Saturday, 23 September 2017

Islam, Europe and Christianity

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“It is true that the idea of conquest is inherent in the soul of Islam. However, it is also possible to interpret the objective in Matthew’s Gospel, where Jesus sends his disciples to all nations, in terms of the same idea of conquest.”
Pope Francis, May 2016


“I won’t hide my concern in the face of the signs of intolerance, discrimination and xenophobia that have arisen in different regions of Europe ...often fueled by reticence and fear of the other, the one who is different, the foreigner. I am worried still more by the sad awareness that our Catholic communities in Europe are not exempt from these reactions of defensiveness and rejection, justified by an unspecified ‘moral duty’ to conserve one’s original cultural and religious identity."
Pope Francis yesterday

I remember my surprise when a clever man in 1990 told me that the next challenge for the world would be maintaining harmony between Muslims and Christians. He had the advantage over me of having just gone from from Oxford whereas I had come down from university five years before and so was out of touch with the world of ideas.


I strongly believe that peace between the world's religions is something worth hoping for and that God works through false religions. However the Pope's comparison between the attitudes of Christ and in the Koran towards conquest is very surprising. 


Non-Catholics think we Catholics are supposed always to agree with the Pope. This is not so and certainly not when he talks politics or climate change. But it was much easier not to disagree with my beloved Pope Benedict XVI. It is said that in private, before he reached the throne, he worried aloud at dinner parties about immigration into Europe. When he was Pope, however, he spoke of the duty to be just and generous to immigrants.

I think, like most people, including Lord Chesterfield in the eighteenth century, that the Crusades were crimes. On the other hand, St Bernard Clairvaux and St Thomas Aquinas would disagree. They thought the crusades were just wars of self defence.


The Catholic Church's doctrine develops but does not change, though her teaching on usury is apparently an exception. The Church's attitudes and political polices change a lot. Hangings were frequent in the Papal States and some monastic orders in the ante-bellum American South kept slaves. Then papal teaching changed or developed. So it is with attitudes to infidels.

The title of Athlete of Christ was bestowed by popes on a number of warrior kings over the years for defending Christendom from the Turk when called upon. 


They are Louis I of Hungary, called upon by Pope Innocent VI; John Hunyadi /Iancu de Hunedoara of Hungary, called by Pope Pius II; Skanderbeg of Albania, called by four Popes Callixtus III, Pius II, Paul II, and Nicholas V; and Stephen the Great of Moldavia, called by Pope Sixtus IV. All are considered great heroes. They seem to me, with all their faults, great Europeans.

Stephen the Great, Romania's greatest hero, impaled enemy combatants just like Vlad the Impaler and is said to have sired a bastard in every town to which he laid siege. This did not prevent him being canonised a few years back by the Romanian Orthodox Church

Louis tried to convert his Jewish, pagan and schismatic subjects to Catholicism, even by force. He succeeded with the remaining pagan Cumans but not with the Jews whom he then expelled.

A similar thing happened in Spain with papal approval, but times have changed. Especially since the Second Vatican Council where the church made peace with the enlightenment and the modern world, at the very moment when the world was turning away from the Church.

Talking of Muslim invasions of Europe and Christianity, this exchange, which went almost unreported outside Germany, except by Ezra Levant here, is worth pondering on. Douglas  Murray dissects it damningly in The Strange Death of Modern Europe.

A polite, shy and clearly conflicted lady in a TV audience asks Angela Merkel a question.

00:00 Madame Chancellor, thank you for giving me the opportunity to speak.
00:06 A minute ago you were mentioning the responsibility we all have,
00:10 in terms of how we should all deal with all this refugee chaos.
00:13 But one of our responsibilities is also to protect our own citizens in Europe,
00:19 and I am speaking especially about refugees from Syria and similar countries from where now
00:24 even more people with an Islamic background come into our country.
00:29 And I believe what the gentleman addressed earlier is legitimate, that there is a great fear
00:35 here in Europe because Islamization seems to proceed and grow stronger.
00:42 So I am asking you, how do you want to protect Europe, and in that regard,
00:46 how do you propose to protect our own culture from this?

Angela Merkel replies:


00:50 Uh… I think, first and foremost, that Islamism and Islamic terror are unfortunately
00:57 a phenomenon operating predominantly in Syria and Libya and in Northern Iraq,
01:04 and to which, unfortunately, the European Union has contributed a myriad of fighters as well.
01:10 And therefore we can’t just sit here and say this is a phenomenon that has nothing to do with us,
01:15 because those are people, sometimes very young people, who grew up
01:19 in our countries, and this is where we bear also a responsibility.
01:25 Secondly… uh… fear has never been a good adviser, neither in our personal lives nor in our society.
01:34 Cultures and societies that are shaped by fear, will without doubt not get a grip on the future.
01:40 And third, of course we have this debate that a lot of Muslims also have,
01:46 in which we debate whether Islam even belongs to Germany or not.
01:50 But I’m finding that when we have four million Muslims in this country, it’s really not debatable
01:54 whether Muslims belong to Germany but Islam doesn’t, or whether Islam also belongs to Germany.
02:01 I see there are these worries, but I have to say to that, we all have these chances and all these liberties
02:13 to practice our own religion as well, insofar as we are practicing it and believe in it.
02:17 So if I am lacking in something in that, I am not suggesting that someone who practices Islam is at fault for that.
02:24 We should have the courage as Christians to enter a dialogue then,
02:32 and while we are talking about tradition, maybe please go to church every once in a while,
02:37 or become a tad more versed in the Bible and maybe be able to just explain a painting in the church,
02:44 or at least be able to explain what the meaning of Pentecost is. So there I just have to say
02:49 that a lot of people’s knowledge about the Christian Occident leaves a lot to be desired.
02:53 But then to come back and complain about how Muslims know more about the Koran
02:57 than they do about the bible, I find that very curious.
03:00 Maybe this debate will make us want to go back, and encourage us to gain more knowledge about our roots.
03:08 So far I find this debate extremely defensively-minded. Sure one has to prepare against the terrorist danger,
03:14 but let us all also not forget just how rich European history is of dramatic and gruesome conflict and war.
03:20 We should be really careful when we complain if somewhere else something bad is happening.
03:26 Sure, we have to stand up against that, but we have absolutely no ground to stand on,
03:31 to show haughty arrogance towards others, and I have to say that as the Chancellor of Germany.

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