Friday, October 20, 2006

Happy ‘Id al-Fitr

On 24 October 2006, Muslims will mark the end of the month of Ramadan by celebrating the feast of ‘Id al-Fitr. On the Islamic calendar, which is often called Hijra, after Mohammad's emigration from Mecca to Medina, Hijra meaning exile, ‘Id al-Fitr is celebrated on the first day of the month of Shawaal, which is the tenth month. ‘Id al-Fitr is a day of joy and thanksgiving. On this day, Muslims show their joy for the health, strength and opportunities of life, which Allah, the word also used by Arabic-speaking Christians for God, like Maronites, since long before the advent of Islam, has given them to fulfill their obligations of fasting and other good deeds during the month of Ramadan. It is considered unholy to fast on this day. It is also a day of forgetting old grudges and ill feelings towards others.

As with the Hindu/Jain/Buddhist/Sikh feast of Diwali, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue has issued a message to Muslims as the holy month of Ramadan comes to an end. It is similar in tone to the Council's Diwali message, to the Pope's message to representatives of the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, and to the Holy Father's Regensburg lecture. Let's look at see the similarities by examining the core of the Council's message, contained in the following two paragraphs:

"The month of Ramadan which you have just completed has also undoubtedly been a time of prayer and reflection on the difficult situations of today’s world. While contemplating and thanking God for all that is good, it is impossible not to take note of the serious problems which affect our times: injustice, poverty, tensions and conflicts between countries as well as within them. Violence and terrorism are a particularly painful scourge. So many human lives destroyed, so many women widowed, so many children who have lost a parent, so many children orphaned . . . So many wounded, physically and spiritually . . . So much, which has taken years of sacrifice and toil to build, destroyed in a few minutes!"

"Our two religions give great importance to love, compassion and solidarity. In this context, I wish to share with you the message of the first Encyclical Letter of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est (God is Love), which echoes the most characteristic ‘definition’ of God in Christian Sacred Scriptures, 'God is love' (1 Jn 4: 8). Genuine love for God is inseparable from love for others: 'Anyone who says, "I love God", and hates his brother, is a liar, since a man who does not love the brother he can see cannot love God, whom he has not seen' (1 Jn 4: 20). In recalling this point, the Encyclical underlines the importance of fraternal charity in the Church’s mission: love, to be credible, must be effective. It must come to the aid of everyone, beginning with the most needy. True love must be of service to all the needs of daily life; it must also seek just and peaceful solutions to the serious problems which afflict our world."

1 comment:

  1. Greetings like this one are always useful to improve good relations among religious groups. But I think that if we want to go to the core of the relations among religions and cultures, we have to refer to common goals and measures.
    I believe that the common goals have to be the what the sociologists call "social indicators", and in general terms are called "quality of life" or "livability". We can even call it happiness. Thre should be a honest competition about which religious group is more successful in creating healthy communities.
    A community could say to the other: my social indicators about health, mental health, education, economy, poverty, crime, etc. are the following, can you do better than me? I believe that, after all, charity can be measured in this way. A community in which social indicators are very good is a community in which there is a lot of effort to practice human and christian virtues. A well functioning community/city does not happen by chance!