U.S. Catholic bishops call for dialogue with Muslims, while Iraqi Christians call for action

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs reaffirmed a commitment to dialogue with Muslims despite systematic human rights abuses committed by Muslims terrorist groups such as the Islamic State, al-Qaeda, Boko Haram, and the Islamic State against Christians, and members of certain minority groups such as the Yezidis in Iraq. In some cases, opposing Muslim sects have engaged in terrorist acts against each other, as in the case of the murder and summary execution of Iraqi soldiers, especially Shiite Muslims, by the Sunni-Muslim dominated Islamic State. Besides the Mideast, Christians are persecuted in Muslim-dominated countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan.
 
The USCCB committee cited texts and statements from the Second Vatican Council of the 1960s, and Pope John Paul II, on dialogue with Islam. The committee wrote that “sadly, in recent years, there has been a deliberate rejection of this call to engage in dialogue with our Muslim brothers and sisters by some in the Catholic Church and in other ecclesial families.” 
 
Bishops of the Catholic and Orthodox churches in the region affected have called for action, rather than more words, from the West and Muslim countries. For example, Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako wrote recently, "The international community, principally the United States and European Union due to their moral and historic responsibility towards Iraq, cannot be indifferent. While acknowledging all that is being done to solve this crisis, it seems that the decisions and actions undertaken until now have made no real change in the course of events and the fate of the these affected people is still at stake, as if these people are not part of the human race! "
 
He continued, "The same is true with regard to the Muslim community, whose statements about the barbaric acts in the name of their religion practiced against the life, dignity and freedom of Christians were not according to our expectation, knowing that Christians have contributed and fought for this country, living in partnership with their Muslim brothers alongside the Islamic civilization." 
 
As for the Catholic bishops of the United States, they wrote, "We understand the confusion and deep emotions stirred by real and apparent acts of aggression and discrimination by certain Muslims against non-Muslims, often against Christians abroad. We, and increasingly our Muslim partners in dialogue, are concerned about these very real phenomena. Along with many of our fellow Catholics and the many Muslims who themselves are targeted by radicals, we wish to voice our sadness, indeed our outrage, over the random and sometimes systematic acts of violence and harassment—acts that for both Christians and Muslims threaten and disrupt the harmony that binds us together in mutual support, recognition, and friendship." 
 
Continuing along the lines of dialogue, the American Catholic bishops wrote, "Still, it is our belief that the most efficient way to work toward ending or at least curtailing such violence and prejudice is through building networks of dialogue that can overcome ignorance, extremism, and discrimination and so lead to friendship and trust with Muslims."
 
 “We affirm with [Pope Francis] that ‘dialogue does not mean renouncing one's own identity’ nor accepting compromises on ‘Christian faith and morals,’” the bishops added. “Like the pope, we are convinced that the encounter and dialogue with persons different than ourselves offers the best opportunity for fraternal growth, enrichment, witness, and ultimately peace.”


Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

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