The fact that people are forced to adhere to a certain religion or culture must be rejected
Dr. Okoth Josue
Allow me space to comment on the recent spiritual trip of Pope Francis to the United Arab Emirates. The Pope was invited by the Crown Prince, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates as part of its 2019 Year of Tolerance activities.
The visit was characterized by several spiritual activities including interfaith dialogue and Holy Mass celebrated by the Pope at Abu Dhabi ground. On his return to Vatican, the Pope said, "We affirmed Peace, Human Dignity and denouncing all violence, especially in the name of Religion". This was a welcome gesture by UAE and I believe that these two giant religions can make this world a peaceful place to live in.
Zenit News Agency quoted Pope Francis on his flight back to Rome to have said, "If believers (in God) are not able to give each other a hand and hung each other, our faith will be defeated …and he said Christianity and Islam are brothers and sisters".
The Holy Father and the Great Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmad Al-Tayyib signed a document on "Human Fraternity for world peace and living together". The Pope said himself and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar had a lot of reflections and prayer to produce this document. The choice of the Gospel at the Holy Mass was from Matthew 5: 1-12, (the Beatitudes) where Jesus taught about the peacemakers, among other things, they will see God. It can be summarized that those who are tolerant will see God.
Generally, what is in this document? The document states that Faith leads a believer to see in the other a brother or a sister to be supported and loved. Through faith in God, who has created the universe, creatures, and all human beings (equal on account of His mercy), believers are called to express this human fraternity by safeguarding creation and entire universe and support all persons, especially the poorest and those in need.
The document addresses human rights, duties and dignity in realizing goodness, love and peace; killing in the name of religion; the poor, the destitute and the marginalized in need among others. The document calls upon leaders of all categories, the architects of international policy and world economy, to work strenuously to spread the culture of tolerance and of living together in peace.
The document stresses that pluralism and diversity of religions, colour, sex, race, and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings. This divine wisdom is the source from which the right to freedom of belief and the freedom to be different derives.
Therefore, the document states, the fact that people are forced to adhere to a certain religion or culture must be rejected, as too the imposition of a cultural way of life that others do not accept…Every attempt to attack places of worship or threaten them by violent assaults, bombing or destruction, is a deviation from the teachings of religions as well as a clear violation of international law. Al-Azhar and Catholic
Church ask that this document become the object of research and reflection in all schools, universities, and institutes of formation, thus helping to educate new generations to bring goodness and peace to other…
My prayer is that let these good words from our spiritual leaders not end up as theories at the top; these resolutions must be practiced by the adherents who need to socialize and harmonize more at the community level. I once thought that there was little in common between Christianity and Islam.
After reading the Quran, I feel that Christians should read it and Moslems should also read the Bible without fear of conversion; conversion is God's will and we have no control over it. The United Arab Emirates renamed the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, ‘Mary, Mother of Jesus'. This demonstrates that the country is serious about tolerance. The Quran gives honour to Mary Mother of Jesus. "And We caused Jesus, son of Mary, to follow in their footsteps, confirming that which was (revealed) before him in the Torah, and We bestowed on him the Gospel wherein is guidance and a light, confirming that which was (revealed) before it in the Torah - a guidance and an admonition unto those who ward off (evil)" (Sura 5:46).
The whole of Sura 19 is dedicated to Mary. When you read Quran you get a lot of Christianity and Judaism in it: The Qur'an teaches that Allah Himself sent the Law (of Moses) and the Gospels: "It is He Who sent down to thee (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the criterion (of judgment between right and wrong)" (Sura 3:3). Quran confirms what went before: God said in Quran, Sura 42:13 "He hath ordained for you that religion which He commended unto Noah, and that which We inspire in thee (Muhammad), and that which We commended unto Abraham and Moses and Jesus, saying: Establish the religion, and be not divided therein…" I
n Sura 10:37 the Quran confirms what was before it; and an exposition of that which is decreed for mankind - Therein is no doubt - from the Lord of the Worlds." Sura 3:84; 2:136 say, "We believe in Allah" and what has been revealed by the forefathers "we make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered." Sura 3.3-4 warns "…Lo! Those who disbelieve the revelations of Allah, theirs will be a heavy doom. Allah is Mighty, Able to Requite the wrong." God therefore through Prophet Muhammad confirms the genuinity of Torah and Gospel.
Allah warned in Sura 10: 94-5, "And if thou (Muhammad) art in doubt concerning that which We revealed unto thee, then question those who read the Scripture (that was) before thee. Verify the Truth from the Lord hath come unto thee. So be not thou of the waverers: And be not thou of those who deny the revelations of Allah, for then wert thou of the losers."
So the Qur'an's teachings overwhelmingly support the importance of the Bible and permits Muslims to read and learn from it.
*(Quotes are from Quran, English Translation by Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall, Darul-Ishaat, Karachi-Pakistan version)
Writer is a concerned Christian and citizen