Blog di FORMAZIONE PERMANENTE MISSIONARIA – Uno sguardo missionario sulla Vita, il Mondo e la Chiesa MISSIONARY ONGOING FORMATION – A missionary look on the life of the world and the church
(vaticaninsider, Francesco Peloso, 16/11/2015) In the last quarter century, since the fall of the Berlin Wall redrew the map of the world, the Holy See was the only global institution that firmly and clearly opposed the so-called clash of civilisations. Many in the West and the Middle East sought this clash of civilisations due to economic, territorial and political interests. The magisterium of three Popes – John Paul II, Benedict XVI and now Francis – tried to halt the spread of conflict and above all the spread of mistrust, hatred, division between people and religions, identity and cultural clashes. This is why in recent decades the Roman Catholic Church and St. Peter’s Square itself have become the symbol of reason, champions of dialogue even when everything seemed lost, a reference point for believers and non-believers alike, who refused to succumb to violence.
John Paul II had seen the risks he was up against and this is why he promoted the interreligious meetings in Assisi and a tough dialogue with interlocutors who were very different. “Do not kill in the name of God”, all three Popes repeated. “It is blasphemy to use God’s name to justify violence,” Francis said at this Sunday’s Angelus. The attempt to keep dialogue between the great religious traditions of “the Book” alive, the visits to Jerusalem, Istanbul, Lebanon and Jordan, the ecumenical encounters and the meetings with religious authorities, including Jewish and Muslim authorities representing different Islamic currents, a diplomatic approach that is attentive to its relations with Teheran, Moscow, Washington and Riyadh, are just some of the instruments employed by the Holy See in these complex years.
The dramatic words pronounced by John Paul II as the world was plummeting into the 2003 Iraq war – the effects of which can still be felt – remain ingrained in people’s minds.” He said: “you will answer to God and to history”. Then there was Benedict XVI’s moment of prayer in Istanbul’s Blue Mosque which surprised the world.
A prophetic and undoubtedly also political and diplomatic approach rooted in the Second Vatican Council, in documents such as “Nostra Aetate”, with which the Church expressed its openness to dialogue and conversation with other faiths, combining this choice with the “signs of the times”, with that modernity which, in the mid 60s, was already so global that it could not be rejected and condemned a priori.
In his Apostolic Exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium”, published in 2013, Pope Francis speaks of the need to engage in dialogue with Islam, he stresses the need for religious freedom in Muslim countries and highlights the common roots of the two religions. “Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalizations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Quran are opposed to every form of violence,” he observed.
But, the risk at the moment, is precisely this: that hatred, frustration and fear lead to rejection of the other, even in a Europe where millions of Muslims have been living peacefully for years. Walls are not the solution, Francis repeated during his visit to the Lutheran Church of Rome on Sunday. Indeed, if these walls spring up in our cities, harmonious co-existence, peace and freedom will be at risk.
In this time, one definitely senses the lack of a reformatory Islam. Its voice is drowned out by bloodshed. And yet, the public gestures of prayer initiated by the Imams of Europe’s Muslim communities for the victims of the Paris attacks and against terrorist violence, have multiplied in recent days, perhaps more than ever before. Many of them took part in the solidarity demonstrations in the streets and squares of European cities.
The history of the past 25 years has been marked by regional conflicts with global consequences, where the religious factor has often been key, sometimes indirectly but always evoked on the ground. The conflict, war and suffering among people have led first and foremost to the marginalisation and killing of reforming Islamic leaders in Muslim countries.
Recent history has been marked by an uninterrupted series of wars. In1990-1991 the first Gulf war broke out (sparked by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, under Saddam Hussein), these were the years in which Washington was thinking about a “new world order”; then came the Balkan wars which spanned 1991 through to 1995, involving Serbia, Bosnia, Kosovo, Croatia and later Macedonia.
Meanwhile, the Chechen war – which came in two rounds, from 1994 to 1996 and then from 1999 to 2009 – raged in the East. Chechnya lost its independence to Putin. In 2001 the world witnessed the Twin Tower attacks (though the World Trade Centre had already been the target of a failed attack in 1993). Then came the invasion of Afghanistan in 2002 and in 2003 the second and more scandalous Iraq campaign unfolded: Baghdad and the Saddam Hussein regime fell and an ongoing civil conflict began.
Islamist terrorism hit Europe on 11 March 2004, when Madrid Atocha railway station was attacked, leaving 191 people dead and more than 2000 injured. In 2005, it was the London underground’s turn: 54 were killed and hundreds injured. Bombs went off in Asia and Africa, in various premises and embassies and car bombs devastated Iraq, claiming the lives of thousands. Then, between the 2010 and 2011, the “Arab Spring” revolts spread through the Middle East: street revolts in which for the first time, entire sections of Middle Eastern societies were claiming freedoms, rights, social equality and the separation of the civil and religious spheres. But soon enough, radical or conservative Islamist currents infiltrated these movements, with the aim of altering the meaning of the protests, dominating them.
The battle ended up being between autocracies, dictatorships and fundamentalism, civil society and modern Islam were crushed, the leaders of Tahrir Square (in Cairo) were put behind bars or forced to flee. Syria was no exception: from the initial bloody demonstrations against Bashar al-Assad’s single-party regime which were stifled, to an extremely violent civil conflict. The war led to the birth of the violent and oppressive Islamic State which attracted combatants from all across the world.
Meanwhile, Gaddafi’s Libya was falling to pieces, partly thanks to the French-American military intervention.
Lebanon entered a crisis it is struggling to come out of and Sunni and Shia Islamist militia took over.
Millions of Syrian refugees flooded the Middle East, bombings killed civilians without distinction and Europe was eventually involved in the conflict.
In January 2015, the offices of Charlie Hebdo came under attack and on 13 November the Paris attacks followed. Islamic radicalism permeates many of the above-mentioned events and is mixed in with nationalism and economic and territorial interests.
The message of the Church has perhaps been one of the few sources of light for a world that has been hopelessly falling to pieces, with religious, ethnic and political persecution becoming the norm. Today, the Christian principles that stemmed from the Council are perhaps one of the few cultural, human and collective resources acting as a support to prevent not only our civilization but civilization as a whole from collapsing.