In the previous parts of our study, we have clearly observed that peace is a work of justice and a fruit of charity. It results from the practice of what is good, which is taught by the natural and divine law and accomplished with the help of grace. We now arrive at the point where we might ask – especially considering the declarations of Francis that we are analyzing: Is peace possible in Islam without the concept of an objective good or the natural law and above all without the indispensable aid of supernatural grace?
As we have seen in another study (On whether Allah is the same as God), in Islam goodness and the law are absolutely conditioned to Allah’s will – and he may change as he pleases, or even contradict himself! Neither is it possible to speak of an objective and immutable Natural Law that is accepted by Muslims; and, consequently, even less of an objective good or justice. The licit (halal) or the illicit (be it detestable, makruh, or emphatically prohibited, haram) depend upon the – often unreasonable – will of Allah, the Legislator, who is so transcendante that he is above all human categories (even what humans consider the most basic logic or morality): ‘Allah orders what He desires’. (Koran 5.2) ‘(High is He) above what they attribute to Him’ (Koran 21.22)!
Further, Muslims do not take into account what we call ‘human nature’ as a point of reference, nor even a rational good. Rather, man and his goodness are according to the teachings of the Koran, and depend on the caprice of Allah. And, as he taught that the unfaithful, ‘the idolaters are nothing but unclean’ (Koran 9. 28), ‘the vilest animals in Allah’s sight’ (Koran 8.55; 98. 6), as animals they ‘have no sense’ (Koran 8.22) – there is no way of considering humans as beings in Allah’s likeness.
Most importantly, as Muslims do not possess grace, they are incapable of steadily practicing justice or charity – and consequently, they do not have true peace.
Teachings of the Magisterium
A – Islam systematically violates the Natural Law in diverse manners
Within Muslim society, family customs are far from fulfilling the natural law, for they include polygamy (Koran 4.3; 33. 49-52) – ‘that they should be pleased, all of them with what you give them, and Allah knows what is in your hearts’ (Koran 33.52) –divorce (Koran 2. 230), the juridical inferiority of the woman (Koran 2, 282; 4, 11), or the duty of the husband to strike those of his women he fears may rebel: ‘these are the limits of Allah’ (Koran 2: 230). Lies and falsity are thus normal toward non-Muslims; for the takyia orders that the alliances with them be made in a manner that Muslims ‘guard yourselves against them’ (Koran 3. 28). And no differences or spiritual liberty is tolerated, because for the non-Muslims the Koran teaches that ‘we declare ourselves to be clear of you, and enmity and hatred have appeared between us and you forever until you believe in Allah alone’ (Koran 60.4). Social pressure, coercion and denunciation of those who do not submit to the laws of Islam are ways in which respect as citizens of Islamic society is denied to unbelievers by those among whom they may live; and they can only continue alive if they pay a tax (jyzaia) for the right of survival, and entirely live in subjection: ‘Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Messenger have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection’ (Koran 9. 29). These are the laws that rule Islamic national and even international relations, when they migrate to other countries and wish to impose their laws.
Forced concord, by fear, is not really peace
For if one man concord with another, not of his own accord, but through being forced, as it were, by the fear of some evil that besets him, such concord is not really peace, because the order of each concordant is not observed, but is disturbed by some fear-inspiring cause. For this reason he premises that ‘peace is tranquillity of order,’ which tranquillity consists in all the appetitive movements in one man being set at rest together. (Saint Thomas Aquinas. Summa Theologica, II-II, q. 29, a. 1, ad 1)
Relations between States must be regulated by the principle of freedom
Furthermore, relations between States must be regulated by the principle of freedom. This means that no country has the right to take any action that would constitute an unjust oppression of other countries, or an unwarranted interference in their affairs. (John XXIII. Encyclical Pacem in terris, no. 120, April 11, 1963)
In the field of a new order founded over moral principles there is no place for the persecution of religion and of the Church
We consequently make use of our right, or better said, we fulfill our duty, when today, on Christmas Eve – divine aurora of hope and peace for the world – with the authority of our apostolic ministry and the ardent stimulus of our heart, we once again call attention and the consideration of the entire universe regarding the dangers that undermine and threaten a peace, which may be the firm basis of a truly new order and replies to the hope and the desires of all people for a more tranquil future. […] In the field of a new order founded over moral principles there is no place for the injury of liberty, the integrity and the security of other nations, regardless of its territorial extension or its defensive capacity. […] In the field of a new order founded over moral principles there is no place for the persecution of religion and of the Church. From a living faith in a personal and transcendent God there necessarily arises a forthright and resistant moral energy that informs the entire course of life; because faith is not only a virtue, but the divine door through which all of the virtues enter into the temple of the soul, and form that strong and tenacious character that never vacillates in the foundations of reason and justice. (Pius XII. Radio message for Christmas, no. 16.19.25, December 24, 1941)
Any authentic search for peace must begin with the realization that the problem of truth and untruth is the concern of every man and woman
Who and what, then, can prevent the coming of peace? Sacred Scripture, in its very first book, Genesis, points to the lie told at the very beginning of history by the animal with a forked tongue, whom the Evangelist John calls ‘the father of lies’ (Jn 8:44). Lying is also one of the sins spoken of in the final chapter of the last book of the Bible, Revelation, which bars liars from the heavenly Jerusalem: ‘outside are… all who love falsehood’ (Jn 22:15). Lying is linked to the tragedy of sin and its perverse consequences, which have had, and continue to have, devastating effects on the lives of individuals and nations. […] Any authentic search for peace must begin with the realization that the problem of truth and untruth is the concern of every man and woman; it is decisive for the peaceful future of our planet. (Benedict XVI. Message for the celebration of the XXXIX World Day of Peace, January 1, 2006)
A fundamental presupposition for authentic peace: respect for the Natural Law– to carry out the divine plan inscribed in the nature of human beings
From this standpoint, the norms of the natural law should not be viewed as externally imposed decrees, as restraints upon human freedom. Rather, they should be welcomed as a call to carry out faithfully the universal divine plan inscribed in the nature of human beings. Guided by these norms, all peoples – within their respective cultures – can draw near to the greatest mystery, which is the mystery of God. Today too, recognition and respect for natural law represents the foundation for a dialogue between the followers of the different religions and between believers and non-believers. As a great point of convergence, this is also a fundamental presupposition for authentic peace. (Benedict XVI. Message for the celebration of the XL World Day of Peace, January 1, 2007)
2 –Islam may not be compared with the Catholic Church, for just as other religions, Islam does not possess infused grace
Christ established his holy Church through which he communicates truth and grace to all men
