WASHINGTON, D.C. — As the world bids goodbye to one of its most beloved citizens, Pope John Paul II, it is natural to reflect on his legacy. That the Pope is beloved by Catholics is of no surprise. What is remarkable is the respect he earned from other faiths as he took unprecedented steps to build bridges of understanding. Pope John Paul II was the first leader of the Catholic Church to set foot inside a mosque. In May 2001 the Pope visited the Ummayad Mosque – one of the oldest mosques in the world – situated in the Syrian capital of Damascus. Of further significance, the mosque contains the tomb of John the Baptist. According to the Vatican, this was the first time Muslims and Christians prayed together in an organized way.
Commenting on this visit, John Wilkins editor of the Catholic newspaper The Tablet said, “Traditionally, Islam has been tolerant of Christianity – more tolerant than Christianity has been of Islam.” However, the continued occupation of Muslim lands, the authoritarian rule in most of Middle East and the accompanying rise of militancy in some Muslim societies threatens to derail the historic tolerance of Islam towards people of other faiths. Muslims will do enormous good by reflecting on some of their great traditions such as the Prophet Muhammad standing up to pay respect as the funeral procession of a Jewish man passed or his visiting the sick regardless of their faith.
Also remarkable was Salahuddin Ayubi, the great Muslim general, sending his personal physician to treat King Richard at a time when they were warring during the crusades. (MORE)