Today, religious fundamentalism has a negative connotation which is the opposite of its beginnings. Originally, it was considered as "a return to the sources" or a return to the roots of the religion. At the same time, religious fundamentalism among the three monotheistic religions Judaism, Christian and Moslem is quite varied.
Because Christians believe in the separation of Church and State, religious fundamentalism takes a different form and becomes more a personal and individual affair; a stressed religiosity which does not influence the ordinary life of society. Even if the Christian fundamentalists believe that all non-Christians will not be saved, this belief, in no way, justifies acts of violence against other non-Christians since Christianity forbids violence. From the very beginning the Gospel calls for love and charity, conviction and peaceful acceptance to accomplish things, but never by the sword.
For Jews, fundamentalism is both religious and racial. It is not possible to be a Jew in religion, but not in race. In exceptions, for example, the Jews will find excuses for a great grandfather or mother, who was a Hebrew racially. This belief can sometimes influence the general development of the society; for example, we frequently hear of acts of terrorism against non-Jews: Churches are robbed (Calvary), places of worship are burned: Mosque of Al-Aksa, Church of the Getsemani, Church of S.Anthony-Jaffa.On the contrary, the Israeli Authority siezes pieces of Iands to build Jewish settlements. Rejecting the International law and decisions.
Israeli authorities tend to "turn a deaf ear" in regards to people who carry out such acts, acts that are considered by society standards as being out of control, or psychologically sick, etc. The Jewish fundamentalists are against negotiations for peace with the Arabs.
We need to distinguish between Fundamentalism and traditionalism. For Christians, Traditionalism in the biblical sphere means to read Scripture in a strict sense. Islamic Fundamentalism, on the other hand, is a political reading of a synthesis of Islam.
Religious Islamic Fundamentalism proposes an absolute totalitarian system based on a cultural absolutism.
The Islamic religion does not distinguish between Religion and state. For The them Koran is not only a book of religion, but also civil law. Islam has to supplant all other religions. Even if the Koran has kind words towards Christians and the people of the Book it is just a form of toleration; all have to pay a special tax (Jizya), and find no relief until they become Moslems.
Christians, for example, are excluded from high government positions in a Moslem state. During some periods of past history, under Moslem rule, the Christians were obliged to place some sort of a distinguishing mark on their clothes and were obliged to walk on the left of the road.
Islamic Fundamentalism tends to be more religious than racial because Islam is a religion for all people and nations, as well as for the entire human race. It is only faith in Allah that unites them. The Arabic Moslems, for example, feel closer to the Chinese and Indian Moslem than to Arabic Christians. It is not to be considered racist since Islam has come for all the people and races.
For Moslems, Islam is the only religion that must be professed by all people with all other religions ceasing to exist. The Holy War (Jihad) has been declared from the time of Mohammed against all the other religions and continues until today. According to Islam, the Jihad will not finish until each person has embraced Islam.
Islam is both a religion and the state. It is religious and political Jurisprudence. Islam is an ideology and also a way of life. For Moslems, only Islam can assure humanity a society capable of fully enjoying life, with genuine and real joy, in justice and peace.
The appeal of the Islamic Fundamentalist is a call to religious resurgence in response to the cultural and political European occupation of the Moslem world, as well as a reaction to the materialist Western world.
Islamic Fundamentalism has succeeded in Iran and in Sudan, and is attempting to be successful in Algeria and in Egypt, as well as in the West Bank, Gaza Strip and Jordan. Its attempts have failed in Syria.
There is no equality in an Islamic state, because not all share the same faith. The rights and the duties of a Moslem in an Islamic state are different from the rights and duties of one who is a non-Moslem.
For Moslem Fundamentalists, the world lives in a second Jahiliyya (religious ignorance), much like it was before the coming of Mohammed. They have to free the world from this ignorance, as Mohammad did in his time.
