawn of Easter morning in a garden in Jerusalem.

Finding the words

How shall we find words for the Resurrection? How can we give expression to the conquest of death and the harrowing of hell and the washing that has joined us to God's life? There are no words -- there are only the wrong words -- metaphors, chains of images, verbal icons -- that invite us into a mystery beyond words.

For four years I lived in the Holy City of Jerusalem and hundreds of times I visited the remains of the Church building that houses the place of Calvary and the Holy Sepulcher. It is truly holy ground for Christians, and being there never failed once to move me. That old building is truly a microcosm of our own lives, our hearts and our Church.

In the midst of the dark, dirty and chaotic Holy Sepulcher Basilica is the tomb of Jesus, a shrine to the risen Christ. But he is not there. All around that tomb are the remnants of 2,000 years of dreadfully human corruption. Nevertheless, it is the most important shrine and holy place for Christians. Christ is risen from the dead!

At Calvary, and elsewhere in the Holy Land, corruption seems so rampant ... but God shall be victorious, because 70 feet away from Calvary there is a tomb that is empty.

And there is also another startling truth about that Church and the moments that it commemorates: Every single one of us has within us a shrine to the Risen Christ. That shrine is our first love for him, and him alone.

Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. Do we truly live as children of the light, of the Living One? The Resurrection of Jesus is the sign that God is ultimately going to win.

In the midst of all the chaos found in the Holy Sepulcher building, I found that if I knelt long enough in some corner of the Church amidst religious groups seemingly at war with each other, disquiet disappeared and I often experienced a strange peace and deep joy and consolation because of the resurrection of the man who was God's Son and our Savior. The only way to discern, detect and discover the presence of the Risen Lord is on one’s knees, in the midst of the chaos of the Church and the world.

Jesus' victory over death belongs to the Church's ongoing pastoral and sacramental life and its mission to the world. The Church is the community of those who have the competence to recognize Jesus as the Risen Lord. It specializes in discerning the Risen One. As long as we remain in dialogue with Jesus, our darkness will give way to dawn, and we will become "competent" for witness. In an age that places so much weight on competency, we would do well to focus every now and then on our competence to discern the Resurrection.

What is the Resurrection? Benedict XVI explains it so well in "Jesus of Nazareth": "It is part of the mystery of God that he acts so gently, that he only gradually builds up his history within the great history of mankind; that he becomes man and so can be overlooked by his contemporaries and by the decisive forces within history; that he suffers and dies and that, having risen again, he chooses to come to mankind only through the faith of the disciples to whom he reveals himself; that he continues to knock gently at the doors of our hearts and slowly opens our eyes if we open our doors to him.

"And yet -- is not this the truly divine way? Not to overwhelm with external power, but to give freedom, to offer and elicit love. And if we really think about it, is it not what seems so small that is truly great?" (p. 276).

[The readings for Easter Sunday are Acts 10:34a, 37-43; Colossians 3:1-4 or 1 Corinthians 5:6b-8; John 20:1-9 or Matthew 28:1-10 or Luke 24:13-35]

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Saturday, 16 April 2011

Understanding Church-Muslim Relations (Part 1)

Egypt's Ali Al-Samman on Freezing Relations With Holy See
By Emil Amin

CAIRO, Egypt, APRIL 15, 2011 ( The president of Egypt's Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs is noting that a decision to freeze dialogue with the Holy See from Sunni Islam's highest authority may have been hasty.

In 1998, Ali Al-Samman was the architect of the joint committee that brings together the Cairo-based Permanent Committee of Al-Azhar for Dialogue among the Monotheistic Religions and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

In Part 1 of a two-part interview with ZENIT, Al-Samman offered his perspective on the Jan. 20 announcement of a dialogue-freeze from the Cairo-based Islamic Research Council of the University of Al-Azhar, which came in protest of Benedict XVI's statements on religious freedom following a Jan. 1 attack on a Coptic church in Alexandria.

The great imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad at-Tayyeb, alleged that the papal comments were an intervention in Egypt's internal affairs.

