03/03/2016, 14.07
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Meeting between Bishop of Penang and Mufti breaks hatred built up over the years

It is the second face-to-face meeting between two Christian and Muslim leaders in two months. Father Lawrence Andrew: "The Church is working hard to reach out to our Muslim brothers, as does Pope Francis. But many unresolved issues remain, such as the conversion of mixed couples children".

Penang (AsiaNews) - These meetings "increase the inter-religious dialogue and break down the hatred and suspicion that there has been for many years, even if they have not the power to change things in the everyday life of Christians . This will take a long time", says Father Lawrence Andrew, SJ, director of the Catholic weekly The Herald, commenting on the importance of the meeting March 1 between the Bishop of Penang and the local mufti Datuk Dr Wan Mohd Noor Salim.

"It is to bring peace to the people” - explains Fr. Andrew . “The Catholic Church is saying to Muslims: 'We are brothers, we are friends'. It's what always makes Pope Francis when he meets leaders of other religions. "
That encounter was the second meeting between Catholic and Muslim leaders in two months, after the face-to-face meeting on January 8 between the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur and the mufti of the Federal Territories, which paved the way for a new season of dialogue between the two religions. In previous years, the Islamic leaders had refused to meet with other denominations, as they considered Islam to be on another level, given that it is the religion.

As reported by the local newspaper The Star, the topics of conversation between Msgr. Francis and the Mufti Wan Salim were the relationship between sharia and civil law and the common concern over Islamist-inspired terrorism: "We spoke - said Wan Salim - about the lack of a common platform to discuss the legislative measures taken by the civil and sharia courts. We also treated the matter that concerns the children of a Muslim father and a non-Muslim. " Lately in Malaysia the episode of a Hindu mother, married to a Muslim, has made headlines. She was denied custody of the children after her husband abandoned them. At birth, the children of mixed couples are in fact automatically registered as Muslims.

"We are here to build bridges between the two faiths - said Msgr. Francis - and there are many things on which we agree, as there are many issues that must be considered. They will be addressed in due course ".
On the problem of the children of mixed couples belonging to Islam, Fr. Andrew believes that it is "a much broader problem. It's a family affair that has turned into a national debate, and I believe that nobody at the moment has a clear view of the possible solution".

"What is certain - he continued - is that in recent times all the bishops are working to meet the mufti of the various provinces, together to build better relations between Muslims and Christians, and to begin to see themselves as friends and not as enemies. The Church is working hard on this".

In February, the Commission for Youth Ministry of the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur (Asayo) held a seminar together with its Islamic counterpart, the Movement for young Malaysians (Abim).


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