In brief, the doctrine of the Islamic movements may be summarized as follows: We believe that the laws and the Islamic Statutes are generally valid. They govern all human affairs in this world and in the future. Islam is an ideology and submission to God, nation and nationality, religion and state, spirituality and action; Islam is complete and comprehends all. It must spread its jurisdiction on every aspect of life, which will receive an Islamic mark, its principles and doctrines should be presented in such a way that the people wish to be more genuinely Islamic . 1
The Various Islamic Religious Movements in Palestine
The organization was founded in Ismailia, Egypt in 1928 by Hassan Al-Banna.
Their primary purpose is to" Islamize modern western society"
This party, with an Islamic religious basis, quickly came into Palestine and its principal cities. In 1935, Abdel-Rahman Al- Banna, the brother of Hassan Al-Banna, came to Jerusalem and founded, with the help of al-Mufti of Jerusalem-Amin Al-Husseini. "The General Commission to help Palestine". Shortly, after being founded, it became the nucleus of the Moslem Brotherhood party in Palestine, having as its principal aims to fight the English occupation and to defend the right of Palestinians.
After 1948, following the division of Palestine, the Moslem Brothers found themselves divided: those in Gaza Strip followed the same party under the Egyptian direction, while those of the West Bank were united with the Jordanians. Both saw years of agreement and collaboration, years of separation and struggle as well as oppression from the respective governments.
After the war of 1967, Israel occupied the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The Moslem Brotherhood kept in contact until the connection between them and their supporters in Egypt and Jordan was cut. At the beginning and as a result of this separation, they became politically weak. They were reunited in 1975, under the patronage of the same political party in Jordan and were called "The Society of Moslem Brotherhood in Jordan and Palestine".
The new organization considered the defeat and the loss of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as s defeat of the secular, national and social movements in the Arabic world. This defeat caused an increase of the Moslem religious fundamentalists orientation and their distancing from the national Arab parties. Even the defeat of 1967 was considered by the Moslem Brotherhood of Egypt as a divine revenge against the Egyptian governmentwhich had persecuted the Moslem Brotherhood. The victory of 1973 was considered a victory of the faith, because the Egyptian troops, while crossing the Suez Canal shouted: ALLAH AKBAR (God is Great). It was a "Holy War" against the infidels.
The growth of the Islamic Movement in the West Bank and Gaza Strip was considered a renaissance of the religious spirit, a reaction against Western materialistic society. There are some people who attribute the Israeli victory as a result of the strong Jewish identity to their religion, and the defeat of the Arabs as a result of being separated from their religion.
From 1967 the Moslem Brotherhood began to found charitable, social, and educational institutions to attract new adherents to their movement. They used their mosques for meeting since they were considered places of worship, and were far from the control of the Israeli authorities. The Mosques thus became centers of dissemination for their movement as well as recruiting new members to the party.
Hence a high increase of mosques blossomed.The number of mosques on the Gaza Strip for example, increased from 200 to 600 and in the West bank, from 400 to 750. Even the universities of Gaza Strip and the West Bank were being used, little by little, as centers of influence of the Moslem Brotherhood.
At the same time economic support began to increase, inside and outside palestine especially, from the petroleum producing Arabic countries.
Because of this great financial aid, the Moslem Brotherhood became stronger and even used force at times against those who broke Moslem law: stores which sold alcoholic drinks were set ablaze, women whose heads where not covered with a veil were punished and Christians were constantly harassed.
The Moslem Brotherhood regards the Western influence as an instrument to spreading western corruption against Islam. Therefore, it is necessary to abandon worldly ideas and adopt Islam as a way to liberate Palestine.
The Moslem Brotherhood blames the Arabic governments for the loss of Palestine in 1948. For them, the only way to liberate Palestine is by "the holy war", by a return to Islamic principles. Hence the Palestinian problem is considered a religious problem of which one is not to remain silent, lest he commits a sin by doing so. The true Moslem will sacrifice his life and all his properties to liberate every centimeter of Palestinian territory.
