BARCELONA, Spain, JAN. 21, 2005 (Zenit.org).- It is possible for a Christian to be happy living in the Muslim world, says the archbishop of Rabat, Morocco.
In this interview with the Veritas agency, Archbishop Vincent Landel talks about his effort to help the 30,000 Christians in his diocese live in communion with Muslims.
Q: Is communion between Christians and Muslims possible?
Archbishop Landel: Yes. We can share our humanity, if not our faith. We do not speak so much of interreligious dialogue as of meeting, because before talking one has to meet, to experience coexistence that leads to friendship and fraternity.
After that, we can talk about our faith. The Church must help to create this coexistence and friendship, so that one day a new path can be opened.
In Europe there is a lot of talk about Muslims, but who knows who they are and in what they believe? In France and Italy, for example, there is fear of everything Muslim. The thinking must be changed. Not all Muslims are radicals; the majority is moderate.
There is no clash of religions, but of incomprehension, a political and media clash. If a Catholic bishop is kidnapped in Iraq, everyone talks about it. But politics and religion are mixed — even in America when, for example, George Bush spoke about starting the war in the name of God. Sometimes, what is said against Muslims, Christians also do, and one cannot generalize.
It is also very important to know one’s own faith in order to know the other’s. We Christians have the responsibility to deepen our understanding of our own identity and to accept Muslims. Muslims in the main are believers, but in Europe, many have neglected their faith.
Q: Let’s discuss some initiatives that exist in your diocese to stimulate this communion.
Archbishop Landel: In Morocco we have a joint Catholic-Muslim educational project comprising 15 schools with 12,000 Muslim students in which the Koran is taught. I, a Catholic bishop, am the highest authority. Communion is lived there without problems.
We also have cultural centers, run by priests or religious, which are used by Muslims. In this way, the Church helps the Muslims; we are open to the Muslim world, which accepts us, as all of us Catholics are foreigners.
Moreover, many Christians cooperate, study or work with associations, businesses, etc., run by Muslims. These are very positive experiences that allow us to know the Muslims in [everyday] life and prove that it is possible to be happy in the Muslim world.
Our experience as a Christian Church in Morocco is not a model or an example. But it is similar to the Church in Europe, because the Muslim realm can be compared to the secular world, in which the Church must have a free presence, showing the way of truth, to help the people discover God and the importance of religion in their lives.
Q: What is the Church in Rabat like?
Archbishop Landel: We are 30,000 Christians, among them 40 priests and 150 religious. We are all foreigners, since a Moroccan cannot be a Christian because Islam is the state religion. But our churches are open and we can meet without problems, so long as we do not proselytize. We can live our faith happily and freely.
Our Church is a bit more catholic in the sense of universal because it is composed of people of 80 different nationalities.
Before independence there were many more Catholics, the majority French, Italian and Spanish. Now there are many Africans, Americans and Asians, which is a challenge. Communion among Christians is not easy, especially coming from such different places.
The other characteristic of our Christian community is that it is always moving. Every year it changes by 20% because many Christians — students and laborers — live in Rabat only for a time. Of great importance, therefore, is the pastoral program to welcome Christians, to help them live their faith, and to understand the Muslim world, which must be known to be able to coexist with it.
Q: What discriminations are there?
Archbishop Landel: There are different types of discrimination. In Morocco, for example, it is hard for some people to accept the equality of Africans, while they can treat Spanish immigrants, who are in the minority, as equals.
Instead, Moroccans who emigrate to Spain live a different social situation. They have a greater sense of belonging to the family and the cultural community, and risk forming a cultural subset. Europe must not allow the Muslims to form “ghettos.”