Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Saudi-Catholic Relations and Reason to Hope
Muslim-Christian dialogue and relations is of critical importance to everyone. The political situation around the globe is often described in terms of a cultural war when in fact we are often observing the attacks of militants and fanatics and then the reactions of those attacked. That is not cultural war but it could become a cultural war.
That is why “A Common Word Between Us and You” proposed by 138 Islamic clerics, national leaders and scholars is so important. That is why bridge building between individuals is so important. That is why what is happening between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Vatican is so important.
King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz has called for a conference between Muslims, Jews and Christians. The purpose of the conference is to protect humanity from stumbling into a cultural war that could be devastating.
True interfaith dialogue does not minimize real differences between the faiths. That is exactly what the king is calling for, a conference in his kingdom in which his delegates would be true to the tenets and moral guidelines of Islam. Jewish and Christian delegates would be expected to be true t their tenets. The Pope has also called for dialogue in which each faith recognizes their very real differences and yet also respect and love one another. The king’s goal is to develop the ground work for an agreement on ethical and social considerations. If such an agreement is realized he proposes presenting it to the United Nations. The call for the conference has been viewed favorably by members of Islam, Judaism and Christianity.
Words without action however are just sound waves. This is action. The Vatican and the kingdom are negotiating the construction of the first Catholic Church in Saudi Arabia. It would serve the many Catholic foreign workers in the kingdom. The kingdom is the only nation in the peninsula without a Catholic Church. There are over 800,000 Catholics currently residing as temporary workers in the kingdom. This is a major development and concession by the king.
The two nations, Saudi Arabia and the Vatican do not have formal diplomatic ties. That has not stopped either from increasing dialogue. This has included a visit by the king to the Pope in the Vatican last year.
Each new massacre, each new martyr, each new over-reaction each day brings us all closer to the brink of a cultural war between fanatical Islam and the secular West. These two men are working to give the world respite, time to pause, think and perhaps find a new way for brothers and sisters to treat one another.
Saudi King Visits the Pope