The one mediator, Christ, established and ever sustains here on earth his holy Church, the community of faith, hope, and charity, as a visible organization through which he communicates truth and grace to all men. (Lumen Gentium 8 #1) (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 771)
Those who stand firm in the faith remember that they have obtained grace in the Church
The greater and better part of the confessors stand firm in the strength of their faith, and in the truth of the law and discipline of the Lord; neither do they depart from the peace of the Church, who remember that they have obtained grace in the Church by the condescension of God. (Saint Cyprian of Carthage. On the Unity of the Church, no. 22)
Even if some points of doctrine in the Scriptures are found among pagans, they do not possess the power of grace
‘And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that our faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God’ (1Cor 2:4-5). For the word of God declares that the preaching (although in itself true and most worthy of belief) is not sufficient to reach the human heart, unless a certain power be imparted to the speaker from God, and a grace appear upon his words; and it is only by the divine agency that this takes place in those who speak effectually. The prophet says in the sixty-seventh Psalm, that ‘the Lord will give a word with great power to them who preach.’ (Such is the reading of the Septuagint version. The Masoretic text has: ‘The Lord gave a word; of them who published it there was a great host’ (Cf. Ps 68:11). If, then, it should be granted with respect to certain points, that the same doctrines are found among the Greeks as in our own Scriptures, yet they do not possess the same power of attracting and disposing the souls of men to follow them. And therefore the disciples of Jesus, men ignorant so far as regards Grecian philosophy, yet traversed many countries of the world, impressing, agreeably to the desire of the Logos, each one of their hearers according to his deserts, so that they received a moral ameliorationin proportion to the inclination of their will to accept of that which is good. (Origen. Origen Against Cesus, Book VII, Ch. 2)
The Church is necessary for salvation; through baptism men enter it
This Sacred Council wishes to turn its attention firstly to the Catholic faithful. Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism (Cf. Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5) and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church. (Vatican Council II. Dogmatic constitution Lumen gentium, no. 14, November 21, 1964)
Comparing the religion revealed by God with other religions is to pretend agreement between Christ and Belial
You already know well, venerable brothers, the other portentous errors and deceits by which the sons of this world try most bitterly to attack the Catholic religion. […] Also perverse is the shocking theory that it makes no difference to which religion one belongs, a theory which is greatly at variance even with reason. By means of this theory, those crafty men remove all distinction between virtue and vice, truth and error, honorable and vile action. They pretend that men can gain eternal salvation by the practice of any religion, as if there could ever be any sharing between justice and iniquity, any collaboration between light and darkness, or any agreement between Christ and Belial. (Pius IX. Encyclical Qui pluribus, no. 13.14, November 9, 1846)
Those who live separated from the true faith cannot attain eternal life
And here, beloved Sons and Venerable Brothers, We should mention again and censure a very grave error in which some Catholics are unhappily engaged, who believe that men living in error, and separated from the true faith and from Catholic unity, can attain eternal life. Indeed, this is certainly quite contrary to Catholic teaching. (Denzinger-Hünermann 2865. Pius IX. Encyclical Quanto conficiamur moerore, August 10, 1863)
Other communities do not possess the fullness of the Catholic Church
The elements of this already-given Church exist, found in their fullness in the Catholic Church and, without this fullness, in the other Communities. (John Paul II. Encyclical Ut unum sint, no. 14, May 25, 1995)
3 –Documents of the Church testify the non-pacific condition of Islam
The Saracens occupy a great part of Africa, Asia and of Europe, with hatred and opposition to all
“The Lord’s messenger said to her: ‘You are now pregnant and shall bear a son; you shall name him Ishmael, For the Lord has heard you, God has answered you. He shall be a wild ass of a man, his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him; In opposition to all his kin shall he encamp’” (Gen 16: 11-12). This means that his descendents would live in the wilderness, that is, the roaming Saracens, and without fixed settlements, uniting themselves with all of the warring peoples in the dessert, they are combated by all, and this since the beginning. Now, great is their hand against all, and the hands of all against them, for they impose their dominion throughout Africa, occupying even a great part of Asia and of Europe, holding hatred and opposition to all. (Saint Bede the Venerable. Hexameron in principium Genesis, Commentary on Genesis, Book IV: PL 91, 159)
Gaul was laid waste by the Saracens with cruel bloodshed
In the year of our Lord 729, two comets appeared about the sun, to the great terror of the beholders. One of them went before the sun in the morning at his rising, the other followed him when he set in the evening, as it were presaging dire disaster to both east and west; or without doubt one was the forerunner of the day, and the other of the night, to signify that mortals were threatened with calamities at both times. They carried their flaming brands towards the north, as it were ready to kindle a conflagration. They appeared in January, and continued nearly a fortnight. At which time a grievous blight fell upon Gaul, in that it was laid waste by the Saracens with cruel bloodshed; but not long after in that country they received the due reward of their Unbelief. (Saint Bede the Venerable. Ecclesiastical History of England, Book 5, Ch. 23)
A convocation in legitimate defense against the violence of the Muslim occupation: they kill and capture, destroy churches and devastate the empire
For your brethren who live in the east are in urgent need of your help, and you must hasten to give them the aid which has often been promised them. For, as the most of you have heard, the Turks and Arabs have attacked them and have conquered the territory of Romania [the Greek empire] as far west as the shore of the Mediterranean and the Hellespont, which is called the Arm of Saint George. They have occupied more and more of the lands of those Christians, and have overcome them in seven battles. They have killed and captured many, and have destroyed the churches and devastated the empire. (Urban II. Address for the Council of Clermont, 1095)
A barbaric fury has laid waste the churches of God in the regions of the Orient
Your brotherhood, we believe, has long since learned from many accounts that a barbaric fury has deplorably afflicted and laid waste the churches of God in the regions of the Orient. More than this, blasphemous to say, it has even grasped in intolerable servitude its churches and the Holy City of Christ, glorified by His passion and resurrection. Grieving with pious concern at this calamity, we visited the regions of Gaul and devoted ourselves largely to urging the princes of the land and their subjects to free the churches of the East. (Urban II. Letter of instruction to the Crusader in Flanders, December 1095)
The Franciscan rule includes sending religious to evangelize the regions of the Muslims, foreseeing persecutions for the confession of being Christian