For them the PLO (Palestine Liberations Organization), is an organization that does not serve God, but is only a result of the Arabic governments. Because Palestine is indeed an Islamic nation, the establishment of an Islamic State in Palestine is necessary.
The purposes of the Moslem Brothers are religiously based, hence to establish an Islamic society or nation one must fight against the so-called Israeli occupation of Palestine. To achieve this end one must begin with personal conversion and then the conversion of all society. Hence, ethical problems occupy a good deal of their "program of work" to Islamize all things.
It seems, at least initially, that Israel supported the Islamic Fundamentalist Movements so as to weaken the PLO which was demanding the liberation of all Palestine from the Jews, even by the use of force. Instead the Moslem Brotherhood was demanding the establishment of an Islamic State in Palestine by peaceful means, at least up to the beginning of the Intifada(9 th December 1987). From this date they were forced to change their policy and founded the Movement of the Islamic Resistance or Hamas, (Harakat al Mukawama Al-Islamiya) .
With the foundation of Hamas a great change in the strategy of the Moslem Brotherhood took place. From a peaceful party founded on religious basis, it became, at least in part, a movement of the Islamic Resistance, a party in open opposition, an advocate even of arms, against the Israeli occupation of Palestine. This opposition began with the young men hurling stones at the Israelis, and later ended by using knives, arms and bombs against the Israelis.
Hamas has the same religious purposes as the Moslem Brotherhood, because their final object is God. The model to follow is Mohammed, his law is the Koran and the way to achieve this is through Jihad (Holy War), its supreme desire is to die for the cause of God. In this way Hamas shows its oneness with the Moslem Brotherhood whose end is, namely, the founding of an Islamic nation based on Islam. The only difference is that the Moslem Brotherhood would like to achieve this by personal and collective conviction, as opposed to the principle of force advocated by Hamas.
The patriotic and national aims of Hamas are:
a- to liberate all prisoners from Israeli prisons,
b- Opposition to the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Territories.
c- Opposition to the deportation of those people who act against the Jewish occupation of Palestine
d- Opposition to arbitrary imprisonment without trial.
e- Opposition to the brutal treatment against all Arabs.
f- opposition to the closure of the territories, whether they are free or in prison.
g- Opposition of the spread of bad morals in the Occupied Territories.
h- Oppositions to the enormous and unbearable taxes, etc.,
i - Oppositions to all peace talks.
For Hamas the peace talks are not much more than a ceding of Arab rights and therefore it is necessary to be against the peace talks between Israel and Egypt, between Israel and the Palestinians and Jordanians.Therefore, there is no other alternative but to fight Israel and to liberate all Palestine from Israeli control. For Hamas, the Palestinian problem interests the entire Moslem world, and no one, neither individual nor nation, can cede one palm of this land. All Palestine from the Sea to the River is an ISLAMIC WAQF.No one has the power to cede it and all the peace talks are false and null.
Hamas accepts the establishment of a Palestinian state on part of Palestinian territory, as a temporary solution because the final goal is all of Palestine. Hamas is against the recognition of the State of Israel.
Hamas is ready to collaborate with the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization) and with other Islamic and patriotic movements upon condition that the aim is the liberation of all Plastine is liberated, it will be necessary to establish an Islamic state, since a lay state would denote a betrayal of Islam. For these reasons Hamas and the Moslem Brorherhood have not accepted the Document of Declaration of the Palestinian Independent State, of 15 November 1988, because it does not intend to establish an Islamic State in Palestine.
Yasin, the head of Hamas, declares that the two States: Israel and Palestine cannot exist together except for a short time. It is true that Palestine is the Holy Land for Jews, Christians and Moslems, but the state must be Moslem, because it is the only one that can be successful.
The most popular mottos of Hamas are:
Death to Zionism.
Jews, leave our land.
Islam is the solution.
Palestine is an Islamic WAQF.
