Our Beacon Forum

Muslim World & Pope Francis
By:Dr. Zia Shah, NY
Date: Sunday, 20 May 2018, 8:51 pm

Why the Muslim World Needs to Follow Pope Francis?

The broader Sunni Shia conflict, with Saudi Arabia in one corner and Iran in the other, is no secret to anyone. Almost every Muslim country in the world is struggling with inter-sectarian divide.

As I am writing this article, an unidentified group of people attacked the homes of seven Ahmadiyah families in East Lombok regency, West Nusa Tenggara, in Indonesia on May 19, 2018.

At least eight houses were severely damaged, forcing seven families comprising 24 people to seek shelter at the East Lombok Police headquarters.

“The police have yet to arrest the perpetrators. It’s the Ahmadi community who was taken to the police station instead – most of them are mothers and children,” Ahmadi community spokesman Saleh told The Jakarta Post on Sunday.

“Four motorcycles and a small shop had also been destroyed. People have left their farms. Some others [whose houses were not destroyed] fled and are staying with their relatives elsewhere,” he added.

Such shameless activities don’t happen among the followers of different sects of Christianity any more. They settled their scores some five centuries ago and have not returned to murder and mayhem in a long time to settle theological differences.

We the Muslims seem to be slow learners?

Pope Francis is making history and is going on a rare one-day visit to Geneva on June 21, where he is set to meet the Swiss president and hold a mass at the airport. But before that he’s going to the World Council of Churches (WCC) for talks. Why is he visiting this little-known religious body?

The World Council of Churches (WCC) is a worldwide inter-church organization founded in 1948. Its members today include the Assyrian Church of the East, the Oriental Orthodox Churches, most jurisdictions of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Old Catholic Church, Anglican Communion, most mainline Protestant churches (such as the Lutheran, Mennonite, Methodist, Moravian and Reformed) and some evangelical Protestant churches (such as the Baptist and Pentecostal).[1] Notably, the Roman Catholic Church is not a member, although it sends accredited observers to meetings.[2]

The last papal visit to Switzerland was in 2004, when Pope John Paul II came to Bern a year before he died. John Paul II had previously visited various international organisations in Geneva – aka the Protestant Rome – in 1984. Paul VI also went there in 1969.

Pope fever is mounting at the Geneva-based organisation, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year. Next month’s papal trip, which goes under the motto ‘Walking, praying and working together,’ is the result of five years’ efforts by WCC officials following Pope Francis’ appointment in 2013.

“The visit of his Holiness Pope Francis on this ecumenical pilgrimage to the WCC on our 70th anniversary is a historical milestone in the search for Christian unity and for the cooperation among the churches for a world with peace and justice,” an excited Olav Fykse Tveit, WCC general secretary, told reporters on Tuesday.

Founded in 1948, the discreet religious organization brings together the world’s Orthodox, Anglican, Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran and Reformed churches – 350 member churches in all.

The organization’s members include denominations which claim to collectively represent some 590 million people across the world in about 150 countries, including 520,000 local congregations served by 493,000 pastors and priests, in addition to elders, teachers, members of parish councils and others.[6]

But where is the World Council of Mosques?

Why cannot the different Muslim leaders sit together? Why cannot they announce to their followers that actions speak louder than the words, so let us unite on good works rather than petty theological differences? Why cannot they announce to their followers that Islam preaches love for all and hatred for none? Why cannot they decide that anyone who claims himself or herself to be a Muslim is a Muslim, let God be the Master of the Day of Judgment, and let him or her be a brother or a sister here in our worldly life?

The fact of the matter is that in their theological or spiritual deceit, many if not all the Muslim leaders, in a manner of speaking, become the “Masters of the Day of Judgment,” and define their followers as true believers and others as not “good enough.”

Never mind the leaders, are we the followers of the different sects of Islam, more loyal to the principles of unity and of brotherhood, preached by the holy Prophet Muhammad, peace be on him, or to the individual identities of our individual sects?

The WCC found a simple recipe to unite all Christians, it arose out of the ecumenical movement and has as its basis the following statement:

The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Savior according to the scriptures, and therefore seek to fulfill together their common calling to the glory of the one God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

It is a community of churches on the way to visible unity in one faith and one eucharistic fellowship, expressed in worship and in common life in Christ. It seeks to advance towards this unity, as Jesus prayed for his followers, “so that the world may believe.” (John 17:21) [3]

The Christians can unite for their Triune God, which the Muslims find to be totally false, as they offer arguments against Trinity, but can we unite for the sake of our One True God, Allah? This is the million dollar question or a question of infinite value, on which our worldly and eventually our eternal salvation depends.

WCC did not look for any details in their beliefs that will pitch one sect against the other.

Why cannot we the Muslims have a simple common platform that whoever professes to be a Muslim is a Muslim? Or if we insist on defining it further we say whoever believes in Allah, prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, and the Quran is a Muslim. Period.

Let us stop bickering about the details of belief in Allah or the Prophet. Let us stop arguing how each individual understands different verses of the Quran. If we are completely honest, the fact of the matter is that the differences are not merely among the sects, rather each individual differs from every other.

Why cannot we look at the big picture that there is far more that unites each Muslim, regardless of the sect, than divides them?

If we can live together and respect the Christians, the Jews, the agnostics and the atheists, at least in the Western world, why cannot we love and respect each other?

We don’t need to follow the Pope in the self contradictory ideas of Trinity or that a wafer of Eucharist, a piece of bread, is the literal and physical body of Jesus Christ, may peace be on him, but we can certainly follow him in finding a common vision with our fellow brethren and sisters and stop being petty for a small worldly or political gain. The prophet Muhammad, may peace be on him, said, “A word of wisdom is lost heritage of a Muslim, he or she takes it where ever he or she finds it.”

We Will be Judged by Our Compassion and Deeds and Not Our Dogma