Of those who go among the Saracens and the infidels the Lord says: ‘Behold, I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves. Be ye therefore wise as serpents and simple as doves’ (Mt 10:16). Wherefore, whoever of the brothers may wish, by divine inspiration, to go among the Saracens and other infidels, let them go with the permission of their minister and servant. But let the minister give them leave and not refuse them, if he sees they are fit to be sent; he will be held to render an account to the Lord if in this or in other things he acts indiscreetly. The brothers, however, who go may conduct themselves in two ways spiritually among them. One way is not to make disputes or contentions; but let them be ‘subject to every human creature for God’s sake’ (1Pet 2:13), yet confessing themselves to be Christians. The other way is that when they see it is pleasing to God, they announce the Word of God, that they may believe in Almighty God, – Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost, the Creator of all, our Lord the Redeemer and Saviour the Son, and that they should be baptized and be made Christians, because, ‘unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God’ (Jn 3:5). These and other things which please God they may say to them, for the Lord says in the Gospel: ‘Everyone that shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven’ (Mt 10:32); and ‘he that shall be ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man shall be ashamed, when He shall come in His majesty and that of His Father, and of the holy angels’ (Lk 9:26). And let all the brothers, wherever they may be, remember that they have given themselves, and have relinquished their bodies to our Lord Jesus Christ; and for love of Him they ought to expose themselves to enemies both visible and invisible, for the Lord says: ‘Whosoever shall lose his life for My sake, shall save it’ (Mk 8:35; Lk 9:24) in eternal life. ‘Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven’ (Mt 5:10). ‘If they have persecuted Me, they will also persecute you’ (Jn 15:20). If however they should persecute you in one city, flee to another (cf Mt10:23). ‘Blessed are ye when they shall revile you, and persecute you, and speak all that is evil against you, untruly, for My sake’ (Mt 5:11-12). ‘Be glad in that day and rejoice, for your reward is great in heaven’ (Lk 6:23). ‘I say to you, my friends, be not afraid of them who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do’ (Lk 12:4). ‘See that ye are not troubled’ (Mt 24:6). ‘In your patience you shall possess your souls’ (Lk 21:19). ‘But he that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved’ (Mt 10:22). (Saint Francis of Assisi, Writings, Rule of the Friars Minor, Ch. 16)
Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul
I was reminded of all this recently, when I read the edition by Professor Theodore Khoury (Münster) of part of the dialogue carried on – perhaps in 1391 in the winter barracks near Ankara – by the erudite Byzantine emperor Manuel II Paleologus and an educated Persian on the subject of Christianity and Islam, and the truth of both. […] The dialogue ranges widely over the structures of faith contained in the Bible and in the Qur’an, and deals especially with the image of God and of man, while necessarily returning repeatedly to the relationship between – as they were called – three ‘Laws’ or ‘rules of life’: the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qur’an. […] In the seventh conversation (διάλεξις – controversy) edited by Professor Khoury, the emperor touches on the theme of the holy war. The emperor must have known that surah 2, 256 reads: ‘There is no compulsion in religion’. According to some of the experts, this is probably one of the suras of the early period, when Mohammed was still powerless and under threat. But naturally the emperor also knew the instructions, developed later and recorded in the Qur’an, concerning holy war. Without descending to details, such as the difference in treatment accorded to those who have the ‘Book’ and the ‘infidels’, he addresses his interlocutor with a startling brusqueness, a brusqueness that we find unacceptable, on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying: ‘Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.’ The emperor, after having expressed himself so forcefully, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable. Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. ‘God’, he says, ‘is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably (σὺν λόγω) is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats… To convince a reasonable soul, one does not need a strong arm, or weapons of any kind, or any other means of threatening a person with death…’. The decisive statement in this argument against violent conversion is this; not to act in accordance with reason is contrary to God’s nature. The editor, Theodore Khoury, observes: For the emperor, as a Byzantine shaped by Greek philosophy, this statement is self-evident. But for Muslim teaching, God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up with any of our categories, even that of rationality. Here Khoury quotes a work of the noted French Islamist R. Arnaldez, who points out that Ibn Hazm went so far as to state that God is not bound even by his own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Were it God’s will, we would even have to practice idolatry. (Benedict XVI. Address in the University of Regensburg, September 12, 2006)
Sufferings of the Christian community in Iraq
Sadly, the year now ending has again been marked by persecution, discrimination, terrible acts of violence and religious intolerance. My thoughts turn in a special way to the beloved country of Iraq, which continues to be a theatre of violence and strife as it makes its way towards a future of stability and reconciliation. I think of the recent sufferings of the Christian community, and in particular the reprehensible attack on the Syro-Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Baghdad, where on 31 October two priests and over fifty faithful were killed as they gathered for the celebration of Holy Mass. In the days that followed, other attacks ensued, even on private homes, spreading fear within the Christian community and a desire on the part of many to emigrate in search of a better life. I assure them of my own closeness and that of the entire Church, a closeness which found concrete expression in the recent Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops. The Synod encouraged the Catholic communities in Iraq and throughout the Middle East to live in communion and to continue to offer a courageous witness of faith in those lands. (Benedict XVI. Message for the celebration of the XLIV World Day of Peace, no. 1, January 1, 2011)
Numerous conflicts causing bloodshed in our human family, beginning with that privileged region in God’s plan, the Middle East
Consequently, if the glorification of God and earthly peace are closely linked, it seems evident that peace is both God’s gift and a human task, one which demands our free and conscious response. For this reason, I wished my annual Message for the World Day of Peace to bear the title: Blessed are the Peacemakers. Civil and political authorities before all others have a grave responsibility to work for peace. They are the first called to resolve the numerous conflicts causing bloodshed in our human family, beginning with that privileged region in God’s plan, the Middle East. I think first and foremost of Syria, torn apart by endless slaughter and the scene of dreadful suffering among its civilian population. I renew my appeal for a ceasefire and the inauguration as quickly as possible of a constructive dialogue aimed at putting an end to a conflict which will know no victors but only vanquished if it continues, leaving behind it nothing but a field of ruins. Your Excellencies, allow me to ask you to continue to make your Governments aware of this, so that essential aid will urgently be made available to face this grave humanitarian situation. I now turn with deep concern towards the Holy Land. Following Palestine’s recognition as a Non-Member Observer State of the United Nations, I again express the hope that, with the support of the international community, Israelis and Palestinians will commit themselves to peaceful coexistence within the framework of two sovereign states, where respect for justice and the legitimate aspirations of the two peoples will be preserved and guaranteed. Jerusalem, become what your name signifies! A city of peace and not of division; a prophecy of the Kingdom of God and not a byword for instability and opposition!
