2009-10-08 13:02:34

North African bishops urge synod to pledge dialogue with Muslims

(October 08, 2009) The Catholic Church, especially in North Africa, is called to be a church in dialogue with the world and particularly with its Muslim neighbours. Addressing the Synod of Bishops for Africa October 6, several North African bishops urged the synod to replace fear of the Muslim community with real efforts to understand and learn from Islam and to collaborate with Muslim leaders to promote development and peace on the continent. "We all know that fear is a bad counsellor," Bishop Maroun Lahham of Tunis, Tunisia, told the synod. While the freedom of the tiny Christian communities of North Africa is not always respected fully, they are not persecuted, he said, and they usually are welcomed as important partners in efforts to provide the people with education and health care. At the same time Catholics in Africa have to overcome lingering ethnic and racial tensions within their own church communities in order to be credible witnesses to the Gospel and powerful agents for change, said a number of African bishops. Part of the solution lies in a radical change of heart and greater emphasis on the church's vision of diverse peoples belonging to the same family of God, many bishops said in speeches on Tuesday at the Synod of Bishops for Africa. Cardinal Polycarp Pengo of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, said, "Questions like selfishness, greed for material wealth, ethnicity resulting in ethnic conflicts and others, which are the root causes of the lack of peace in many African societies, must be confronted without fear or favour and be followed up with specific pastoral directives."

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