CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 8 December 2018

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Message for Ramadan stresses respect for the person

 VATICAN (SE): To mark the August 20 conclusion of the sacred month of Ramadan, observed as a time of fasting by Muslims the world over, the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran, said in a message that Christians and Muslims “are too often witnesses to the violation of the sacred, the mistrust of which those who call themselves believers are the target.”
The statement, signed by the cardinal and the secretary of the council, Archbishop Pier Luigi Celata, notes that a common bond of believers in both religions is the conscience. It calls it a sanctuary, which it says must be respected as something sacred.
The statement reads, “Christians and Muslims, beyond their differences, recognise the dignity of the human person endowed with both rights and duties. They think that intelligence and freedom are indeed gifts, which must impel believers to recognise these values which are shared, because they rest on the same human nature.”
It continues, “It is our duty to help them discover that there is both good and evil, that conscience is a sanctuary to be respected, and that cultivating the spiritual dimension makes us more responsible, more supportive and more available for the common good.”
The president of the pontifical council then stresses, “Christians and Muslims are too often witnesses to the violation of the sacred, the mistrust of which those who call themselves believers are the target.”
He concludes by saying that religion must never be manipulated to coerce people to believe what goes against their consciences.
Writing in Bridges, the newsletter of the Centre for Christian-Muslim Relations in Sydney, Australia, Islamic scholar, Father Pat McInerney, says, “In today’s world, there is much turmoil and violence. International issues draw peoples into conflict.”
He then reflects, “Over two-and-a-half thousand years ago, the world of the Hebrews was in similar turmoil and they too were drawn into the international conflicts of their time.”
He adds that the prophet, Isaiah, warned the Hebrews not to be defensive and turn in on themselves, saying, “Enlarge the site of your tent and let the curtains of your habitations be stretched out; do not hold back; lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes” (Isaiah 54:2).
Father McInerney says that hospitality is a divine precept, reflected in both the bible and the Qur’an. He then highlights the insistence of Abraham on hospitality, in which a famous icon by Andrei Rublev, entitled, The Hospitality of Abraham, depicts three guests being entertained by Abraham and Sarah at the oaks of Mamre (Genesis 18:1-16).
He explains that the three identical faces show unity and three staffs express equal authority. The postures suggest good relationships and the cup on the table is the Christian chalice, which penetrates beyond the surface and recognises the three as an icon of the Holy Trinity.
Father McInerney says that a recent interfaith conference held in Melbourne proposed hospitality as one of the shared virtues of Christians, Muslims and Jews.
“It is relevant to the 21st century,” Father McInerney writes. “To counter individualism and materialism, hospitality helps restore community and the importance of respect for the human person.”
He quotes St. Paul as saying, “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2).
In Hong Kong, the Islamic community shared the end of Ramadan with all comers at the mosque on Nathan Road in Tsim Sha Tsui. 
An open invitation was issued to anyone to join the community in breaking the fast on the evening of August 20 in a shared meal of hospitality prepared to satisfy and bless over 2,000 people.