As I turn my thoughts towards the beloved Iraqi people, I express my hope that they will pursue the path of reconciliation in order to arrive at the stability for which they long.
In Lebanon, where last September I met the various groups which make up society, may the many religious traditions there be cultivated by all as a true treasure for the country and for the whole region, and may Christians offer an effective witness for the building of a future of peace, together with all men and women of good will!
In North Africa too, cooperation between all the members of society is of primary concern, and each must be guaranteed full citizenship, the liberty publicly to profess their religion and the ability to contribute to the common good. I assure all Egyptians of my closeness and my prayers at this time when new institutions are being set in place.
Turning to sub-Saharan Africa, I encourage the efforts being made to build peace, especially in those places where the wounds of war remain open and where their grave humanitarian consequences are being felt. I think particularly of the Horn of Africa, and the East of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where new of acts of violence have erupted, forcing many people to abandon their homes, families and surroundings. Nor can I fail to mention other threats looming on the horizon. Nigeria is regularly the scene of terrorist attacks which reap victims above all among the Christian faithful gathered in prayer, as if hatred intended to turn temples of prayer and peace into places of fear and division. I was deeply saddened to learn that, even in the days when we celebrated Christmas, some Christians were barbarously put to death. Mali is also torn by violence and marked by a profound institutional and social crisis, one which calls for the effective attention of the international community. In the Central African Republic, I hope that the talks announced as taking place shortly will restore stability and spare the people from reliving the throes of civil war. (Benedict XVI. Address to the members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, January 7, 2013)
The worrisome phenomenon of ‘religious violence’ is not devoid of connections with the politics of ethnic subversion and of terrorist strategy
We can understand the astonishment of Christians in seeing that a religious vocation of violence toward the faithful of other religions or also to the propagandists of criticism of religion is attributed to them: above all if we consider that, in many parts of the world, Christians are battered with intimidation and violence, simply because they belong to the Christian community. Even in the democratic and lay societies, the bond of belonging to a Christian community is often pointed out as a threat to social peace and free cultural comparison, even when the argumentations presented, in the support of the opinions that refer to the public sphere, appeal to the recourses of the common rationality. It certainly may not be denied that there exists a reawakening, on an international scale, of the worrisome phenomenon of ‘religious violence’ not devoid of significant connections with politics of ethnic subversion and of terrorist strategy. (International Theological Commission. God the Trinity and the unity of humanity, Ch. 1, no. 6-7, December 6, 2013)
What makes the crimes against ethnic and religious communities even more heinous is the tentative of justifying them in the name of religion
For some of you and also for others from other religious communities, the joy of the feast is shadowed by the memory of the dear ones who lost their life or goods, or suffered physically, mentally and even spiritually because of violence. Ethnic and religious communities in a number of countries of the world went through various and enormous unjust sufferings: killing of some of their members, destruction of their religious and cultural heritages, forced emigration from their homes and cities, molestation and raping of their women, enslavement of some of their members, trafficking of persons, commerce of organs, and even selling of cadavers! We are all aware of the gravity of these crimes in themselves. However, what makes them even more heinous is the tentative of justifying them in the name of religion. (Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Message for the month of Ramadan, no. 2-3, June 12, 2015)
Thousands of Our sons and brothers suffering years of bitter persecution in many lands, even those of an ancient Christian culture
Let men make all the technical and economic progress they can, there will be no peace nor justice in the world until they return to a sense of their dignity as creatures and sons of God, who is the first and final cause of all created being. Separated from God a man is but a monster, in himself and toward others; for the right ordering of human society presupposes the right ordering of man’s conscience with God, who is Himself the source of all justice, truth and love. Here is a spectacle for all the world to see: thousands of Our sons and brothers, whom We love so dearly, suffering years of bitter persecution in many lands, even those of an ancient Christian culture. And will not men who see clearly and compare the superior dignity of the persecuted with that refined barbarity of their oppressors, soon return to their senses, if indeed they have not already done so? (John XXIII. Encyclical Mater et Magistra, no. 215-216, May 15, 1961)
Every violation of religious freedom does fundamental damage to the cause of peace
Moreover, every violation of religious freedom, whether open or hidden, does fundamental damage to the cause of peace, like violations of the other fundamental rights of the human person. Forty years after the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to be commemorated next December, we have to admit that millions of people in various parts of the world are still suffering for their religious convictions: they are victims of repressive and oppressive legislation, victims sometimes of open persecution, but more often of subtle forms of discrimination aimed at believers and communities. This state of affairs, in itself intolerable, is also a bad omen for peace. (John Paul II. Message for the celebration of the XXI World Day of Peace, January 1, 1988)
Synod of Bishops: Special Assembly for the Middle East
The situation of Christians in Arab countries
In Iraq, the war has unleashed evil forces within the country, religious confessions and political movements, making all Iraqis victims. However, because Christians represent the smallest and weakest part of Iraqi communities, they are among the principal victims, with world politics taking no notice. In Lebanon, Christians are deeply divided at a political and confessional level, without a commonly acceptable plan of action. In Egypt, the rise of political Islam, on the one hand, and the disengagement of Christians from civil society on the other, lead to intolerance, inequality and injustice in their lives. Moreover, this Islamisation also penetrates families through the media and school, leading to an unconscious change in attitudes which is Islamic in character. In many countries, authoritarianism or dictatorships force the population – Christians included – to bear everything in silence so as to safeguard what is essential. In Turkey, the idea of ‘secularity’ is currently posing more problems for full religious freedom in the country. This situation of Christians in various Arab countries has been described in paragraph 13 of the Catholic Patriarchs’ 10th Pastoral Letter (2009). Its conclusion disapproves a defeatist attitude: ‘Confronted by these different realities, some remain strong in their faith and their commitment in society, sharing common sacrifices and contributing to the overall social plan. Others, in contrast, are discouraged and have lost all confidence in their society and in its capacity to accord them the same equal status as other citizens, leading to their abandoning all engagement, withdrawing into their Churches and institutions, and living in isolation and devoid of interaction with society’ (Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the Middle East, 10th Pastoral Letter on Arab Christians Facing Today’s Challenges: ‘God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us’ (Rom 5:5), General Secretariat, Bkerké, 2009, § 13 ff). (Synod of Bishops. Special Assembly for the Middle East, Lineamenta, no. 19 – 21, December 8, 2009)
Conversions of Christians to Islam under pressure, to free themselves from the obligations of non-Muslims
In the Middle East, freedom of religion customarily means freedom of worship and not freedom of conscience, i.e., the freedom to change one’s religion for belief in another. Generally speaking, religion in the Middle East is a social and even a national choice, and not an individual one. To change religion is perceived as betraying a society, culture and nation, founded largely on a religious tradition.
