Iraq


 

Religious discourse can be very controversial. Although I am open to share and listen to the religious beliefs of others (or lack thereof), I have never been interested in debating the issue. How can one debate the issue of faith? I find it pointless. I have nothing to prove nor do I want to convert someone to my way of thinking (or belief). However, I do want to comment on the endorsement this week by Pope Benedict XVI of the doctrinal document “Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrines on the Church“. In a nutshell, this treatise asserts the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, while other churches, like the Orthodox church are “wounded”, and that Protestant churches are not “true” churches. It also claims that Catholicism provides the only true path to salvation.

In this age of inter-denominational and inter-faith dialogue, which is working to bring about a better understanding and respect for others of different beliefs, I find this assertion and endorsement by the Pope as troubling. As the arenas of government, politics, economics, culture, etc., struggles towards greater harmony and peace, it appears that the religious community and their leaders, regardless of their faith, are moving towards greater fundamentalist polarization of beliefs. We don’t need to look only to history to see the danger in this type of thinking. We need only to look at the Middle-East today, Iraq in particular, to see the outcome of such rhetoric. Although I am a Pentecostal Christian and have beliefs, which could be classified as “christian fundamentalist beliefs”, I do not believe that only Pentecostals are going to heaven, nor do I believe that other denominations are “wounded” or are not “true” churches. As a Christian, I do believe that it is only through Christ that someone can receive salvation, but I don’t condemn to “hell” someone from another religion or those who have no belief in religion at all. Judgment, as far as I am concerned, I will leave to God.

There are 3 points I would like to share in regards to this topic.

1. The church I attend, although fundamental, it is non-judgmental. The Pastor believes, preaches and is involved in inter-denominational and inter-faith dialogues. This is one of the reasons why I go to this church.   

2. As far as I know, there has been no bombings of Catholic or Protestant churches; no burnings of effigies of the Pope by Protestants; no return to the Inquisition; no killing of Priests, Nuns, Pastors or Reverends; no violent demonstrations or protests; no separation into neighbourhoods based on religious beliefs, due to this proclamation. I would pray that those of the Muslim “Ummah” will be influenced by this example.

3. There has been no difference in the dynamics of the relationship with my family, friends or acquaintances of different denominations (or faiths for that matter), since the Popes endorsement of this edict. It is all a non-issue for us. Regardless of religious beliefs or non-belief, we are all still “cool”. Love and respect prevails.            

     

Following the news yesterday, I heard a story that President Bush had a meeting with the Pope in Rome and one of the topic of their discussions was the plight of Iraqi Christians. It was really the first time this issue captured my attention. The primary focus has been the civil conflict between the Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites, and there has been little to no media coverage, that I can remember, on what Iraqi Christians were experiencing. 

A little internet research provided me with some information that the situation for Iraqi Christians is not good in the least. They are victims of daily targeted attacks by Muslims in general and not just the militant Islamists. Some of this is because they are associated with the “Christian West”, who are seen as invaders and “crusaders” by the Muslim population of Iraq. Christians have been threatened, kidnapped, tortured and killed; churches have been vandalized and bombed; Christian women have been forced to wear the veil; priests murdered and nuns raped and killed. On Sunday June 3rd, a priest Father Ragheed and 3 of his deacons were executed after performing mass in Mosul, northern Iraq. The car in which they were driving was rigged with a bomb after they were murdered so that their bodies would remain in full view for a time, to send the message that Christianity was no longer being tolerated.

Here are a couple of sources of information:

http://www.aina.org/news/20070608105121.htm

http://www.asianews.it/index.php?l=en&dos=108&size=A

Let’s keep them in our prayers, as well as all the innocent people of Iraq who are suffering due to this conflict.