05/11/2009, 00.00
INDIA – HOLY LAND

Pope’s trip to the Holy Land helps peace and dialogue, says Indian Muslim scholar

Nirmala Carvalho
For Asghar Ali Engineer the Pope’s trip will increase “brotherhood among the nations.” Confessional divisions are not caused by religion, but by its “political use.” He extends his best wishes to the Christians of the Middle East.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Pope Benedict XVI’s visit to the Holy Land promotes “mutual understanding and dialogue” among believers of the three monotheistic religions, and “will increase universal brotherhood among nations,” said Asghar Ali Engineer in an interview with AsiaNews.

An Indian Muslim and Islamic scholar, he hopes that the papal visit will lead to a “better relationship with the Islamic world” and “favour the peace process in the Middle East” because confessional divisions “are not based on religion” but on the “political use of religion.”

The “Pope stressed the core teachings of all religions, which is to promote and cultivate the good, in the context of faith,” said Engineer, who heads the Centre for Study of Society and Secularism, quoting from statements Benedict XVI made in Jordan.

For this reason, “all religions much cooperate with each other in sharing goodness and fighting the evil and violence that sadly prevails in society,” he added.

The Muslim scholar holds the Pope in high esteem for his theological training, research and “keen interest in understanding [other] cultures and faiths.”

Similarly, he praised the Pontiff’s “sincere efforts’ in favouring a “dialogue between Islam and Christianity”, glad that the controversy surrounding the Pope’s 2006 speech at Regensburg was set right, pointing out as well that it led to the Letter signed by 138 Muslim scholars to “the Pope and other Christian leaders.”

As for the papal visit to the Holy Land, it “will have positive effects on the global community,” Engineer explained, “because it will favour dialogue with other religions and promote universal brotherhood.”

“Ethical and moral values are the same in all religions,” he said. “What are different are the rituals”. Hence the Pope is right to say that “religion is not necessarily the cause of divisions in the world.”  

Misunderstandings and diffidence come from “the political use of religion.”

“My earnest wish is that for the Christians living in the Arab world (Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, etc) this visit may lead to a better understanding. Also I hope that this visit of HH the Pope may lead to a better relationship in the Islamic world and lead to a better understanding in the strife–torn areas of the Middle East,” he said.

Muslims represent 12 per cent of India’s one billion people. In some areas like Assam and especially Jammu and Kashmir, they constitute more than 30 per cent of the population.

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