Ars et Fides General Assembly – Madrid, 16 April 2016
Workshop: Welcoming Muslims and non-Christians in our churches
19 participants took part in this workshop presented and lead by Pierre Denis (Lyon-Fourvière); report by Jacques Rousseau (Angers)
As a start, there was an introduction on both the common points of Christianism and Islam as well as the differences between these two religions.
The Vatican II declaration Nostra Aetate points at what makes us feel at ease: Islam refers often to Abraham, Muslims consider Jesus as a prophet, they honour his mother Mary; prayer, alms and fasting are practices we have in common. However, the divinity of Jesus is incomprehensible for non-Christians and neither is the Holy Trinity. Another example, added by a participant, is the confessional that doesn’t mean anything to Muslims.
After the introduction time, there was time for debate with examples that show how difficult the encounter of two different worlds can be. The events Europe has been living for several years now upset many Christians and may bring back to the surface old dissensions and rancour.
Muslim visitors are not numerous in our churches and we do not know how to approach them. Those we meet are often atheist or do not really practise their religion.
Muslims are mostly respectful and cultivated, but this does not exclude provocations. Sometimes visitors walk in in the religious habit, women veiled. Of all churches, those dedicated to the Virgin Mary seem to attract most Muslims. There is sometimes hesitation – especially for the women – to enter a church, but as soon as this step is made, they are grateful for the welcome they experience and the way Catholics listen to them.
An interesting example was given: at the demand of an Iman, a surah was read at the funeral of a priest who was a friend of him, close to the Muslim world. The Coran is neither the continuation of Torah or Bible, nor is it a chronology in contradiction with the Bible.
For the French reading participants: the series Que sais-je? has a volume about the Coran which can be a good introduction to the subject.
Time was too short to allow us to talk about other non-Christian visitors and made clear that there was surely much more to talk about.