The Islamic law prohibits abandoning Palestine and even doing business transaction regarding it.
The Koran is the only symbol of the Palestinian people.
We have to keep in mind that the apparent absence of real progress in the peace negotiations, has helped the Hamas movement to grow, with ever increasing number.
In 1953, during the Jordanian control of the West Bank, Sheikh Takiiddin NSBSHSNI founded a Palestinian Party.
It was at that time that the party was semi-secret. It spread to the entire West Bank, and as far as Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. More than once, it participated in national elections and is still represented in the Jordanian parliament. The party was persecuted by the Jordanian government and many of its leaders were imprisoned.
This party is founded on the great questions of Islamic thought.Its ideology is not easy, and consequently, its followers are for the most part of a higher educational class of society.
It asks that Islamic Caliphate, which became extinct with the defeat of the Ottoman Empire in 1924, be now restored. The only sources for this party are the Koran and Islamic Tradition. No doctrine is able to be successful unless it is a Moslem doctrine. All of the Modern ideologies of Capitalism, of Communism, and of Socialism are corruptions of humanity and are opposed to human nature. Even what comes from men is corruption and is not able to conform to human nature.
The Moslem tradition is one which does not lend itself to interpretation but must be taken literally.
According to this party it needs to act, just as Mohammad acted; it needs to follow him in all things and for all things without considering changes of time or place nor changes of circumstances and people. The weakness of the Moslem world is caused by deviation from Moslem doctrine. This is both caused and willed by the modern ideologies and philosophy which atheistic and unfaithful Europe has seminated into the Moslem mentality.
The world for them is divided into two parts: Dar Al Islam
(House of Islam) and Dar Al Kufr (the house of the infidels).
Dar Al Islam will not be established until the restoration of the Islamic Caliphate based on Islamic Sharia (Law).
All other governments, including Arab and Muslim governments are in Dar Al Kufr. This party is not interested in the correctness of the individual, but rather in the collectives, namely an Islamic nation founded on pure Islamic Law with the Caliphate.
As Mohammed was not interested in the institutional government before the establishment of a Moslem nation, so therefore, it is necessary to establish the Muslim nation now. This point became the debilitating factor of the party since one cannot accept a party without having its own structures.
This party refuses to collaborate with other parties. On the contrary it forbids Moslems to join any party which is not Islamic.It is the party which respects most faithfully the Moslem doctrine. It is important to become interested in Palestinian problems in as far as Palestine is part of the Moslem nation.
This party does not participate in any of the negative actions against Israel such as strikes, demonstrations, Intifada etc
. Simply because they think that the entire question will be resolved once they re-establish the Islamic Caliphate.
The Islamic victory will surely come and because of this, the party refuses peace negotiations, the decisions of the UN as well as refusing to recognize the Palestinian state because it does not include the restoration of the Islamic Caliphate.
This is an umbrella term, under which many organizations, both inside and outside Palestine, exist, especially those organizations founded about 20 years ago in Palestine. The Islamic Jihad is a movement which wishes to reunite all other nationalistic and religious movements under itself. Its first aim is to resist Israeli occupation of Palestine and to establish an Islamic Palestinian state. Hence, it is similar to the party of Islamic Liberation. One is able to detect in this party the influences of the Moslem Brotherhood, Islamic Liberation, Khomeni of Iran and Hizabollah of Lebanon.
The first exponent of this party was Yacoub Qirrish; a previous Fateh member who was arrested and expelled to Jordan in 1979.The other leader was Sheikh Asad Bayoud Tamminmi who called for the destruction of Israel by means of a Holy War. In 1970 he was traveling abroad and has repeatedly been refused entry even to this day by the Israeli authorities.
