Need to respect practices of other religions
The report in Al Islam magazine claiming its reporters had entered a church that was alleged to be converting Muslims into Christianity is very disturbing. They were also reported to have been spying to see whether the word “Allah” was being used in the church service. Furthermore these non-Christian reporters in disguise were also alleged to have participated in the religious rituals and practices that are strictly restricted to Catholic Christians only.
They were also reported to have ridiculed the rituals and insulted the ‘Eucharist’ that are held in great reverence by the Catholics. The actions of these reporters were very irresponsible and dangerous especially in a nation with diverse races and faiths. It sets an unhealthy precedence that could cause disharmony, ill feelings and hatred among the people of different religions.
The irresponsible actions of these reporters are considered sacrileges and have deeply hurt and angered the congregation in particular and the Catholic community in general. Some concerned members of the Catholic community have rightly made police reports to investigate the matter and take appropriate action without fear or favor. Will the police rise up to be more professional in handling this rather sensitive issue, which if not checked immediately will have drastic repercussions?
The freedom to practice one’s faith is guaranteed in the Federal Constitution and it must be respected by all parties. Religion and its rituals and practices, however peculiar they may appear to non-believers, is a very private and sensitive matter that must be treated utmost with respect and reverence. Similarly all places of worship must be accorded the sanctity they deserve as belittling them and the practices there-in would be amounting to acts of sacrilege that would incite anger which will have dangerous repercussions in a multi-ethnic country like ours.
Unauthorized entry into places of worship for the purpose of spying and belittling religious practices of others is a serious offense that must never be tolerated. The police must act quickly and decisively to stop such irresponsible people, regardless of the religion they belong, from creating chaos in the country. Bringing them to face the full wrath of the law will discourage others from resorting to such provocative actions. Failing to act will lead to the disruption of the fragile inter-religious harmony that we have in the country.
At the same time in a multiracial and multi-religious country it would be wrong and dangerous to try to convert someone from faith to another. It would only create suspicion, anger and hate that lead to violence that could tear the country apart like in some countries. I do not think there will be any Christian with a right mind would want to convert Muslims to Christianity. The majority of us want to live peacefully with our brethren of other faiths, with mutual respect for the religious practices and cultures of one another.
On the contrary, as all religions preach love, goodwill and forgiveness towards fellow men irrespective of their believe, it would be better to encourage people to be true to their own religious teachings and thereby become better humans in their own faiths.
After all, aren’t all religions the same as they all lead their followers to the one same God despite their bitter disputes, quarrels and times war that they wage against one another along the way, ironically in His name?
As Catholics we may be tempted to react with anger and hate against those who have desecrated our faith, but we must not act emotionally but it a time to demonstrate that despite their ridicule and hate we will strict to what Jesus himself taught and did - to love his enemies. His message to us “Lord, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” should remind us of the virtue of forgiveness even for our enemies.
It is timely for the bishops with the consultation of the various religious leaders of the MCCBCHST to issue an official statement strongly condemning the sacrilegious actions of the reporters concerned. This would persuade the national leaders to take the necessary actions to stop the religious fanaticism from taking deeper roots in our country.