In addition to the Al-Azhar decision, Egypt also requested that its ambassador to the Holy See "return to Cairo for consultations with the Egyptian foreign ministry," the Vatican reported at the time.

Part 2 of this interview will appear Sunday.

ZENIT: Let us begin by talking about the attack on the Coptic Church of Alexandria in Egypt last December 31. What is your opinion on this painful event?

Al-Samman: All that happened in Alexandria is more than a disagreeable event, and what hurt me even more is to have learned later that responsibility for the event was imputed to employees of the security service.

Moreover, what makes me angry in this type of incident is the delay in initiating the investigations and the delay in punishing those who are culpable, which is in itself more dangerous than the incident itself.

ZENIT: Why are we witnessing, in recent times, growing violence of a religious kind in Egypt?

Al-Samman: In my opinion, one of the main reasons for religious sedition is the delay in punishments.

For example, referring to the case of Al Kamouni, who killed some Copts in the city of Nag Hammadi, we see that a whole year went by before sentence was passed.

Because of this, on more than one occasion -- in articles and television interviews -- I have insisted on the fact that it is necessary to work on the elaboration of laws that concern religious riots that put in danger the security of the nation and it is necessary to apply exceptional, rapid and dissuasive measures.

Extremism continues, which is the spiritual father of all these crimes.

ZENIT: How do you judge the reactions to Benedict XVI's comment on what happened in Alexandria?

Al-Samman: When certain expressions are used by a leader, the evaluation that follows is always more difficult, and the affirmations give the impression that there is an authority that protects Christians of the East; this brings to memory the old sentiments with regard to the protection of the faction of Arab Christians, which history remembers as those who helped Muslim brothers in the face of foreign invasions.

ZENIT: But have Benedict XVI's words merited such opposition on the part of Al-Azhar, which has interrupted the channels of dialogue with the Vatican?

Al-Samman: Personally I am not in agreement with the position of Al-Azhar, in the sense that if I had been the one responsible, I would not have blocked this dialogue in this way.

Perhaps I would have preferred a period of transition, during which meetings would have been held to come to a satisfactory solution on both sides, without having to freeze the dialogue.

Obviously, when I speak of relations between Al-Azhar and the Vatican, I am speaking of one of the most important periods of my life, when I was responsible in the interreligious dialogue at the time of Sheikh Jad Al-Haqq, and until the signing in 1998 of the agreement with the Vatican, with Sheikh Muhammad Tantawy.

ZENIT: Hence, you would have preferred a more prudent reaction?

Al-Samman: Without a doubt, especially because of the fact that in the Vatican there is a large number of persons capable of being intermediaries to resolve the crisis with the least possible damage.

In this matter the Christians of the Middle East are important: their interests, their presence and what we can do for them.

I think that the Pope's words in regard to Egypt were influenced by the earlier attack on the Church in Iraq. This could also have influenced the tone of his statements.

ZENIT: What do you think of the reaction of the Foreign Affairs Ministry, which recalled the Egyptian ambassador to the Holy See for consultations?

Al-Samman: I cannot criticize the position of the Foreign Affairs Ministry. They must hold to their own diplomatic rules.

What is true is that this reflects the state of dissatisfaction produced by the Pope's words, although in reality diplomacy has other functions that go beyond casual reactions. And it is always better to leave the door open to analyze and review these problematic issues.

ZENIT: There are Muslim voices in Europe that have considered mistaken the decision to sever relations with the Vatican. What do you think?

Al-Samman: Without a doubt those who live in Europe are in contact with another, different reality and they coexist in European society with other voices that know a certain language of concord and collaboration. And we are in real need of such voices.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Antioch Tradition Adorns the Church, Says Pope

Addresses New Patriarch of Maronites

VATICAN CITY, APRIL 14, 2011 ( Benedict XVI is affirming his communion with the new patriarch of the Maronite Church, and praising the rich tradition of Antioch, where the faithful were first given the name Christians.

The Pope had a private audience today with Patriarch Béchara Boutros Raï, 71.

Last month, the patriarch succeeded Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, becoming the 77th patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites. Cardinal Sfeir resigned at age 90.

