Religious freedom has its constraints too

EDITORIAL: We welcome Magdi Allam, Muslim Convert and our Brother, and Pledge our Christian Prayer and Solidarity
By Deacon Keith Fournier
3/26/2008

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

We commend Magdi Allam for showing us all the way to bear witness to the Risen Lord. Will his words and witness stir all who bear the name Christian to grow in evangelical boldness? Do they herald a new missionary age? We hope they do both.

The conversion of Magdi Allam to the ancient Catholic Christian faith is a story which gives living testimony to the truth of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the power of the Resurrected Lord to truly transform all men and women. In the midst of the
The conversion of Magdi Allam to the ancient Catholic Christian faith is a story which gives living testimony to the truth of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and the power of the Resurrected Lord to truly transform all men and women. In the midst of the "uproar" it has brought, all Christians should pledge their solidarity and prayer to this courageous new Christian.
LOS ANGELES (Catholic Online) - Like many Christians throughout the world, I have been deeply moved by the living faith and witness of Magdi Allam, the popular Italian journalist and former Muslim who, at the Easter Vigil, received the Sacraments of Christian Initiation through the priestly ministry of Pope Benedict XVI.

As a Deacon of the Church, the Vigil Mass is always the highpoint of the Easter Triduum for me.

In addition to my other diaconal work, I have responsibility for adult faith formation and for the the Rite of Christian Initiation. It is a source of deep joy to see that the Risen Lord is truly in our midst. I know that He is alive when I witness authentic conversion in the lives of men and women who encounter Him. It is in that encounter that they, like my brother Magdi, are made new.

This encounter with the Risen Christ is the very heart of the Christian faith.

The One who was raised from the dead in His glorified Body now communicates Himself to us. He does this in so many ways, including through the Sacraments which mediate His Risen life, through His living Word, and by His Holy Spirit at work within us and the world around us. In fact, He communicates through every circumstance of our daily lives. That is because our eyes have been opened and we have truly seen the Lord.

Speaking of his own encounter with Jesus Christ, Magdi Allam wrote:

"I converted to the Christian Catholic religion, renouncing my previous Islamic faith. Thus, I finally saw the light, by divine grace. On my first Easter as a Christian I not only discovered Jesus, I discovered for the first time the face of the true and only God, who is the God of faith and reason."

Throughout the Octave of Easter, the readings of the Sacred Liturgy give testimony to the changed lives of men and women who, though they walked with Jesus during His earthly ministry, were really changed through this encounter with Him in His Glorious Resurrection.

Whether it is the account of Mary of Magdala, the story of the wonderful journey of the Disciples on the road to Emmaus, the surprise of the disciples who were fishing at the Sea of Tiberius or the delight of the eleven, the message is still the same.

Jesus Christ has been raised from the Dead! He lives now in our midst. He also calls the whole world into this living encounter with Him in order to make all men and women new.

Magdi Allam has chosen to be very public about this encounter with the Risen Lord.

He does so, knowing he is at risk.

His Christian courage shows the extraordinary power of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Magdi Allam is no longer afraid.

All throughout our Easter Octave, our first readings in the Holy Mass are taken from the Acts of the Apostles, which details the Missionary work of the nascent Christian Church. The Resurrection transformed ordinary, once frightened followers, into courageous disciples and living witnesses.

Perhaps it is the only Book of the Canon of the sacred Scripture yet to be finished.

It is still being written in the living witness of people like Magdi Allam in our own day. They call us all to the courage which befits our Christian vocation. They remind us of the obligation we have to fidelity to our Baptismal vocation, no matter what our state in life.

Though our own encounter with the Lord is often personal, it is never “private”. The Christian faith is profoundly public. It is, in fact, meant to be shouted from the housetops.

We commend Magdi Allam for showing us all the way to bear witness to the Risen Lord.

Will his words and witness stir all who bear the name Christian to grow in evangelical boldness? Do they herald a new missionary age? We hope they do both.

If the One whom we proclaim has truly been raised from the dead, and He most certainly has, we are all called to proclaim that fact to the ends of the earth. Magdi Allam, like the train of witnesses who span over two millennia, has become a witness to the Resurrection.

He gave great credit to Pope Benedict XVI for inspiring his bold witness when he wrote:

“...the courageous and historical gesture of the Pope, who, as soon has he knew of my desire, immediately agreed to personally impart the Christian sacraments of initiation to me. His Holiness has sent an explicit and revolutionary message to a Church that until now has been too prudent in the conversion of Muslims, abstaining from proselytizing in majority Muslim countries and keeping quiet about the reality of converts in Christian countries.

Out of fear.

The fear of not being able to protect converts in the face of their being condemned to death for apostasy and fear of reprisals against Christians living in Islamic countries. Well, today Benedict XVI, with his ...witness, tells us that we must overcome fear and not be afraid to affirm the truth of Jesus even with Muslims.

For my part, I say that it is time to put an end to the abuse and the violence of Muslims who do not respect the freedom of religious choice. In Italy there are thousands of converts to Islam who live their new faith in peace. But there are also thousands of Muslim converts to Christianity who are forced to hide their faith out of fear of being assassinated by Islamic extremists who lurk among us.

By one of those “fortuitous events” that evoke the discreet hand of the Lord, the first article that I wrote for the Corriere on Sept. 3, 2003 was entitled “The new Catacombs of Islamic Converts.” It was an investigation of recent Muslim converts to Christianity in Italy who decry their profound spiritual and human solitude in the face of absconding state institutions that do not protect them and the silence of the Church itself.

Well, I hope that the Pope’s historical gesture and my testimony will lead to the conviction that the moment has come to leave the darkness of the catacombs and to publicly declare their desire to be fully themselves.

If in Italy, in our home, the cradle of Catholicism, we are not prepared to guarantee complete religious freedom to everyone, how can we ever be credible when we denounce the violation of this freedom elsewhere in the world?

I pray to God that on this special Easter he give the gift of the resurrection of the spirit to all the faithful in Christ who have until now been subjugated by fear.”

Magdi Allam, welcome into the Catholic Church, the Body of the Risen Lord. You are our brother.
And, you are a beloved disciple of the Risen Lord Jesus Christ. You need not be afraid. Not only is the Lord with you, but all of us who bear His name pledge our solidarity, prayer and committment of love to you.


Comment:

There is nothing wrong with converting anyone to any other religion as long as he/she does it with a free will.The issue here is not the conversion but the motive behind it.

Why the great publicity given to the baptism of Magdi Allam, a renounced Muslim.Even Tony Blair,the former British Prime Minister,didn't get that when he embraced Catholicism.


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