Rivalry seems to be hardwired into human nature. Whether we take the Darwinian view or the theological one, it doesn’t bode well for Peace on Earth, good will toward men. While making a case for a certain point of view must be acceptable, “Why can’t we all just get along” might be the mantra of human history, resounding through all political systems as well as belief systems where they come into close proximity.
Transcending rivalries with compassion and forbearance would then be a spiritual step toward conscious tolerance that in fact all religious revelations by their prophets from the beginning of time have insisted on.
With this in mind, for the non-Catholics among us the Pope’s impending visit to the United States should be an opportunity to widen our mental telescopes to look beyond the fanfare headlines to take to heart the importance of interfaith respect in our increasingly fractious world.
Given tensions with the global Muslim community following the Pope’s Regensburg address in 2006, it is fair to say that Muslims are watching the visit closely. The televised baptism of a Muslim convert to Catholicism during the recent Easter Service was also a serious and potentially volatile event that may have been construed as a deliberate slight by the Pope and could have created a violent reaction on the part of Muslims (thank God it did not). Muslims, after all, believe that Islam is the final revelation in the ancient chain of divine teachings, and anyone converting from it to any earlier one is something that, by our own spiritual etiquette, should not be flaunted publicly, as it implies active opposition to the subsequent message and Messenger of Islam.
For Muslims, deep love of the Prophet Muhammad and taking a strong stand for Islam are strong and sensitive issues because we value Islam so highly – not because we think ill of Christianity, repeatedly mentioned as a legitimate religion in God’s eyes in the Qur’an, along with Judaism. But human sensibilities are often dry tinder next to flames – I’ve always felt that Muslims should have ignored The Satanic Verses of Salman Rushdie when it appeared, rather than catapult it to best-seller status and themselves as unflattering representatives of Islam at the same time.
It is imperative that Muslims should revere the devotion of Christians and all others as they do their own, and greet a man or woman of God among us, whomever it might be, as a reminder of Him, regardless of the details of their theological differences. God in the Qur’an says:
Surely those who believe (in that which is revealed unto thee, Muhammad), and those who are Jews, and Christians, and Sabaeans - [in fact] anyone who believes in God and the Last Day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve. (Qur’an 2:62)