Conversion is seen as the fruit of a proselytism with personal interests attached and not arising from authentic religious conviction. Oftentimes, the conversion of Jews and Muslims is forbidden by State laws. Christians, though also subjected to pressure and opposition from families and tribes – even if less severely – remain free to change their religion. Many times, the conversion of Christians results not from religious conviction but personal interests or under pressure from Muslim proselytism, particularly to be relieved from obligations related to family difficulties. (Synod of Bishops. Special Assembly for the Middle East, Lineamenta, no. 22 – 23, December 8, 2009)
Imposition of an Islamic lifestyle within society
In their previous Pastoral Letter, the Catholic Patriarchs of the Middle East said: ‘The rise of political Islam, from the 1970’s onwards, is a prominent phenomenon which affects the region and the situation of Christians in the Arab world. This political Islam includes different religious currents which seek to impose an Islamic way of life on Arab, Turkish and Iranian societies and on all those who live in them, Muslim and non-Muslim alike. For them, the cause of all ills is the neglect of Islam. The solution is therefore a return to original Islam. Hence the slogan: Islam is the answer… In pursuit of this goal, some do not hesitate to resort to violence’ (Council of Catholic Patriarchs of the Middle East, 10th Pastoral Letter on Arab Christians Facing Today’s Challenges: ‘God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us’ (Rom 5:5), General Secretariat, Bkerké, 2009, § 7). (Synod of Bishops. Special Assembly for the Middle East, Lineamenta, no. 24, December 8, 2009)
Exploitation of immigrant workers in the Middle East
Hundreds of thousands of immigrant workers come to the Middle East from the world over: Africans, from Ethiopia and those primarily from Sudan, and Asians, especially from the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan and India. Generally speaking, these immigrants are women engaged in work as domestic servants so they can give their children an education and a better life. Oftentimes, these women (and men also) are subject to social injustice, exploitation and sexual abuse, either by the State which receives them, the agencies which provide passage for them or their employers. (Synod of Bishops. Special Assembly for the Middle East, Lineamenta, no. 28, December 8, 2009)
Muslims frequently mix religion and politics, putting Christians in a precarious situation of being considered as non-citizens
Relations between Christians and Muslims have to be based on two principles. On the one hand, both must be seen to be citizens of the same country and homeland, sharing the same language and culture, not to mention the same fortunes and misfortunes of our countries. On the other, Christians must see themselves as members of the society in which they live and working on its behalf as witnesses of Christ and the Gospel. Oftentimes, relations can be difficult, mainly because Muslims frequently mix religion and politics, putting Christians in a precarious situation of being considered as non-citizens. (Synod of Bishops. Special Assembly for the Middle East, Lineamenta, no. 68, December 8, 2009)
Application of Shariah law is discrimination and a violation of a person’s human rights: with the rise of Islamism, incidents against Christians are increasing almost everywhere
With the exception of Turkey, secularism is not a part of Islam. Normally, Islam is the State religion. The principal source of legislation is Islam, inspired by Shariah law. For personal law (family and inheritance in some countries), there are particular regulations for Christian communities whose ecclesiastical tribunals are recognised and their decisions enacted. The constitutions of every country affirms the equality of citizens before the State. Religious education is compulsory in private and public schools, but is not always guaranteed for Christians. Certain countries are Islamic States, where Shariah law is applied in both private and public life, including the lives of non-Muslims, which always constitutes discrimination and, therefore, a violation of a person’s human rights. Religious freedom and freedom of conscience are foreign to a Muslim mentality, which recognises freedom of worship, but does not permit the profession of a religion other than Islam, still less the abandonment of Islam. With the rise of Islamism, incidents against Christians are increasing almost everywhere. (Synod of Bishops. Special Assembly for the Middle East, Lineamenta, no. 83-84, December 8, 2009)
Annex 1: The peace in Islam is only for those who are under the dominion of Allah
Condensed to its most pure expression, Islam is in total obedience to its God, as revealed in the sacred book (the Koran) and in the sunna (conduct of the Prophet), as it was transmitted by tradition, or, when tradition lacked, by the consensus of the community of faithful, expressed by the mouth of the caliph. A ‘right’ is understood as the right of the community, not of the person. Islam does not know the word ‘person’, its synonym is fard (individuo). The fard is an integral part and dependent upon the great Islamic society (umma). Within it he has rights and duties. If he abandons the religion he loses all of his rights, and is even liable to death for treason. The Islamic Council of Europe, motivated surely by the demands of its new cultural and social ambience, has promulgated its ‘Declaration on Human Rights of man in Islam’. This specification ‘in Islam’ is not merely a manner of speaking, but rather it is essential: these are the rights of the Muslim man. Note: These are the ‘peaceful’ Muslims who are capable of sitting at a table and elaborating a document – not the crazy blood-drenched fanatics.
