At one time, most of North Africa and the Near East was Christian. Today, the remnants of those ancient Christian communities struggle to survive amid dire economic conditions, brutal dictators, the scourge of war, and religious zealots determined to exterminate anyone who disagrees or disobeys them.
When I was a seminary student at the Angelicum in Rome, my classmates included men and women from Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Turkey, as well as various countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. My Iraqi classmate, one of the kindest and most joyful people I knew in Rome, was assassinated in Mosul just a couple of years after returning home as a priest.
It’s worth remembering that while extremist groups have a particular hatred for Jews and Christians, they don’t hesitate to torture, murder, or enslave fellow Muslims who oppose them.
The history of the Children of Abraham — Jews, Christians, and Muslims — is full of aggression, hatred, violence, and bloodshed. But that’s obviously not the whole story. Those religions also have the capacity to bring people hope, peace, and joy. That’s why Jews, Christians, and Muslims — along with people of other faith traditions and even atheists — have to work to together to confront the challenges facing our world today.
April 22, 2015