Prelate Urges Christians to Give up Western Ways

Encourages Building Bridges in Middle East

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OSLO, Norway, DEC. 7, 2009 (Zenit.org).- Christians in the Middle East must build bridges with the cultures around them rather than emphasizing differences, says the grand knight of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulcher.



Cardinal John Foley stated this Friday in a conference on "The Exodus of Christians from the Holy Land: A Challenge for a Sustainable Peace."

In the conference, held at the Norwegian School of Theology in Oslo, he pointed out that for Christians to thrive in the Middle East, they must integrate more into the culture.

"Christianity is trans-national, trans-ethnic and trans-cultural," the cardinal stated. "It should not be tied to an ethnic group" or "any one culture."

"It is for the whole world," he affirmed.

The prelate explained that "the tendency of Christians in the Middle East is to identify with Western ways and Western styles," but that they "must not cling" to this identity.

He continued: "Of course we all belong to a family, a clan, have an ethnic group. This is the ethnicity we all have. But the Christians in the Middle East -- and everywhere -- have to be able to let go of that, too.

"One of the problems in the Middle East is that Christians have asserted Western culture against Islamic culture. Muslims don't eat pork, we will. Muslims don't drink wine, we will. Muslims fast through Ramadan, we won't.

"It's a sense of, we have to be us and they have to be them."

Global

Cardinal Foley acknowledged that this is "understandable," but that "Christianity doesn't have to be -- and shouldn't be -- tied to the Western way of doing things."

"Christianity is not tied to geography," he said.

"Judaism is focused on one piece of land," the prelate noted, "the small strip of land, the Holy Land, because of the promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, because of the ancient kingdoms of Judah and Israel."

As well, he continued, "Islam is very tied to territory," in a sense, "shrine-bound" to places like Mecca, Medina and Jerusalem.

Christianity is different, said the cardinal, as "Jesus is not buried in the Holy Sepulcher."

"We find him everywhere," he added, and "Christianity can flourish anywhere."

On the other hand, Cardinal Foley affirmed, Christians, especially from the Western world, are a "bridge to the future for the Muslim Arab world."

Western values

He explained, "Christians from the Western world have learned certain things and bring certain values and perspectives that are vitally important for the growth and maturation of the Arab world."

Among these ideas are the understanding of the separation between church and state, the prelate pointed out, or the value of reconciliation and forgiveness.

"If the Islamic world is to join fully into modern society, it has to integrate these values into its daily life," he said.

The cardinal affirmed that "Christians, because they bridge [many] cultures can be the instruments of assisting the maturation and modernization of the Islamic and Arab worlds."

"Ultimately," he said, "what Christians bring is that they become bridges in their very selves."

Cardinal Foley continued: "Our challenge is bridging differences.

"Christians have a tremendous role to play, even though they are a tiny minority and don't quite fit. They have tremendous roles to play in the Holy Land and in the Middle East."

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Full text: www.zenit.org/article-27766?l=english