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Churches in the Arab world

Mar 29,2012 - Last updated at Feb 06,2018

by Marwan Al Husayni | Mar 29,2012 | 22:49

Churches in the Arab region are a spiritual heritage, and no one has the right to tamper with them in the name of religion, politics or ideology.

Christianity in the East is a basic component of civilisation that cannot be abandoned or damaged.

As is the case with Islam, mosques and the call to prayer five times a day, Christianity is a fundamental part of the psychological, social and historical fabric of Arab individuals, be they Muslim or Christian.

Last Friday, Christian bishops in Germany, Austria and Russia sharply criticised Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al Shaikh after reports that he issued a fatwa saying all churches on the Arabian Peninsula should be destroyed.

For me as an Arab Muslim, this is a call for the destruction of Arab individuals. It is worse than killing them, and not less dangerous than the call to demolish mosques, schools or hospitals. It is not different from calls to destroy the Kaaba itself, Al Aqsa Mosque or the Dome of the Rock.

I am not concerned here with the reactions of those who said that this call is part of a global scheme to create chaos in the Middle East.

What concerns me more is to see that Muslim thinkers and leaders do not allow such call to pass without highlighting its danger or without expressing discontent with what it implies.

I do not want to say that such call is fully contradicting the principles and teachings of Islam. This fact must be taken for granted, especially that we are still living the results of intolerance, narrow-mindedness, hatred, denial of the other and commercialisation of religions and humans.

I read the recent news about the exhibition “Hajj... journey to the heart of Islam” at the British Museum in London. The exhibition drew a huge number of visitors.

I hope there will be serious calls and efforts in our region to hold more common spiritual exhibitions that highlight the deep spiritual heritage of Islam and Christianity in Arab and Eastern countries.

This part of the world witnessed religious interaction throughout its history.

Exhibitions such as the one suggested would help foster respect and understanding for the diversity and plurality in the region.

They would also protect people from narrow ideologies and identities, and from dogmatic fanaticism, offering them the openness of the divine concept of creation and human life.

Oriental Churches and Christianity in the Middle East survived through centuries due to true Islam.

They are proof of a human civilisation which early Muslims knew and whose value they maintained.

I am afraid that the call for the demolition of churches might evolve into a more comprehensive destruction of what remained of the Arab mind and dignity.

The writer is media strategist, interfaith and intercultural specialist. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.

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