The Holy Father said Patriarch Raï's visit was a privilege for the universal Church.

"I rejoice to receive you here, with the Maronite bishops, the priests, the consecrated persons and the faithful, to solemnize the 'Ecclesia Communio,' which I made known to you by letter last March 24."

After a Maronite patriarch is elected, the Bishop of Rome extends his official expression of communion.

He continued: "Your election, which occurred a few days after the closure of the Holy Year promulgated to celebrate the 1,600th anniversary of the death of St. Maron, seems the most eminent fruit of numerous graces that he obtained for his Church."

Plenitude of communion

Noting the Divine Liturgy that was to be celebrated, the Holy Father said that there "the plenitude of communion is manifested between the Successor of the Prince of the Apostles and the 77th Successor of St. Maron, Father and Head of the Church of Antioch of the Maronites, that very prestigious Apostolic See where the faithful of Christ received for the first time the name of 'Christians!' Your Patriarchal Church, her rich spiritual, liturgical and theological tradition, the tradition of Antioch, always adorns the entire Church with that treasure."

The Maronite Church has always been in communion with Rome, even while maintaining its own liturgy and calendar. The liturgy is celebrated in Arabic, except in ancient songs and ancestral prayers of the Eucharist, for which Aramaic is used.

The Church was established by St. Maron, who lived between the 4th and 5th centuries as a hermit on Mount Tauro, an ancient city of northern Syria.

Today the Maronite Church has more than 3 million faithful and is present in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, the Holy Land, and in countries of the diaspora, such as Argentina and Australia.

The patriarchate is based in Lebanon.

Concrete tasks

Benedict XVI spoke to Patriarch Raï about concrete tasks awaiting him as patriarch, namely the situation of the Middle East and the importance of education.

"This region of the world that the patriarchs, the prophets, the apostles and Christ himself blessed by their presence and by their preaching, aspires to this durable peace that the Word of Truth, received and lived, has the capacity to establish," he said.

The Pope spoke of the Maronites' quality educational and catechetical network.

"Transmit to young people all my esteem and affection while reminding them that the Church and society have need of their enthusiasm and their hope," he said. And he invited the patriarch to "intensify the formation of priests and of numerous young people that the Lord is calling in your eparchies and in your religious congregations. That by their teaching and by their life, they may be genuine witnesses of the Word of God to help the faithful to root their life and their mission in Christ!"

The Pope expressed his prayer for the patriarch, that the Holy Spirit will "console you in difficulties and procure for you the joy of seeing your Church grow in fervor and in number!"

"At the dawn of your ministry," he added, "I wish to repeat those words of Christ to the disciples: 'Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.'"

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Islam in Zambia: Small and Notable

Islam in Zambia: Small and Notable
Interview With Author Father Félix Phili
ROME, APRIL 11, 2011 ( The Muslim community in Zambia is small -- but its presence has been increasingly felt in the last three decades, according to a professor from the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies who has written a book on the subject.

Missionary of Africa Father Félix Phili authored the book "Muslim Associations and the Resurgence of Islam in Zambia."

Father Phili spoke with the television program "Where God Weeps" of the Catholic Radio and Television Network (CRTN) in cooperation with Aid to the Church in Need about his work and Islam in Zambia.

Q: Father Félix, what inspired you to write this book?

Father Phili: This book actually was a further development of research I had done for my doctoral thesis at the School of Oriental African Studies. I worked a lot with the Muslim community in Zambia to get the information and as this was about them, I promised them I would give something back. So as a matter of intellectual honesty, I wrote it and I provided the possibility for them to see what they gave to me.

Q: Why particularly this book? What was your inspiration?

Father Phili: This was mainly to bring out the existing energy of the Muslim community in our country. Just before I started this research there was lot of concern and fear about the Muslim community and much of it was not really based on objective information. People were speculating on what they were seeing and I found it an interesting theme to deal with for my research and also as a way of bringing about a clear awareness of what this really was about in the country.

Q: Was there a person or perhaps an event that triggered this?

