PONTIFF MEETS MUSLIM LEADERS
JOHN THAVIS, CNS
MEETING Muslims from Cameroon last week Benedict XVI said that Christians and Muslims need to cooperate in Africa to defend traditional values and reject all forms of violence.
The Pope’s brief talk on Thursday, March 19, offered a capsule version of his take on interreligious dialogue, which he said should join believers in a defence of religious faith as “reasonable” and as the foundation of any truly human civilisation.
Muslims represent about 22 per cent of Cameroon’s population while Christians make up about 44 per cent, and Christian-Muslim relations are generally quite good. In his talk the Pope noted that members of both faiths live, work and worship in the same neighbourhoods.
“Both believe in one, merciful God who on the last day will judge mankind. Together they bear witness to the fundamental values of family, social responsibility, obedience to God’s law and loving concern for the sick and suffering,” he said.
The urgent task for believers today, he said, is to “unveil the vast potential of human reason, which is itself God’s gift and which is elevated by revelation and faith”.
“Belief in the one God, far from stunting our capacity to understand ourselves and the world, broadens it. Far from setting us against the world, it commits us to it,” he said.
It is important for believers, he said, to remind the world that “what is ‘reasonable’ extends far beyond what mathematics can calculate, logic can deduce and scientific experimentation can demonstrate; it includes the goodness and innate attractiveness of upright and ethical living made known to us in the very language of creation”.
When believers step outside the sphere of selfinterest and act for the good of others, he said, it shows the world that genuine religion widens human understanding and “stands at the base of any authentically human culture”.
“It rejects all forms of violence and totalitarianism: not only on principles of faith, but also of right reason,” he said.
The Vatican spokesman, Jesuit Fr Federico Lombardi, said the climate of the encounter was very cordial and friendly, and that the 22 Muslims leaders – two more than scheduled – greeted the Pope warmly and thanked him for his comments.
The Pope told the group that he hoped ChristianMuslim co-operation in Cameroon would serve as a beacon to other African nations.
African Church officials emphasised that in most African countries dialogue between Christians and Muslims has advanced in recent years.
But they are worried about sporadic outbreaks of violence.
In Nigeria, which borders Cameroon, attacks between groups of Christians and Muslims have left hundreds dead in recent months, although Church leaders have emphasised that the violence has been primarily political and not religious.