Between 1967 and 1970 much discussion was held in various fundamentalist movements, especially the Moslem Brotherhood, in regards to the best way to resist the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Many preferred the religious avenue namely; to first establish an Islamic nation and that within a short time they would resolve all the other problems of society. This simplistic solution did not convince many, especially the young and those who desired an open reaction to the occupation. They year 1980 was considered the year of the founding of the Jihad (Islamic Holy War).Sheikh Izziddin Al Qassam was the source of inspiration for the Muslim fundamentalist movement. Qassam is considered the pioneer of the resistance in the story of modern Palestine.Qassam was born in Syria in 1881 and fought against the French. He escaped to Haifa Where before 1948, called for resistance against the English and Zionists infiltrators. He believed that blood and revolution were the ways to liberty and independence.
Qassam considered the English and the Zionists as two faces of one medal, just as the members of the Jihad consider Israel and America in the same light.
Just as in the time of Qassam it was difficult to know the exact number of followers, since it was a clandestine organization, so today; it is still difficult to know how many members there are in the Jihad.
The Jihad claims that it is necessary to fight against Israel not only because it occupies Palestine, but also because it is the center of a plan to divide and to westernize the Muslims.
The Jihad unites religion with nationalism in order to destroy Israel, to fight against the Zionists and to establish a Moslem State in Palestine.
This party is, perhaps, most prevalent among the Moslems of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. It is considered a party which speaks little and acts with security and success. It was the preparation for the intifada.
Their ends are the same as for all Moslem extremists. The ultimate aim is the divine Benevolence.Its purpose on this earth is to resist Western civilization by establishing Islamic doctrine and Islamic Caliphate.
It is necessary to free Palestine which is the heart of the Muslim world. It must be freed by all means even the use of force in order to free society from all those doctrines, socialist and Marxist, and those which are foreign to the Moslem world. For them these Arab and Islamic governments are puppets in the hands of western colonials and infidels. The Jihad in effect, warns the various Arab governments not to make peace, because he who makes peace with Israel will have the same end as SADAT.
According to this party the Palestinian problem is not much a local problem, not even an Arab problem, but it is one of Islam overall: consequently, the solution is not in the hands of a person nor in the hands of an organization, society , party or government, but rather the solution is, in the hands of Islam.
While the fundamental Islamic movements in the occupied territories and in the Gaza Strip have accomplished many of these aims until they became almost the greatest political force in Palestinian society, yet many difficulties remain to be face. We do not know if they will succeed in making Islam a force that will replace the PLO and to spread its protection on all the people of Palestine in the Occupied Territories. This depends on the way in which this fundamental movement maneuvers itself within the external and internal present day politics, and if the Palestinian people will accept " Islamization " and Islamic identity.
We must not forget that the Palestinian people have had a long secular historical tradition. This tradition can be a barrier to Islamization, without underrating the popular secular traditional institutions such as the POL which are against the extreme Moslem movements.
In this area we must also remember that the existing Christian minority existed way before the beginning of Islam.
This minority is present especially in the principal cities. It is a minority which has always been very active in social institutions, education and religious. The Christian schools which number among their students a substantail number of Moslems have contributed positively toward a better understanding between Moslems and Christians, a factor which has balanced Moslem religious fanaticism.
Theoretically, from the point of view of doctrine, the Palestinian Islamic movement rejects democracy, which is really the fruit of European society and has no place in Islamic society. It is even considered better than democracy. In Islamic society, political parties not based on Islam as their point of reference and as the base of their thought, cannot exist. While this is so, and as long as the establishment of an Islamic State has not yet come about, it is better, at least in theory, to be a democracy. The Islamic movement is abled; it seems, to work better under a democratic government than under a dictatorship.