Father Phili: Not really. As part of my training I had studied Islam with the intention of working among Muslims in North Africa and I had already done four years of missionary work in Tunisia. When I was offered the opportunity to do a doctorate, I started wondering what subject I could work on; so talking with some friends, somebody said: “Why don’t you write about Islam in Zambia?” To be honest I was surprised. There are no Muslims in Zambia except for a few here and there, but then they said: “The few who are there, we do not know much about them so it would be good if you can try to research that."

Q: Your book is titled “The Resurgence of Islam," and yet Islam makes up only 0.5% of the population. What is this resurgence -- is it a growth of Islam?

Father Phili: The term is deliberately chosen and is mainly related to the history of this faith community. Practically, Muslims were in the country before Christians, but their presence has only been fully felt in the past three decades or so. So this is a kind of resurgence in the sense that an already existing community becomes more effectively present -- there is a new dynamism within this community. So this is what I meant by resurgence.

Q: You say that Islam arrived in Zambia before Christianity. Where did it come from?

Father Phili: The first Muslims were Arab traders who after a long presence along the eastern coast of Africa slowly started venturing deeper into the continent. Mainly they came as traders who also happened to be Muslims. In their first incursions into the continent they did not spread Islam as such because they only had temporary settlements. But then, slowly with the passing of time some of these settlements became permanent and in their dealing with the indigenous people -- there were a few tribes that collaborated closely with them -- some of these tribes converted in great numbers to Islam. This was the case for a good part of the Yao people from Malawi who are also a contributing factor to the presence of Islam in Zambia. So these are the first two communities to which we can attribute the coming of Islam in Zambia.

Q: Is money, for example for the construction of mosques, clinics and schools, coming locally or is it coming from other Arab or other Muslim countries abroad?

Father Phili: There is no clear evidence of any particular Muslim or Arabic country that is directly sponsoring the development of Islam in the country other than, in an indirect way, the African Muslim Agency. This is an NGO, which somehow facilitates, among other things, the construction of mosques -- but more in the sense of coordinating the construction of religious buildings rather than directly sponsoring the spread of Islam. Within the Zambian Asian community -- where most of them are involved in commerce so they have local resources and high organizational capacities -- some of the simple structures that they have been able to put up especially in the rural areas have been funded locally. There are also some Muslim individuals outside the country who have resources and who offer some work of charity within Africa; these individual families come in and sponsor the building of orphanages and the digging of wells. So there are resources that are coming from outside of the country -- that is true -- but not in a kind of coordinated manner, but more a spontaneous manner.

Q: Is charitable work a big part of Islam or is it something emulated from Christian charitable organizations? I’m curious because it seems a relatively new phenomenon?

Father Phili: I think it is both. On one side you have the Christian model. [...] The Muslim community then somehow replicates this model but the deeper motivation is something that exists within Islam itself through what we call Sacat: every Muslim with a certain income is supposed to pay a certain amount …

Q: Like our Christian understanding of tithing?

Father Phili: In a way you can compare it to that … so this brings together quite a number of resources. These resources are meant to help the poorer members of the community and traditionally you would answer the immediate needs of the people, but with the general development of the society in Zambia, this is also translated in terms of providing education, health and development. So, in a way, they have not just copied our model because within their religious system there is the possibility of bringing together some resources and they are using these resources in a way similar to what Christians have done before.

Q: How are Christians responding to this? Are they worried?

Father Phili: The Christian reaction has been one of mainly forgetting the recent history of how Christian missionaries came to the country. The Christian missionaries have done what the Muslims are now doing. Times have changed. So there have been a lot of allegations against the Muslim community saying that they are actually buying converts with material incentives.

Q: Is that a valid argument?

Father Phili: In a sense it is a valid argument, but as I have said, times have changed so the Muslim community provides the same services that the Christian missionaries did before, which gained them a lot of followers and the Muslims are doing exactly the same thing. [...] The main critique has been that this type of approach is a way of taking advantage of the poor in society because people have material needs; so instead of freely giving them what they need and leaving it up to them to decide, somehow indirectly the way you provide the services makes the person feel that it is an expectation. This has been one of the criticisms leveled against the Muslim community -- to say that they are taking advantage of the poor of society and by providing these services, getting new converts.

