'Christians and Muslims: Protecting Together the Places of Worship'

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'Christians and Muslims: Protecting Together the Places of Worship'

By Fr. Dr. Rif'at Bader

A few days ago, the Ramadan message, which the Vatican issues regularly every year on behalf of the Catholic Church worldwide to the Muslim Brethren through the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, deals with a common topic between the followers of the two religions. This year's message was titled,"Christians and Muslims: Protecting Together the Places of Worship".

The message sent by president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot drew the attention that places of worship occupy an important place in Christianity and Islam. For both Christians and Muslims, churches and mosques are spaces reserved for prayer, personal and communitarian alike. They are constructed and furnished in a way that favors silence, reflection and meditation. They are spaces where one can go deep in oneself, so favoring for God-experience in silence.

The message pointed out that places of worship are also spaces for spiritual hospitality, where believers of other religions also join for some special ceremonies like weddings, funerals, feasts of the community, and the like. While they participate in the events in silence and with due respect to the religious observances of the believers of that particular religion, they also savour the hospitality accorded to them. Such practice is a privileged witness to what unites believers, without diminishing or denying what distinguishes them.

In the context of recent attacks on worship places by wicked persons who seem to perceive the places of worship as a privileged target for their blind and senseless violence, the message stresses that the Document on "Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together", signed by Pope Francis and Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Dr. Ahmad Al-Tayyeb in Abu Dhabi, on 4 February 2019, states: "The protection of places of worship is a duty guaranteed by religions, human values, laws and international agreements. Every attempt to attack places of worship or threaten them by violent assaults, bombings or destruction, is a deviation from the teachings of religions as well as a clear violation of international law".

The Vatican message for the month of Ramadan 2020 concluded by hoping that the mutual esteem, respect and cooperation of followers of religions would help strengthen the bonds of sincere friendship, and enable their communities to safeguard the places of worship so as to assure for the coming generations the fundamental freedom to profess one's own beliefs.

Consequently, as we present the Ramadan well-wishes for this year by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue to the Muslim Brethren worldwide, we implore the Lord to have the prayers, said at Christian and Muslim homes these days, contribute to ending the current crisis faced by all the inhabitants of the world which is caused by Coronavirus. We, Muslims and Christians, are called upon to show more solidarity and conduct further prayers so that the Almighty Lord would eliminate this pandemic, so as to have humanity enjoy days of happiness and good health.

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