What Kohmeni has said among other things are:"In Islam there is no democracy because its only source of power is Allah and the Koran, not the people. If the people act against the law of God, it is nothing more than blasphemy, and in such a case it is necessary to kill such unbelief. I do not respect any law or any party which is against the Koran, and I will trample them under my feet. These entities must leave the country. The awareness of the worth and rights of man is a colonial invention. Islam has come to scourge... those wish to restore democracy desire to hand our country over to corruption and perdition. They are worse than Jews...they must be hanged.They are not men. Tey have the blood of animals" (le voile dechire de IIslamisme:H.NAHAVANDI)
Certainly there is much to do before these movements replace the PLO and other national movements. Nevertheless, Israel remains the strongest faction and the most organized challenge in weakening the Islamic movements. In fact, Israel has expelled many heads of these movements' outside the Territories either through expulsion, imprisonment or, quite simply, by eradicating them. Only a few maintain their freedom.
The wave of Islamization though is always on-going. In the field of education Moslem schools and those following programs of Islamic inspiration are on the increase.
Universities of Islamic inspiration are multiplying in the Gaza Strip and the Occupied Territories and the number of students who now study religious Islamic culture is about 15% of the total student population or about 2500 students. In addition to this Islamic theology and law, others study in various universities of the Middle East. Beards have increased, women who cover themselves in black from head to foot are multiplying, the mosques are always filled and the instruction which they receive is not only religious, but tends towards creating Islamic fanaticism. The many cases make one wonder whether they are really real or imaginary or whether they are from the 20 th century or the Middle Ages.
At the same time youg Christains are not able to even wear a cross around their neck lest they be spat upon. Christian families are not able to rent an apartment from a Moslem unless they first sign an agreement that they will not hang religious articles on the walls, and available apartments owned by Moslems must first be given to a Moslem over a Christian. In short, it is forbidden for Christian families to live in Moslem neighborhoods and to attend Moslem schools.
Thse Islamic movements complain that Western countries do not give Moslems the same rights as they give other citizens, while Moslems refuse to give these rights to Christians who live in their territories. They use the excuse that the Christian gospel gives perfect equality to all citizens while the Koran only gives equality to Moslems.
They have constructed a mosque in Rome, the center of Catholicism, while at the same time those who carry a Cross or the image of a saint in Saudi Arabia are harshly judged.Entering Mecca, under the pain of death, is absolutely forbidden for a non-Moslem.
There are some of the practical things which are being perpetuated by the Moslem fundamentalist against the Christians.
The numerous extreme Islamic religious movements fight against one another many times in an effort to have one religious idea prevail over another and many of these movements are armed. These clashes diminish though when they come under Israeli authority. The principal cause of this struggle is the peace treaties between Israel and the Arab countries. Generally speaking the extreme Moslem religious movements are against these peace treaties while the national parties are for them.
Certainly those who live in a Moslem world and understand their language, feel their problems, much more than those who live in a non-Moslem world and do not understand their language. Some facts that have been mentioned do not seem to belong to this age, but rather to the Middle Ages. One wonders if it is possible that as we approach the last years of the 20 th century and are looking toward the 21 st, that these things will continue to happen.
The Friars Minor And the Moslems in the Holy Land
I would not be able to conclude my remarks without saying a few words about the Franciscan presence in the territory of Islam, especially in the Holy Land, an area, which as a Franciscan, is very relevant to this topic.
The Franciscan presence in the Moslem world may be traced to that historical encounter between Francis and the sultan of Egypt. Malik al Kamel (1219). Unfortunately, St. Francis in his writing does not leave us too much concerning this episode, except those which we read in the two Rules: both of 1221 and 1223.
The Franciscans did accomplish something good being among the Saracens not only because it was in tune with the thinking of Francis as expressed in his two rules but also because they had in their possession two "bullas" of Pope Honorius III, one written on October 7, 1225 and the other on March 17, 1226, during the lifetime of Francis. These Papal bulls were written to Franciscans and Dominicans living among the Moslems.
" Therefore to go inter Saracens, is an important task calling for immediate action" according to the two bulls referred to above," to care for and to save the remnants of Christianity from total ruin in the sea of Moslems, and through this work of salvaging and stabilizing will give testimony to Christ, before all, with the greatest possible transparency, both in life and work" from this a period when the Moslem environment did not and still does not, with the exception of a pernicious hostility, care for the word of the Gospel.