It is worthwhile to discover some points of the ‘Declaration’, approved in the Nineteenth Islamic Conference of Foreign Ministers, Organization of the Islamic Conference, (OIC).
(a) All human beings form one family whose members are united by their subordination to Allah and descent from Adam. All men are equal in terms of basic human dignity and basic obligations and responsibilities, without any discrimination on the basis of race, colour, language, belief, sex, religion, political affiliation, social status or other considerations. The true religion is the guarantee for enhancing such dignity along the path to human integrity.
(b) All human beings are Allah’s subjects, and the most loved by Him are those who are most beneficial to His subjects, and no one has superiority over another except on the basis of piety and good deeds.
(a) Life is a God-given gift and the right to life is guaranteed to every human being. It is the duty of individuals, societies and states to safeguard this right against any violation, and it is prohibited to take away life except for a Shari’ah prescribed reason.
(b) It is forbidden to resort to any means which could result in the genocidal annihilation of mankind.
(c) The preservation of human life throughout the term of time willed by Allah is a duty prescribed by Shari’ah.
(d) Safety from bodily harm is a guaranteed right. It is the duty of the state to safeguard it, and it is prohibited to breach it without a Shari’ah-prescribed reason.
Islam is the religion of true unspoiled nature. It is prohibited to exercise any form of pressure on man or to exploit his poverty or ignorance in order to force him to change his religion to another religion or to atheism.
(a) Everyone shall have the right to express his opinion freely in such manner as would not be contrary to the principles of the Shari’ah.
(b) Everyone shall have the right to advocate what is right, and propagate what is good, and warn against what is wrong and evil according to the norms of Islamic Shari’ah.
Annex 2: The Koran incites violence against all unbelievers, that is, non-Muslims
Having understood what peace is, can Islam be considered a religion of peace? May the Koran be called a Prophetic book of peace?
Let some of the texts from the Koran, presented below, speak for themselves…
Surah 2 – Al Baqara (The Cow)
- And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter, and do not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you in it, but if they do fight you, then slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers.
- And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is for Allah. But if they desist, then let there be no hostility except against wrong-doers.
- Warfare is ordained for you, though it is hateful unto you; but it may happen that ye hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that ye love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knoweth, ye know not.
Surah 3 – Al Imram (The Family of Imran, The House of ‘Imrán)
- (As for) those who disbelieve, surely neither their wealth nor their children shall avail them in the least against Allah, and these it is who are the fuel of the fire.
- We will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve, because they set up with Allah that for which He has sent down no authority, and their abode is the fire, and evil is the abode of the unjust.
Surah 4 – An-Nisa’ (The Women)
- Therefore let those fight in the way of Allah, who sell this world’s life for the hereafter; and whoever fights in the way of Allah, then be he slain or be he victorious, We shall grant him a mighty reward.
- They desire that you should disbelieve as they have disbelieved, so that you might be (all) alike; therefore take not from among them friends until they fly (their homes) in Allah’s way; but if they turn back, then seize them and kill them wherever you find them, and take not from among them a friend or a helper.
Surah 5 – Al-Ma’idah (The Food, The Repast, The Table)
- And with those who say, We are Christians, We made a covenant, but they neglected a portion of what they were reminded of, therefore We excited among them enmity and hatred to the day of resurrection; and Allah will inform them of what they did.
- The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His messenger and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement,
- O you who believe! do not take the Jews and the Christians for friends; they are friends of each other; and whoever amongst you takes them for a friend, then surely he is one of them; surely Allah does not guide the unjust people.
- O you who believe! whoever from among you turns back from his religion, then Allah will bring a people, He shall love them and they shall love Him, lowly before the believers, mighty against the unbelievers, they shall strive hard in Allah’s way and shall not fear the censure of any censurer; this is Allah’s Face, He gives it to whom He pleases, and Allah is Ample-giving, Knowing.
Surah 8 – Al-Anfal (The Spoils of War, Booty)
- And when Allah promised you one of the two parties that it shall be yours and you loved that the one not armed should he yours and Allah desired to manifest the truth of what was true by His words and to cut off the root of the unbelievers.
- When your Lord revealed to the angels: I am with you, therefore make firm those who believe. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.
- 39. And fight with them until there is no more persecution and religion should be only for Allah; but if they desist, then surely Allah sees what they do.
- Surely the vilest of animals in Allah’s sight are those who disbelieve, then they would not believe.
- Those with whom you make an agreement, then they break their agreement every time and they do not guard (against punishment).
- Therefore if you overtake them in fighting, then scatter by (making an example of) them those who are in their rear, that they may be mindful.
- And if you fear treachery on the part of a people, then throw back to them on terms of equality; surely Allah does not love the treacherous.
- And let not those who disbelieve think that they shall come in first; surely they will not escape.
- And prepare against them what force you can and horses tied at the frontier, to frighten thereby the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them, whom you do not know (but) Allah knows them; and whatever thing you will spend in Allah’s way, it will be paid back to you fully and you shall not be dealt with unjustly.
- O Prophet! urge the believers to war; if there are twenty patient ones of you they shall overcome two hundred, and if there are a hundred of you they shall overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve, because they are a people who do not understand.
Surah 9 – At-Tawbah (The Repentance)
- And an announcement from Allah and His Messenger to the people on the day of the greater pilgrimage that Allah and His Messenger are free from liability to the idolaters; therefore if you repent, it will be better for you, and if you turn back, then know that you will not weaken Allah; and announce painful punishment to those who disbelieve.
- So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.
- Fight them, Allah will punish them by your hands and bring them to disgrace, and assist you against them and heal the hearts of a believing people.
- 15. And remove the rage of their hearts; and Allah turns (mercifully) to whom He pleases, and Allah is Knowing, Wise.
- And the Jews say: Ezra is the son of Allah, and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah. That is their saying with their mouths. They imitate the saying of those who disbelieved of old. Allah (Himself) fighteth against them. How perverse are they!
