God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Going to hell…

We at HOPE Cape Town have people of all faith working for us and it has been for me not a problem at all as I believe doing good deeds bring people together. I am actually always interested in questions of Interfaith and this week, two events were taking place regarding this topic. The AGM of the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative was held at St. Marks in Cape Town and it was wonderful to see how the representatives of different religions were eager to work together. I am thrilled to continue working on the board of this fine organization contributing towards peace and understanding in the mother city.
The other event took place at Herzlia Secondary School in Cape Town where I was invited to be part of a panel, discussing with students from different schools about the importance of religion for young people in the 21st century. Quite a strong debate and I learned amongst others that I – unfortunately – will go to hell. How comes?
In one of the group discussions there was the question of friendship between a Muslim and a Christian and after lot of debate, I was told by one of the students that indeed friendship can be developed between a Christian and a Muslim, but that the friendship between two Muslims are always have a more intense meaning. The word “brotherhood” was used to describe this more intimate friendship. I also learned from my young discussion partner that a Muslim has the duty to bring the Christian onto the right path – meaning: the right religion and that he should never give up till the end. Which triggered my question: And what happens if I die without converting? He was very sorry – and one could see it in his facial expression, but he told me, that unfortunately I have to go to hell then.
I found that discussion amazing, because normally at such occasions we try to be nice to each other and avoid touchy subjects like “going to hell”. The honesty of this student made me think how much is still to learn from each other and to accept where there remain differences. But I am lucky, I don’t have to be sorry for my Muslim friends, because in my Christian heaven there is space for everyone – even those who call God “Allah”. And for the rest, I strongly believe that the mercy of God will do the rest. So no worries, but the acknowledgement, that the work of an Interfaith Council is very important. Then there are more questions than just the future of unrepentant Christians – another discussion group got on me about my interpretation of “Adam and Eve” …. but that we leave for another blog. 🙂

But I am grateful for such evenings of discussions with young people and I appreciate their frankness and honesty. We need such robust exchanges to know, who we are and what we stand for in our faith.

Filed under: Catholic Church, General, Religion and Ethics, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

17.01.2010 “Allah” = God?

Yesterday evening I watched a discussion on Asia News about the question, whether the word “Allah” may only be used by Moslems and not by Christian believers and others. In the studio a politician of an opposition Moslem party, a liberal Moslem woman and the representative of an Moslem Youth organisation which leads the protests against the use of the word “Allah” by non-believers.

One has to know as a background, that all Malay people in Malaysia have to be Moslems, so faith is bound to race in this country and the since more than 40 years leading party advocates this. One also has to know that the word “Allah” is used as the word for God since a long time without any problems. The word “Allah” exists before the Moslem faith was founded and means only “God”.

Listening into the conversation I have to say, that if someone would be cynical, he would have said that the arguments of the representative of the youth were pure rubbish – there were no arguments besides a Fatwa ruling from an organisation, which seems to be at best dubious. Otherwise no argument – pure racism and ignorance as well as intolerance came out of this persons mouth.
As I don’t want to be cynical, I think one has to say, it was an example per excellence to show, how faith can turn into an ideology. An ideology one blindly follows even if the there is no logical reason for it. This is indeed very dangerous – and the petrol attacks on churches in Malaysia have shown that this ideology don’t care about lives when it comes to push through their blind thinking.

I admired the two other partners in this discussion, who tried to bring some seriousness into the debate. No chance – ideology is blind to all arguments, but as they both have been Malay and Moslems, they had to put a brave face to it.

Turning faith into ideology is the temptation of every religion and we as Christians are also not free from it. Surfing some so-called “catholic websites” there is no difference between this Moslem youngster and those publishing the aforesaid websites along a line of ideology, which contributes the devil to everything, which is different from their strict believe system. To confuse ideology with faith is indeed a temptation of this time – as many feel, the well-known basics of life disappear and instead of asking, what this means for our religion, they cling to the old and known one and so turn faith into ideology.

This can be dangerous because it suddenly brings a black and white scheme into our world which does only exists in the minds of people. This world is not black and white, was never black and white and will never be black and white. Religion has always to do with all the grey areas – and it has also always to do with translating the core elements of faith into the language of today. People must understand what they believe in – there is no magic in turning back, in creating barriers in who is belonging to God’s flock or not.

There is also no merit in telling people what words to use, or to tell them, whom to worship and how to worship. Faith is always also an individual story between God and the single person – it is an intimate story – a personal story. And only those, who have understood this, who are knowing that they are indeed also in search of God, can show humility and tolerance towards others.

All would not be so difficult, when ideology, blind ideology turns people into crusaders who ignore the personal relationship of somebody with God. Often force is used to bring another person into a system of believe he or she likes it or not. And this force does not has to be a corporal one – there are so many ways to force and manipulate somebody against his will.

The danger faced by all world religions is that they want to survive as an organisation – and that the temptation is there to prove this with “the will of God” or the will of the founder figure. I am convinced that believer of all faiths have to be aware of this and that is indeed our duty to resist such temptations. God is always bigger than what we can comprehend as humans, and for this little bit of openness which we can find in any religion we have to stand in, again and again.

For Malaysia I hope that race will be separate from religion and that reason wins over the hearts and minds of the people there. For us in the rest of the world it is again a lesson to be aware, how fast it can happen that faith can serve an ideology  or turn into an ideology which blinds people.

Filed under: General, Reflection, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , ,

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