Articles, Opinions & Views: Basic Divisions Emerge - Catholics and Muslims talk.


 
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In A Foxhole
“When you're left wounded on

Afganistan's plains and

the women come out to cut up what remains,

Just roll to your rifle

and blow out your brains,

And go to your God like a soldier”

“We are not retreating. We are advancing in another direction.”

“It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it.”

“Old soldiers never die; they just fade away.

“The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace,

for he must suffer and be the deepest wounds and scars of war.”

“May God have mercy upon my enemies, because I won't .”
“The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his.

“Nobody ever defended anything successfully, there is only attack and attack and attack some more.

“Fixed fortifications are a monument to the stupidity of man."
“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.
Rather we should thank God that such men lived.

The Soldier stood and faced God


Which must always come to pass

Photobucket
He hoped his shoes were shining

Just as bright as his brass

"Step forward you Soldier,

How shall I deal with you?


Have you always turned the other cheek?


To My Church have you been true?"


"No, Lord, I guess I ain't


Because those of us who carry guns


Can't always be a saint."

I've had to work on Sundays

And at times my talk was tough,

And sometimes I've been violent,

Because the world is awfully rough.

But, I never took a penny

That wasn't mine to keep.

Though I worked a lot of overtime

When the bills got just too steep,

The Soldier squared his shoulders and said

And I never passed a cry for help

Though at times I shook with fear,

And sometimes, God forgive me,

I've wept unmanly tears.

I know I don't deserve a place

Among the people here.

They never wanted me around


Except to calm their fears.


If you've a place for me here,


Lord, It needn't be so grand,


I never expected or had too much,


But if you don't, I'll understand."

There was silence all around the throne

Where the saints had often trod

As the Soldier waited quietly,

For the judgment of his God.

"Step forward now, you Soldier,

You've borne your burden well.

Walk peacefully on Heaven's streets,

You've done your time in Hell."

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Basic Divisions Emerge - Catholics and Muslims talk.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Giving additional weight to the Vatican delegation was its chairman, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the French prelate and career diplomat who previously served as the Vatican’s foreign minister under Pope John Paul II. What’s more, the entire Catholic delegation was personally selected by and directly accountable to the pope. This included the chief staff-level experts, two hard-headed Jesuit intellectuals, the German Fr. Christian Troll and the Egyptian Fr. Samir Khalil Samir (see here and here for his analyses of the talks). The upshot was a multinational delegation speaking with one voice on behalf of the universal Church.

By contrast the Muslim delegation was a self-selected, ad hoc group, featuring mainly media-friendly academics, such as Seyyed Hossein Nasr (George Washington University); Ibrahim Kalin (Georgetown University); Ingrid Matson (Hartford Seminary); Tariq Ramadan (Oxford); and Aref Ali Nayed (Royal Islamic Strategic Studies Center, a Jordanian think tank). How representative — or accountable — these figures are is an open question, given that academics are generally responsible only for their own views, without the pastoral responsibilities or institutional accountability of their Catholic counterparts. And there’s the further question of how representative these figures are of Islam as preached and practiced at the ground level. The delegation’s co-leaders — Nasr and Ceric — earned doctoral degrees from Harvard and the University of Chicago, respectively.

There’s a similar mismatch between the Catholic prelates — appointed by the pope or elected by their peers — and the various Muslim clerics appointed by — and responsible to — their host governments. The mismatch extends to the talks’ nominal Jordanian sponsorship, conducted at arm’s length from King Abdullah II through an Amman think tank affiliated with the monarchy. This meant that preliminary official correspondence with the Vatican’s number-two official (Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone) was left in the hands of the king’s nephew, a 42-year-old Princeton grad. Notably absent from the process was the king’s uncle, Prince Hassan, a recognized expert on inter-faith relations, author of a well-regarded 1994 study Christianity in the Arab World, and a figure genuinely trusted by Jordanian Christians.

All this Hashemite palace intrigue matters only in so far as it raises the suspicion of deliberate deniability on the part of the talks’ nominal sponsors. The Jordanian monarchy, after all, claims direct descent from the Prophet Mohammed and thus enjoys unique prestige in the Muslim world. By thus hedging its bets, the Jordanian monarchy anticipated its Saudi neighbors, whose two official representatives bailed out of the talks at the last minutes, claiming illness. Neither was replaced, Saudi Arabia thus going unrepresented. Nor, for that matter, did Egypt’s two top government-appointed Muslim clerics — the Grand Mufti and the rector of Al-Azhar — choose to attend.

These are not simply questions of diplomatic protocol, though protocol applies as much to interreligious dialogue as to state-to-state diplomacy. In both settings, business is normally conducted between officials of the same rank and responsibilities, whether between foreign ministers, ambassadors, or desk officers. Throughout this whole process, the Vatican has commendably overlooked the niceties of protocol. In August, for instance, Cardinal Tauran was dispatched to a farcical Saudi-sponsored Madrid conference, attended mostly by nonentities with time on their hands, where he was the only figure to raise the issue of religious freedom amidst all the platitudes and happy talk.

These protocol issues are a reminder that Catholic-Muslim dialogue is always a matter of apples and oranges, inevitably raising the question: Who speaks for Islam? That’s not a question for Catholics; it’s the pope who speaks most authoritatively for the Church. But it’s also a fact that the pope is by far the world’s most visible religious figure, commanding the brightest spotlight and wielding the largest megaphone. That alone makes a photo-op with him especially desirable for the lucky few, particularly if their aim is respect and respectability by association. According to one of the Catholic participants, speaking frankly to the French Catholic daily La Croix, on condition of anonymity:

At first, one sometimes had the sense that the Muslims wanted to take advantage of the Church to give themselves a respectable image. Later, they sought to involve us in political issues, notably Palestine. Finally, it was hard for us to come to agreement on religious freedom.

Consider last November’s well-publicized meeting between the pope and Saudi King Abdullah. Recall that the monarch gave Benedict the improbable gift of a sword — that’s right, a sword — while taking away a tourist trinket that his minions deceitfully spun into an unprecedented papal award in full-page ads in the Washington Post, New York Times, and London Times. Bear in mind that by meeting with the pope, Abdullah was able to convey different messages to separate audiences. For Westerners, the meeting was meant to lend legitimacy and respectability to bogus Saudi claims of moderation and tolerance (repeated at the U.N. this week).

For the Muslim world, the impression sought was one of equality with the Vatican on grounds of the Abdullah’s status as “Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques,” the source of the monarchy’s hotly-disputed claim to Muslim preeminence. There was, however, no visible progress on the pressing issue of absent pastoral care for more than one million Christian guest-workers in Saudi Arabia.

The papal spotlight figured prominently in the pre-talks coverage in the European press, with the added twist that the pope actually owes his Muslim interlocutors a turn on the papal stage as due reparations for his 2006 remarks at Regensburg. According to Le Figaro, Regensburg was “undoubtedly the most grievous wound of his papacy,” but the high-level “Catholic-Muslim Forum … might however mitigate the evil” caused by his words. Le Monde piled on, claiming that “Benedict’s pontificate, less inclined to exchanges with other religions than his predecessor’s, is marked by gestures that provoke bewilderment in the Muslim world and among proponents of Muslim-Christian dialogue.” And so on. The National Review

That’s certainly not how Benedict himself views his role and responsibilities. — John F. Cullinan, a regular NRO contributor, is an expert on international religious freedom.
posted by Major D Swami (Retired) @ 11:01 PM  
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