- They have taken as lords beside Allah their rabbis and their monks and the Messiah son of Mary, when they were bidden to worship only One Allah. There is no Allah save Him. Be He Glorified from all that they ascribe as partner (unto Him)!
- O you who believe! What (excuse) have you that when it is said to you: Go forth in Allah’s way, you should incline heavily to earth; are you contented with this world’s life instead of the hereafter? But the provision of this world’s life compared with the hereafter is but little.
- If you do not go forth, He will chastise you with a painful chastisement and bring in your place a people other than you, and you will do Him no harm; and Allah has power over all things.
- If you will not aid him, Allah certainly aided him when those who disbelieved expelled him, he being the second of the two, when they were both in the cave, when he said to his companion: Grieve not, surely Allah is with us. So Allah sent down His tranquility upon him and strengthened him with hosts which you did not see, and made lowest the word of those who disbelieved; and the word of Allah, that is the highest; and Allah is Mighty, Wise.
- Go forth, light-armed and heavy-armed, and strive with your wealth and your lives in the way of Allah! That is best for you if ye but knew.
- O Prophet! Strive against the disbelievers and the hypocrites! Be harsh with them. Their ultimate abode is hell, a hapless journey’s end.
- O you who believe! fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness; and know that Allah is with those who guard (against evil).
Surah 22 – Al-Hajj (The Pilgrimage)
- Surely those who believe and those who are Jews and the Sabena’s and the Christians and the Malians and those who associate (others with Allah) – surely Allah will decide between them on the day of resurrection; surely Allah is a witness over all things.
- Do you not see that Allah is He, Whom obeys whoever is in the heavens and whoever is in the earth, and the sun and the moon and the stars, and the mountains and the trees, and the animals and many of the people; and many there are against whom chastisement has become necessary; and whomsoever Allah abases, there is none who can make him honorable; surely Allah does what He pleases.
- These are two adversaries who dispute about their Lord; then (as to) those who disbelieve, for them are cut out garments of fire, boiling water shall be poured over their heads.
- With it will be scalded what is within their bodies, as well as (their) skins.
- And for them are whips of iron.
- Whenever, in their anguish, they would go forth from thence they are driven back therein and (it is said unto them): Taste the doom of burning.
Surah 25 – Al Furqn (The Criterion, The Standard of True and False)
- So obey not the disbelievers, but strive against them herewith with a great endeavour.
Surah 47 – Muhammad
- So when you meet in battle those who disbelieve, then smite the necks until when you have overcome them, then make (them) prisoners, and afterwards either set them free as a favor or let them ransom (themselves) until the war terminates. That (shall be so); and if Allah had pleased He would certainly have exacted what is due from them, but that He may try some of you by means of others; and (as for) those who are slain in the way of Allah, He will by no means allow their deeds to perish.
- Be not weary and faint-hearted, crying for peace, when ye should be uppermost: for Allah is with you, and will never put you in loss for your (good) deeds.
Surah 48 – Al Fath (The Victory, Conquest)
- He it is Who sent His Messenger with the guidance and the true religion that He may make it prevail over all the religions; and Allah is enough for a witness.
- Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves. Thou (O Muhammad) seest them bowing and falling prostrate (in worship), seeking bounty from Allah and (His) acceptance.
Surah 60 – Al Mumtahanah (The Examined One, She that is to be)
- O you who believe! do not take My enemy and your enemy for friends: would you offer them love while they deny what has come to you of the truth, driving out the Messenger and yourselves because you believe in Allah, your Lord? If you go forth struggling hard in My path and seeking My pleasure, would you manifest love to them? And I know what you conceal and what you manifest; and whoever of you does this, he indeed has gone astray from the straight path.
Surah 61 – As-Saff (The Ranks, Battle Array)
- Truly Allah loves those who fight in His Cause in battle array, as if they were a solid cemented structure.
- And when Jesus son of Mary said: O Children of Israel! Lo! I am the messenger of Allah unto you, confirming that which was (revealed) before me in the Torah, and bringing good tidings of a messenger who cometh after me, whose name is the Praised One [One of Allah’s names]. Yet when he hath come unto them with clear proofs, they say: This is mere magic.
- Who doth greater wrong than one who invents falsehood against Allah, even as he is being invited to Islam? And Allah guides not those who do.
Surah 66 – At-Tahrim (The Prohibition)
- O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites, and be hard against them; and their abode is hell; and evil is the resort.
Annex 3: There is no one better than the Muslims themselves to interpret their own book, the Koran. Some news items demonstrate how they interpret it…
We have chosen a few recent news items, from among innumerable, found in media regarding the Islam, not of terrorism or fundamentalism, but rather the countries whose governments are part of the ‘peaceful’ Islamic community…
- Religious freedom in the Islamic world: the example of Pakistan
In these last years, the Muslims have frequently taken the law into their own hands, imposing their version of ‘justice’ against ‘blasphemers’. As a consequence, Christian churches, homes, hospitals, and schools have been destroyed. Few people of the Pakistani Christian community will ever be able to forget what happened at Sangla Hill. A furious mob of about 2,000 Muslims destroyed a whole town, incited by a false accusation of blasphemy made against one of the inhabitants. After the attack, followed by others, the Christian leaders wrote to the President Musharraf to ask him to do something, ‘because fanaticism will end up destroying the country from within’. (Source: La Libertad religiosa en el mundo islamico – religious liberty in the Islamic world)
More news from Pakistan
‘Christians in Pakistan are suffering because of the abuse of the blasphemy law. Also, when a Christian is accused, the entire community suffers serious consequences’: says to Fides Dominican Father James Channan, director of the ‘Peace Center’ in Lahore, who constantly works for interreligious dialogue, broadening the reflection on the case of Asia Bibi and all other Pakistani citizens, Christians and Muslims, innocent victims of the blasphemy law. Fr. Channan explains: ‘Christian minorities, such as Hindus and members of other minority faiths in Pakistan are often subject to discrimination and persecution. Being a non-Muslim in Pakistan is sometimes dangerous, especially because of the blasphemy laws’. (Souce: Fides)
In Palestine, Gaza: They teach Muslim children to hate Jews and Christians
Palestinian children as young as 5 are being taught to hate Jews, glorify martyrs and support jihad, and a U.S.-funded United Nations agency is helping to underwrite the effort, according to a controversial new documentary.
