SASKATOON — A concluding reflection on Christian-Islamic relations by Rev. Bernard de Margerie was presented at the final session of “A Christian Study of Islam: An Introduction” Nov. 15 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon.
“I want to remind us of (finding) a pathway for Christians to approach our Muslim brothers and sisters and Islam in a way blessed by God,” said de Margerie, reviewing the goals for the well-attended Christian Study of Islam series. “In mulling this over, we also listened to adherents of the Islamic faith and we learned a lot — but all of this was introduction.”
He acknowledged that not everyone’s questions about Islam have been answered, saying, “That is the shortcoming of trying to do too much in five evenings.”
Reflecting on the purpose of inter-faith dialogue, de Margerie said that the first call offered to Christians is to seize their own faith and live their commitment to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ in a deeper way.
“The main reason for Christians to get to know and approach people of other religions is to give greater glory to God,” he stressed. “We give greater glory to God when we become aware of — and grateful for — the grace and good he accomplishes in people of other religions.”
Not every Christian is called to inter-religious engagement or dialogue, de Margerie said. “However, some will be called in the name of our faith, which holds that God loves everyone on earth.
“We say ‘in and through Jesus’ — that is our faith — but we must not live so hermetically sealed in the Christian silo and the Muslim silo that we never learn to see and give thanks to Almighty God, to Allah, for the good that is done in other religions. That is what Vatican II says: there are ‘rays of the gospel’ in other religions.”
According to the teaching of the church, members of the Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths worship the same God, though there are major differences, he said. “It is true that our Muslim brothers and sisters don’t recognize the divinity of Jesus. For us, that is a major tenet of faith. Our Jewish brothers and sisters also do not recognize the divinity of Jesus, but they are part of our roots.”
After 50 years of ecumenical dialogue between Christians there are still fears about Christians of different traditions praying together, let alone praying with those of different faiths, he said.
“But if we worship the same God, surely that should draw us together. This is not to change our religion. The key to authentic inter-religious prayer is a sense of being rooted in one’s own tradition and openness to the workings of the Spirit in other traditions.”
Vatican II teachings express the conviction that the Holy Spirit and grace are at work in the hearts of all human beings of all generations, opening up for them access to salvation in Christ, de Margerie noted.
“In the Catholic Church, recent popes have opened new pathways of spiritual awareness, of faith and hope, relating Christians to sisters and brothers of other religions, including Islam.”
He cited the words of St. John Paul II, who said in 1979: “I cannot help thinking that it is urgent, especially today, when Christians and Muslims have entered into a new phase of history, to recognize and develop the spiritual bonds that unite them. As Christians we are invited to pray that we may learn to interact and live with each other in the manner the Holy Spirit wants to lead us.”
Some Christians will be called to explore praying together, said de Margerie — not just for Muslims, but with Muslims.
De Margerie encouraged Christians to build friendships with Muslims: “Seek social justice, reconciliation, peace, and genuine human development together.”
As for “all the heavy, negative stuff” — such as terrorism and violence, western frustrations and apprehensions about huge migrations and stereotyping on both sides — de Margerie said: “All this calls for, on the part of Christians, responses that are truly shaped and influenced by Christian faith, hope and love.”