Rome (AsiaNews) – Muslims seeking refuge in Europe are struggling to integrate into Western culture. It is therefore important to help them assimilate the values of the West, especially those related to the dignity of women, without any compromises. Christians, in turn, are called to bear witness to their faith and be open. Dialogue on religion is a consequence of love lived and offered. Here is the third part of an analysis by Fr Samir Khalil Samir, a Jesuit and Islam expert, on the urgency of dialogue between Christians and Muslims. Click here for the second part; click here for the first part.
5. Welcoming Muslims in Europe and helping them integrate
The crisis of the Islamic world and the violent reaction within the Arab world and beyond have resulted in thousands of deaths and millions of migrants, the majority of whom seek asylum in Europe. About eight million migrants wish to come to Europe, and the flow will not stop. Most of them are Muslims, coming not only from the Arab world, but also from Africa and other regions. They are often from a lower class background, not with a high class culture. Rich Muslims with a university education pose less problems.
Now, there is a clear fact all over the world: Muslims have a hard time integrating into the West. The reason is clear: as Islam is a global project (that touches religion, politics, military, economics, society, dress code, food, interpersonal relations, etc.), those who come to the West cannot spontaneously submit to laws, standards and customs of this other world. For today’s Muslims, Sharia governs all of life. Disobeying Sharia rules is the most serious crime. In this context, Western standards are often seen as bad or even sinful. For this reason, Muslims do not see why they should adopt customs and behaviours that, in their opinion, are decadent, indeed contrary to the Divine Law represented by Islamic Sharia.
For this reason, from the very start, it is essential to make Muslim migrants understand the cultural difference between the two worlds, and explain to them that their rules, although sacred to them, have no place in the West. If they want to live here, they must submit to the values of the country, even if they seem wrong. The same goes for Westerners who want to live in a Muslim country: they have to comply with the rules of that country, even if they seem wrong.
If we want to avoid problems and conflicts in the future, this is a key point. Often, a Muslim will justify his or her strange behaviour by saying that if is part of Islamic culture, which is seen by him as “supreme good,” as the perfect model, since – according to such a way of thinking – it was established by God himself.
Such “education” is not automatic, nor does it happen spontaneously. It must be passed on, starting with children, but it must be explained as a necessity, as an absolute obligation, if they want to live in this country. It is necessary to explain that we do not mean that our country’s standards are better than others, but simply that each country has its own culture and rules, which are (by definition) “normative”. If the person concerned does not accept them, he/she is free, but then they must leave and live where they rules are normative.
One of the most sensitive points is the relationship between men and women. This cannot be left to anyone’s opinion. The absolute equality of rights and duties between man and woman is an absolute rule. Breaking this standard is a crime! This point is particularly difficult to accept or simply practice because it is opposed to an absolute rule established by the Qurʾān that pervades Islamic culture. For Muslims, it therefore appears as totally unacceptable and wrong. But on this we cannot give up.
6. Proclaiming the Gospel to Muslims, emphasising God’s love and universal brotherhood
Finally, in front of the mass arrival of Muslims, there are two possible attitudes: one is to see it as an invasion; the other is to see it as a calling and a mission. The first attitude does not serve anyone, neither me nor others. The second can change many things. Seeing emigrants automatically as “invaders” is certainly not Christian. It is obvious that each of us, if we found ourselves in the situations in which most of them find themselves – in bombed out countries, destroyed homes, schools and hospitals, etc. – we would seek a more humane solution to such a life. The longer wars continue, with their inhumanity, the longer this will last! In addition, in these countries (Syria, Iraq, and many African countries), it is clear that governments will not do much to rebuild what has been destroyed. People have no choice but to look for solutions elsewhere, in the more organised countries.
That said, we have to think as Christian believers. Matthew’s Gospel ends with Jesus telling His disciples: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28: 19-20; cf. Mark 16: 15-16).
It is not about propaganda, it is simply for each of us to be brotherly, to show affection and friendship, and act with love and charity. This is the message of the Gospel. If we can deepen relationships, and even exchange ideas on Muslim and Christian views, so much the better. It is neither propaganda nor proselytising, but we must not hesitate to talk about Christ and the Gospel, and possibly measure ourselves to Islamic notions, if we know them.
If we can help some families send their children to a Catholic school, it will also be an opportunity for them to discover a little bit about what Christianity is.
On the other hand, Christian celebrations can be an opportunity for meeting and exchange. Similarly, if a friendship is established with a Muslim family, they will certainly invite you to participate in Muslim celebrations, especially during Ramadan.
In short, we must start with the belief that they are not our enemies, but our brothers. If God sends them to our country, it will also be a reason to test ourselves: Are we true Christians, ready to share our faith, the source of our joy? To share the miracle represented by the Gospel? Likewise, Muslims will share with me their Qurʾān, which they regard as the last message of God to mankind.
In one word: we should not be afraid of Muslims. They are like us. But they did not have the good fortune of knowing Christ, the Virgin Mary and the Gospel. They are entitled to it, and we cannot keep it for ourselves. But it is obvious that if I want to share the Gospel with someone, I must be the first to know and live it!