On Dialogue with Muslims

A Thought on Dialogue with Muslims

by A.L.

We all know there is a lot of prejudice from Muslims. We all know that Christians are being persecuted.

Donald DeMarco said:

"Christian refugees from East Timor who fled to West Timor a little more than a year ago continue to be harassed and even killed by Muslim militants. Saudi Arabia grants no religious freedom whatsoever to its 400,000 Catholic Philippine workers. No one Catholic church exists in that country. Religious meetings in the privacy of one's home are prohibited. This and the possession of religious literature are punishable with imprisonment." (Islam: The Appeal and the Peril)

The Church sees this as a problem and at the same time, we have been given the command to evangelize all nations by our Lord Himself (Matt 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16). We already have faithful missionaries in the Islamic countries who will stand up for their faith and face martyrdom if necessary. But the purpose of evangelization is to bring people to the faith, not necessarily martyrdom, though it can be an outcome of evangelization. We also know that martyrdom does convert people, but it rarely has any affect on people who already have something to die for. So what should we do?

I talked to many Muslims about this. I asked them a straight question: "What will make the persecution of Christians stop?" Most of them said, "Stop sending missionaries and it will stop." But the Church cannot do that since it would be disobeying our Lord's command. I then asked, "What do you think of John Paul II?" Half of them liked him. I then asked, "What do you think of having dialogues with the Catholic Church?" Half of them said they didn't like it. Half of them said it would be a good idea. One said, "Yes, dialogue will work. The more people you meet, face to face, the more tolerant you are."

I saw that the Muslims themselves were divided on this issue. Some liked the dialogue and some stayed with their bigotry. The people who liked the idea of dialogue did not respect Catholicism, but they did respect the Catholics, the people themselves. One said, "If only we had more people like John Paul II, the persecution might stop." This reminded me of Ghandi saying that if Christians acted as Christians, the whole country of India would be Christian.

Has dialogue worked? Matthew Bunson said,

"One of the fruits of the efforts in recent years on the part of Pope John Paul II and the Vatican's Congregation for Inter-religious Dialogue has been to negotiate easing of restrictions for Church personnel to enter and work in Islamic countries. In 1997, Libya established diplomatic relations with the Holy See and, in conjunction with a U.N. embargo against the country in 1992, the government removed most limitations on entry of Catholic religious orders, especially health care workers. Clearly, more work needs to be done, but there is hope for the future."

And what has non-dialogue done? Has non-dialogue worked? Did it convert Muslims? Did it stop the persecutions? Or did Islam continue to rise? Dialogue may not have made Muslims re-think their opposition to Catholicism, but it did make them re-think about Catholics. Their respect for John Paul made them respect other Catholics. And it may be a minority of them, but John Paul has implanted a seed, which is love and respect. And this seed will grow and it will spread.

Muslims already have something to die for just like Catholics. As Peter Kreeft has said, Muslims do more with their half-Christ than Christians do with their full-Christ, and more with their fallible book than Christians do with their infallible book. To counter this, the Church declares a Jihad. A Jihad against ourselves, our selfish desires, an inner Jihad. We need good Catholics. How can we convince a religious person if we are not religious ourselves? We need a religious-to-religious relationship. We need someone like a Mother Teresa or a John Paul II to tell them that Catholics are persons too. Non-dialogue has not worked. We need something that will work.

We have three choices.

(1) Do not send missionaries.

(2) Non-dialogue and keep sending missionaries.

(3) Dialogue and keep sending missionaries.

The Church prefers #3. Islam lacks personality, a loving of neighbor. They do not believe in the Golden Rule. To counter this, the Church as a Person, will dialogue with them since "dialogue is an indispensable step along the path towards human self-realization, the self-realization both of each individual and of every human community." The more John Paul's we have in dialogue with them, the more they will realize that Catholics are like themselves, who have dignity.

They already love God, though they lack love of neighbor. The only way to convert Muslims is to fill up what they are lacking. Dialogue will make them re-think about Catholics. And by re-thinking their relationship to Catholics, they will see that Catholics love God and also their neighbor. By seeing this, they will ask themselves if one can truly love God without loving their neighbor. They will see that a true submission to God -- an "Islam" -- includes loving our neighbor.




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