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency hosts summer camps in which Palestinian children are allegedly being indoctrinated, in scenes captured in ‘Camp Jihad: Inside UNRWA Summer Camp Season 2013’. In addition to learning hateful phrases, the children are taught that Israel belongs to them by birthright, according to the film by the Center for Near East Policy Research.
‘The children learn the names of many villages – not just the names of big cities like Jerusalem’ says Amina Hinawi, identified in the documentary as a UNRWA camp director in Gaza. ‘This way every child will be motivated to return to their village. UNRWA finances this summer camp. I’m very, very appreciative of UNRWA because the children of Palestine and Gaza need this’.
Indoctrination of young Palestinian children is nothing new, but the documentary has raised the ire of Israelis largely because of the UN role. According to UNRWA’s own website, the United States is the single-largest contributor to its work and in 2012 gave more than $232 million, ahead of the European Commission ($204 million), and the United Kingdom ($68 million).
Interspersed with sack races, arts and crafts and snack time, are scenes of instructors imparting the message that Israel belongs to Palestinians, and they must take it back by force.
The 19-minute film shows Tayma, a West Bank girl of about 8, being asked who the Jews are. ‘They are a gang of Infidels and Christians’, she replies. ‘They don’t like Allah and do not worship Allah. They hate us’.
Another West Bank camper, Mesam Abu Hindi, has been taught to advocate violence against Israel. “For those who are older than me, weapons will accelerate the Right of Return,” the girl states.
“When we die as martyrs, we go up to heaven,” says a young girl.
And in one scene, a camp instructor tells children they will help overthrow Israel. “With God’s help and our own strength, we will wage war,” she says. “And with education and jihad, we will return.” (Source: Foxnews)
The persecution of Christians in Islamic countries
The persecution of Christians has intensified in at least four countries worldwide, increasing the number of nations where believers endure harsh suffering from six to 10 in just two years, according to the Christian persecution watchdog organization Aid to the Church in Need U.K. The organization has released a report titled ‘Persecuted and Forgotten? A report on Christians oppressed for their Faith 2013-2015’ that reveals the rapid growth of Christian persecution in nations such as China, Iran, Pakistan, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia within the last two years. […] ‘Over [the] last 48 months the situation [for Christians] has become worse in countries including, China and Indonesia, Iraq, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Sudan and Syria. These are countries that show a massive deterioration of the position for Christians and indeed other minorities’, said Pontifex, who discussed the document with Vatican radio last week. ‘In fact, the number of countries which seem to be extreme in terms of persecution of Christians rose from six to 10 within this time frame of the last two years. What this report seeks to set out is the extent to which Christians have been forced from their homelands as a result of what we are describing as religiously motivated ethnic cleansing of Christians’, he added. (Source: CPWorld)
An Iranian man, converted from Islam to Christianity, was sentenced to ten years in prison for ‘crimes against state security’: the defendant is guilty of distributing copies of the Gospel in the country.
Tehran (Agenzia Fides) – An Iranian man, converted from Islam to Christianity, was sentenced to ten years in prison for ‘crimes against state security’: the defendant is guilty of distributing copies of the Gospel in the country. Mohammad-Hadi Bordbar, known as Mostafa, a native of the city of Rasht, was accused of conspiracy and sentenced. As reported to Fides Agency, the court documents show that the man confessed to ‘having abandoned Islam to follow Christianity’, and ‘considering evangelization his duty, he distributed 12,000 pocket gospels’.
After having received baptism, Mostafa had set up a ‘house church’, an assembly of home worship, with prayer meetings at home, which are considered ‘illegal’. Mostafa was arrested in Tehran on December 27, 2012, after a police raid at his house. The security officers detained and interrogated all those present at the meeting for hours, about 50 Iranian Christians. In his home the police found material and Christian publications, such as movies, books, CDs and over 6,000 copies of the Gospel. Mostafa had already been arrested in 2009 for conversion to Christianity, found guilty of apostasy, then released on bail.
In another recent case, reported to Fides by the Iranian Christian Agency ‘Mohabat News’, a court in the city of Robat-Karim, south of Tehran, sentenced the young Ebrahim Firouzi, another Iranian Christian to one year in prison and two years of exile, for ‘evangelization activities and distribution of Bibles’, considered ‘in opposition to the regime of the Islamic Republic of Iran’. In the ruling, the judge describes Ebrahim Firouzi of being ‘guilty of criminal acts for holding prayer meetings at home and for having spread among the young doubts on Islamic principles’. The young man was arrested in March 2013.
As recalled by the NGO ‘Barnabas team’ and ‘Christian Solidarity Worldwide’, committed to the defense of Christians in the world, in recent years the interest of young Iranians towards Christianity has made conversion to Christianity a disturbing problem for the Iranian authorities. Many churches of Farsi-language have been closed in Tehran and in other cities, while the pressure on Christian converts from Islam is on the rise. The new Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, spoke of a possible ‘reform of civil rights’ recently asking Islamic religious clergy to ‘stop state interference in the private lives of people’ (PA) (Souce: Agenzia Fides 20/08/2013).
In Turkey: Non-Islamic religions are not recognized by civil law, and they are not permitted to own anything
In Turkey, respect for religious minorities continues to be completely unsatisfactory’, the report affirms. Christians are effectively denied access to civil institutional and military positions, and it is practically impossible for them to build churches. Also, the non-Islamic religions are not recognized by civil law, and they are not permitted to own anything. (Source: Catholic.net)
In Turkey Christians are seen as second-class citizens
‘Turkey has almost 80 million inhabitants,’ he said. ‘There are only around 120,000 Christians, which is less than 1 percent of the population. Christians are certainly seen as second-class citizens. A real citizen is Muslim, and those who aren’t Muslim are seen as suspicious.’ […] Sadly, Turkey, a NATO member since 1952 and reportedly a candidate for membership in the European Union, has largely succeeded in destroying the entire Christian cultural heritage of Asia Minor. (Source: Gatestone institute)