Q: This raises the question of how valid that life choice is. If it is out of a moment of convenience or need, how deep does that faith really enter the person?

Father Phili: In a sense that depends on different individuals because, generally, in Islam there is no catechism so to speak. If you have the opportunity, you can be prepared and taught what Islam is before you convert, but in most cases conversion is more or less instant. You learn about being Muslim only after you have converted. So quite a number of these people only discover afterward that actually they have become Muslims. They also realize that the help that is offered is minimal; sometimes it can be reduced to a blanket for example -- though that means quite a lot to somebody in a rural area especially during the cold season -- but then the hope is that by continuously attending the meetings and appearing to be Muslim they might receive more help. So eventually they start learning about becoming a Muslim and they start learning about praying.

When other people, who are not falling for this type of material enticement, start to question their fellow villagers and ask them why they are being led to another religion because of material enticement, to protect their dignity they will start saying that it is not just material enticement, it is because they are convinced. This is to convince those who are questioning and criticizing them that they are in fact serious Muslims. So in the end the whole process can actually lead to a deeper conversion and deeper belief, although there are some people, of course -- those who are only attracted by material interest who -- when they don’t see anything coming their way anymore, they leave. So it is a way of testing.

Q: What is the response of Christians in Zambia? Some African countries have witnessed clashes between Muslims and Christians. Are they concerned?

Father Phili: What has happened so far is mostly more visibility of an already existing community. There has been a long history of coexistence. Many of such types of fears would come more from what is happening elsewhere than what is happening locally because the types of Muslims that most people are acquainted with are distant family members [...] so there is no immediate fear of the Muslims in the country and how they are developing. There is, however, an uneasy association with forms of extremism being experienced elsewhere. In a sense, the Christian community, the Catholic Church in particular, has expressed caution saying that Islam is becoming visible and is growing. What is striking, however, and I think much of it is based on a kind of … I don’t know if I call it prejudice … at the same time that a few mosques have been built around the country, the Jehovah Witnesses have built four times as many Kingdom Halls and that doesn’t seem to disturb anybody, partly because I think they are understood to be on the Christians' side.

Q: How is the Catholic Church trying to work with Muslims?

Father Phili: There have been a few efforts here and there to reach out to the Muslim community. As far as the local Muslim communities themselves, some of them are very open to reaching out to the Christian and to the Catholic Church in particular, but at the moment there are no real permanent structures or means of coordinating a close collaboration between the two communities.

Q: The challenge is that both are missionary communities. Where do we see this going? How do we come together to avoid a potential crisis?

Father Phili: I still feel that within the Muslim community there are changes taking place, especially within the Zambian context, where Christian converts have links with Christians, so that in itself helps to have a more moderate attitude toward the Christians and it is actually these converts who are very helpful in making these bridges.

Q: What was the effect of the Pope’s Regensburg address on this whole question? The Holy Father was criticized, but in the end some Muslim scholars wrote a common letter requesting dialogue. How important was this?

Father Phili: The dialogue came mainly as an aftermath of the Muslim reaction and the initiative that was taken by the 38 and then the 138 Muslim scholars and religious leaders; that step in itself tried to separate itself from the more or less mainstream reaction to the Pope’s speech. So, in a sense that gave a lot of hope within the Muslim community: people who are willing to have a different approach from what is generally experienced in extremist groups. I think, these are the people who need encouragement from non-Muslims because they put themselves on the line, because there are people who do not think like them and who criticize them for responding positively to a non-Muslim call for either dialogue or a review of a certain way of being in today’s world, for Islam in particular.

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This interview was conducted by Mark Riedemann for “Where God Weeps," a weekly TV & radio show produced by Catholic Radio & Television Network in conjunction with the international Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Today's Inspirational Quote:

"You learn something every day if you pay attention."

-- Ray LeBlond
Today's Inspirational Quote:

"Before you can win, you have to believe you are worthy."

-- Mike Ditka