The 40th Vatican Message in Ramadan

The 40th Vatican Message in Ramadan

By Fr. Rif'at Bader

Marking the advent of the month of Ramadan and the upcoming celebration of ‘Id Al-Fitr, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue issued its annual message to the Muslims of the world titled, "Christians and Muslims: From Competition to Collaboration". The message starts with “Dear Muslim brothers and sisters”, which reflects a change in the way the message is addressed for since 1978, namely 40 years ago, it did not refer to the addressee. Later, it became, “Friendly Muslims”. The change in the way the message was addressed today is that the Muslims are brethren of their Christians in the world. This brotherhood is sincere and noble as we all worship one God, and share in serving humanity.

Four decades ago, the message had been issued by Cardinal Sergio Benodelli, president of the Pontifical Council “for non-Muslims”, as it was called until 1988, at a time when Pope John Paul II changed the name into the “Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue”. It was the first message issued during the papacy of Pope Paul VI, before he passed away, who visited Jordan at the outset of his visit to the Holy Land in 1964. He is expected to be canonized next October to be the second saint to visit our blessed land after Pope John Paul II.

The highlights of this year’s message are worthy to consider, namely: "Christians and Muslims: From Competition to Collaboration". The message says: “A spirit of competition has too often marked past relations between Christians and Muslims, the negative consequences of which are evident: jealousy, recriminations and tensions. In some cases, these have led to violent confrontations, especially where religion has been instrumentalized, above all due to self-interest and political motives.” The message, signed by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran--who is suffering from Parkinson disease where his last visit was to Saudi Arabia last month, accompanied by his Jordanian assistant Fr. Khaled Akasheh, included signing a cooperation document with the Muslim World League--makes us ponder the negative impact of the aforementioned competition on the image of religions and their followers. This reinforces the notion that "it is not a source of peace, but rather a cause for tension and violence."

In order to forestall these negative effects, this year’s message, which was issued on the first week of Ramadan, highlights the religious and moral values we share without ignoring the fact that we have differences. While recognizing what we share and show respect for our legitimate differences, we can more firmly entrench a solid basis for peaceful relations and move from competition and confrontation on the one hand to effective cooperation for the common good on the other. This is useful especially for the needy, and we can all provide a credible testimony to God's love for all mankind.

In this blessed month, there are several joint initiatives undertaken by Muslim or Christian charities for the poor and the needy, which are the most impressive images on the transition from competition to cooperation. A young man named Mohammed Qarala has launched a campaign called “the Path of Goodness". This was an individual initiative that has turned into convoys of goodness that proceed from one governorate to the other extending smiles associated with parcels of goodness. On the other hand, Caritas Jordan continues to offer daily meals for free at the Restaurant of Mercy at iftar time with love and appreciation to all those who knock on the door seeking food. Those who come to the Restaurant of Mercy are not confined to poor and needy families for there are teams of volunteering people from various parts of the society who come to help prepare the food and present it with gestures of love. This is reminiscent of a noble sheikh who pulled over days ago and made an offering to a restaurant on condition of anonymity. His good deed of goodness in this month is the best positive reaction to the Vatican message this year.

The message says, “So that we may further peaceful and fraternal relations, let us work together and honor each another. In this way we will give glory to the Almighty and promote harmony in society, which is becoming increasingly multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural.”

Happy Ramadan

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