Le blog de la Bergerie                         Sharing the faith . . . in English . . . et en français!
I receive Zenit News in my inbox daily and last week I was
intrigued by two articles dealing with similar problems in two different parts
of the world, one article was about Islam & Christianity in the Middle East
and the other one was about marxism & Christianity in South America. Each article
is talking about a huge challenge in its own right, a dangerous one for that
matter, and I have been thinking about them ever since I read them.
In the case of Islam, the article was written by a Jesuit scholar and the title is provocative enough: Is Islam Part of God's Plan? (1). Fr. Samir is writing from Beirut and has lived in the Middle East for over 20 years. He answers his own question with an interesting twist on the standard answer. Just in case you did not know, the common answer, especially in the East, is that "God has permitted the birth of Islam to punish Christians for their infidelities." In practicality, what happened is that Islam forced Christians to reaffirm and articulate their own faith. And today, as they live next to each other, Fr. Samir speaks eloquently about the "stimulation", the incentive impact that Muslims have had on Christians. He tells us of his efforts at explaining the mystery of the Trinity to his Muslims neighbors. He says that the Church in the West, by allowing faith and reason to flourish, even and especially when faced with criticism, has experienced in return an enrichment of the life of the Church and civil society, both have benefited in the process. Very astutely (and respectfully) he points out the paralysis in an Islam cut-off from reason, estranged from the Holy Spirit. Fr. Samir says that the diversity of religion in the Middle East has worked as a beneficial stimulus for both parties and he adds a final and unusual twist by saying that the burden of Christian defense should now be taken up by Muslims and vice-versa... This is quite a cultural challenge that he is proposing.
In the case of marxism, the article in Zenit is about Cardinal Savino,archbishop of Caracas, Venezuela, where he has denounced the wave of marxist socialism that have swept the country under the leadership of President Chavez (2). Cardinal Savino addresses heads-on the political maneuvering that are weakening his country: "the pretension to monopolize all productive activities through, for example, the progressive monopolization of importation, distribution and commercialization of foods, is in the line of dismantling the national productive apparatus so that we will all depend on the government even to eat." And the Cardinal points out that this will not benefit "the Venezuelan producers, peasants and workers, but those of other countries."
I was fascinated by these two articles, both of them dealing with Christians facing non-Christians in their day-to-day lives. It does not matter to me that one is a religion (Islam) and the other one a political ideology (marxism/socialism), I think they both represent a "world-view" with ethical, legal and cultural consequences and, in that sense, they compete with the Good News. So I was intrigued to notice the differences and similarities: Fr. Samir is a teacher and this is why he is trying to "teach" his neighbor about the Trinity, he is also a scholar, a theologian, with enough knowledge (and friendship) about the history and theology of Islam that he can point out their weak point. Criticism has to be coupled with love and understanding and it looks to me that Fr. Samir does a terrific job in this informative and stimulating article.
Cardinal Savino is the pastor of his flock and this is why his address is more directly (and publicly) political. He is speaking for the poor people of his flock who are forced to endure the consequences of the current political regime. He is articulating for them - and for all - the weak points and errors in misguided national regulations. There is also an electoral year coming up so the timing is crucial and justifies the efforts of the Cardinal to deconstruct mistaken political systems which will cause even more poverty and sufferings and loss of freedom to its people!
Both Fr. Samir and Cardinal Savino are using their own personal gifts to proclaim the Good News to the end of the earth and they are doing it no matter the consequences for their own lives. Both the Middle East and South America have seen Christians killed for their faith in recent past and they are still confronted today with that terrible reality.
Where I live, here in California, I am well aware that we face challenges of our own, although our daily lives are not exactly on the line, at least not yet. But the survival of the Church is definitively on the line because it is attacked daily by those who want to deconstruct the Christian family, to belittle the Church, to silence the believers. This harassment comes daily from the liberal relativism and obsessive consumerism espoused here in the West and flaunted ad nauseam by many media. It comes from the loudly vocal (and arrogant) atheism of the intelligentsia. What should we do? Where does this all fit in God's plan? Is it a punishment for our infidelities? It is definitively something to ponder. But it should not lead us to a sort of paralysis and silence, instead what these two articles should do is giving us encouragement with their very concrete and practical answers. Whether in private dialogue or in public discourse, the words of Fr. Samir should be a source of inspiration for us, encouraging us to explain the gifts of the Holy Spirit, with love and reason, to all we meet. The words of Cardinal Savino should enbolden us to take a stand on key issues and articulate publicly the errors of political agendas no matter the negative consequences involved… And we should trust that we can do it with our own voice, each one of us in our own corner of the world, not because we know how to do it (because obviously we don't) but because God will give us the grace needed to do it!
Copyright ©2010 Michele Szekely
Notes and Links:
(1) Read Fr. Samir's article here on Zenit
(2) Cardinal Savino's article here
(3) Zenit news
(4) To find out more about the current persecutions of Christians, see:
Aid To The Church In Need
Where God weeps
Voice of The Suffering Church
(5) Just in case you need help "explaining the Trinity", I would recommend reading: "De Trinitate" (St. Augustine) or
"Contemplating the Trinity" by Fr. Raniero Cantalamesa here or praying directly to the Holy Spirit "Veni Sancte Spiritu" here