The Vatican has been accused of insulting and patronising Muslims after it released a Happy Ramadan message followed by a long lecture about terrorism.
In a Ramadan message Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who’s the president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, wished Muslims “best wishes for a peaceful and joyful celebration of ‘Id al-Fitr” in the “name of all the Catholics around the world.”
But he then rather spoiled the goodwill gesture by going onto say: “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. It is a clear manifestation of instrumentalising religion for gaining power and richness.
“Needless to say that those who have the responsibility of security and public order have also the duty to protect their people and their properties from the blind violence of the terrorists.
“Besides, there is also the responsibility of those who have the task of education: families, schools, curricula, religious leaders, religious discourse, media. Violence and terrorism are first conceived in the mind of the deviated persons, thereafter perpetrated on the ground…
“There is no life that is more precious than another one because it belongs to a specific race or religion. Therefore, no one can kill. No one can kill in the name of God; this would be a double crime: against God and the very person…
“Happy Feast to you all!”
But Scott C. Alexander, Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at the Catholic Theological Union in the United States, said he wanted to offer his most profound apology to Muslims around the world for the letter’s content.
He said: “What would most Christians think about a ‘Blessed Christmas’ message from the Muslim ‘Vatican’ (if there were such a thing), the main thrust of which was not to wish Christians a blessed feast and to express solidarity in the work to redeem the world…
“Let’s imagine, instead, that such a message was an implictly self-righteous call to Christians to help stop state-sponosored violence sanctioned by democracies with largely ‘Christian’ populations? In other words: ‘Happy Christmas, all you Christians who are NOT really doing enough to live up to your faith…
“I am deeply ashamed of this message as it is. I am deeply troubled by how easily it could have been so different and so much more effective. Was it even confidentially circulated to some of the Muslims who participate in the Vatican Catholic-Muslim dialogue?
“If so, were objections raised and not heeded? If it was not circulated, why not? What a sad commentary on this high-level dialogue if the trust level is not where it needs to be to facilitate such consultation on such an important document.”