Bishop calls for Muslim-Christian solidarity as war looms

 The Rt Reverend Kevin McDonald, Catholic Bishop of Northampton and chairman of the Church's Committee on other faiths, has called for Muslims and Christians to build positive dialogue and co-operation. Echoing the Holy Father's calls for solidarity between the two faith groups he said: "As the terrible threat of war with Iraq continues to loom on the horizon it is vital that we address the very damaging consequences that such a war could have on Christian-Muslim relations, both in the Middle East and throughout the world. "Happily there are inter-faith councils and networks throughout the country which are working hard to build up bonds of friendship and solidarity between Christians and Muslims. For the Catholic community it is timely to remind ourselves that we have several decades of teaching and of dialogue which we can draw on as we face the present crisis. "Pope John Paul, while being very clear about the differences between Christianity and other religions, has always spoken respectfully of Islam as one of the three great monotheistic faiths. In his addresses to Muslims, he has sought to stress the things we share and to build up a spirit of solidarity and mutual respect. This goes back to the early years of his pontificate as exemplified in his address in Davao in the Phillippines in 1981 in which he said: "'It is especially gratifying to witness how the bonds which unite all those who believe in God have been strengthened in recent years. I am thinking in a particular way of the bonds of dialogue and trust which have been forged between the Catholic Church and Islam. By means of dialogue we have come to see more clearly the many values, practices and teachings which both our religious traditions embrace: for example, our belief in the one almighty and merciful God, the Creator of heaven and earth, and the importance which we give to prayer, almsgiving and fasting. I pray that this mutual understanding and respect between Christians and Muslims, and indeed between all religions, will continue and grow deeper, and that we will find still better ways of co-operation and collaboration for the good of all.' "In this address, the Holy Father stressed the importance of dialogue. "A spirit of dialogue is integral to being Christian and Christians should not be slow to take the initiative in outreach to Muslims at local level, building up friendship by stressing what we share. It is timely also to remember that each year the President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue sends a letter of greeting to the Muslim community for the end of Ramadan. It is published in English and in Arabic and in some places priests or members of the Catholic community have delivered the message personally to their local mosque. So reaching out to our Muslim brothers and sisters is not a sudden reaction to a potential crisis. It is the continuing and deepening of a process that has been developing in the life of the Church for many years, but whose significance is now assuming new urgency." Source: CCS

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