Saturday, August 18, 2007

Catholic churches in the Netherlands should use the name Allah for God to ease tensions between Muslims and Christians, says a Dutch bishop. Tiny Muskens, the bishop of Breda, told the Dutch TV program "Network" Monday night he believes God doesn't mind what he is called, Radio Netherlands Worldwide reported. The Almighty is above such "discussion and bickering," he insisted. Muskens points to Indonesia, where he served 30 years ago, as an example for Dutch churches. Christians in the Middle East also use the term Allah for God.
"Someone like me has prayed to Allah yang maha kuasa (Almighty God) for eight years in Indonesia and other priests for 20 or 30 years," Muskens said. "In the heart of the Eucharist, God is called Allah over there, so why can't we start doing that together?"......

I find this to be very interesting. Note that I pulled this from the Michael Reagan show, and many of his listeners are unhappy about it. I admit, at first it sounded ridiculous. Why would the Christian community refer to their God as Allah? But I thought about it a moment, and remembered what I could about theology and the Bible. If I'm not mistaken, the three religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam all originated from Abraham. I'm sure there are some out there with better theologic knowledge than I, please feel free to chime in. And I'd also like to hear from any Muslim and Jewish readers about this.

For centuries these three religions have been at each other's throats in seemingly constant conflict. For what? That in itself is a very simple, yet provocative question. After all, Abraham served only one God. And if we are all sons of Abraham, are we not all children of the same God? Yes, I understand that the conflicts arise as we move down in lineage. But shouldn't this commonality at least be enough for us to coexist? I'm not saying we all convert to one religion or another. I'm just asking why people who worship the same God can't exist amongst each other with respect and peace. I've often wondered why Jerusalem, a city sacred to all three religions, can't be shared rather than fought over. Yes, my religion teaches that Judea is the land promised by God to the Jews, but does this promise not allow any other religion to exist in that area? I could ask the same question of the other religions. I'm not being confrontational towards Jews or Muslims, I'm simply asking questions that I don't know the answers to.

So, I understand what this particular Bishop is saying, and I respect him for it. The problem is his actions may be interpreted by some Muslim extremists and mainstream Christians as evidence of capitulation, which is why the Bishop is meeting resistance in his efforts. It is my opinion that the vast majority of Christians, Muslims and Jews are willing to coexist peacefully. Live and let live, and so on. But, unfortunately, there exists an extremist minority that wants global domination of their particular religion. Throughout history, all three religions have been guilty of this. All three have claimed Jerusalem as theirs and theirs alone. As much as I love my religion and my God, I feel that making such a claim is simply not right, and I feel God would agree. Because while converting others may be a noble cause, converting under the sword is not. If all three religions are willing to make that concession, then all three must also be willing to accept the presence of each other, with respectful disagreement. When that day comes, so will the day of peaceful coexistance.

Editor's addendum: This does not represent a change in my policy. I still support the global war on terror and aggressive action to neutralize religious extremists who murder in the name of God. My position on religion is (and always has been) that it is not necessary for one or the other to be dominant. Religion is a very personal thing, and we should respect each other's beliefs, even and especially when we don't agree. Those who fail at this and seem intent to convert or kill can't be reasoned with and therefore must be neutralized, or else we risk them ruining any chance we have at peace. That is, in my opinion, what's necessary before all religions can coexist peacefully.


Dan Trabue said...

Well, you know that Allah is just the arabic word for God. So, it makes total sense that arabic Christians would call God, Allah. It'd be like the french calling God, Dieux, the french word for God. It'd be silly to expect french believers to refer to God as the english word, God.

So, in that respect, it makes total sense to me. When we have some Moroccan missionaries come visit our church (Morocco being a Muslim country), they often use Allah and other Muslim/arabic phrases.

I'm not sure that I agree that it makes sense in non-arabic settings, though. I certainly wouldn't see it as capitulation, but as a reaching out, as they intended. Still, it might be a case of trying too hard.

John Washburn said...

Dan, I agree. It probably is trying too hard. Still, it's good when any religious leader is at least trying.



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