If being under Moslem dominion has always been a problem, the fact that we have remained for more than seven centuries has been a miracle.
Islam has refused every discussion and confrontation on religious issues. It is not interested in Christianity either as a religion, thought or life. Yet we cannot ignore the fact that individual Moslems and also certain kids of Moslem ideologies do demonstrate a friendly attitude toward Christians.
For their part the Franciscans have come to know, to see and to esteem the benevolent expressions of many Moslems toward them. In this area, James da Vitry, made known in his time that not only the Christians but even Saracens and other men when accompanying the Franciscans, appear to intrepidly announce the Gospels, are filled with feeling of admiration for their humility and perfection and willingly and with joy, welcome them and give them necessities.
This attitude was due to the good rapport which the Franciscans always had with the people and with the Moslem government naturally doing what had to be done, while the Sultans did not hesitate in issuing decrees and indults stating that Franciscans were exempt from taxes which others had to pay.
As for the Moslems they were not very interested in Christian thought since they felt they had the better faith; nevertheless it was not so for the Franciscans especially of the Holy Land, who had dozens of Islamologists and orientalists, whose works, unfortunately have not been thoroughly studied. However, in this area the words of Patrizia Matassa of the Dept. of Euro-Asian studies of the University of Venice, are well remembered, who said in 1980: "The Franciscans who lived in the Holy Land did not present, in their writings, the exaggerated errors which are found in secular writings. In a certain measure their works contributed to a better understanding of the Islamic world in Italy"
For the Franciscans, what is most striking, is their outstanding patience in trying to remain faithful to the commands of Christ, and in so doing gave Testimony to Christ in an environment constitutionally and perversely hostile.
I would like to conclude my reflections by saying that we indeed should always keep open the dialogue between Christians and Moslem in spite of the difficulties. What is asked for is: good will, patience, gentleness and mutual respect. At the same time a genuine interest must exist on both sides by sharing information in regards to ourselves and our traditions. It is not easy to see similarities after centuries of discussion in which the differences have almost always been emphasized, yet in spite of this, the profession of faith of the Moslems in God is no different from that of the Bible: " I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other Gods before me. "
This closeness of faith is clear from the fact that the three religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam are all "sons of Abraham" and all believe in the Bible. We also share in common: reverence for God the creator, belief in one God, condemning materialistic attachment to the world, fighting for justice and peace, and solidarity with the weak.
But at the same time, this closeness of viewpoints, also has it's distance especially in the many doctrines of faith which has become our strength, an area which I have already spoken about in this paper.
We Franciscans, who have lived in the Holy Land and neighboring territories, have lived in the midst of these similarities and differences for eight centuries, and with God's grace will continue to do so. It has become our calling and our mission.
Ever since the historical encounter of Francis with the Sultan of Egypt which began first Franciscan dialogue with Moslems, we Franciscans, even up to this day, in spite of all the persecution, have continued to live among the Saracens, always seeking a road of reconciliation and perseverance. With our presence we have strengthened our local Christian community to remain in their places. In many ways our presence has been both a spriritual oasis and a fortress which has be maintainded the Christian faith. We pray to God that our presence continues in the future with the same faith, the perseverance and enthusiasm so that we may give witness to Christ through dialogue with other religions, a dialogue based on evangelical truth, a dialogue filled with Franciscan charity and joy.
The Crusaders, who came to defend the Holy Land with arms, and left as a failure, while the sons of Francis came with the cross and the salutation of peace, have remained ever since. We pray that in the face of whatever future difficulties. may confront us, we continue to carry on the message of reconciliation and peace.
31 July 1995
International Commission O.F.M
The dialogue with the Moslems.
Rome - Via S.Maria Mediatrice 25.
1. Palestine-Israel Journal.No2 Spring 1994 p.31.