I read some months ago that Sweden has refused permission to build a
huge mosque on its territory because the financing country (South
Arabia) doesn’t respect freedom of worship. It is a choice that I share,
made in the name of reciprocity, which the Pope himself often refers
to. It seems to me that your magazine POPOLI doesn’t have clear ideas,
since sometimes it gives in to the current mentality according to which
everything is undetermined and the same, all ideas deserve respect, etc…
Besides, there is the misunderstanding of considering Islam a religion,
whereas, according to me, it is substantially a political ideology.
Thank you for your clear and presently so relevant question. I intend to answer with as much clarity. We at POPOLI don’t share the “current mindset according to which everything is undetermined and the same.” For us, Christianity is different and distinct from other religions because God is the Jesus who died on the cross and said: “Love your enemies.” Only thus can we ourselves be children of the Most High (Luke 6:27-35) who has no enemies, but only children to love. Those who have enemies are the same as them: they fight for the same things.
We Christians are for reciprocal love and against reciprocity in doing evil: to hatred, we answer with exceeding love to the point that it becomes reciprocal. We do not allow evil to overcome us, but we overcome evil with good (Cf. Romans 12:21). We do not want to do evil neither do we resort to pay it back, which would mean to double it. Our victory is forgiveness. We are called to be like Jesus, the Son, who loves all as His brothers and sisters, with the same love as the Father. He loved us and gave His life for us: “He came into the world to save sinners, and I am the foremost of sinners” says Saint Paul (1 Timothy 1:15). This is the baptismal “grace” that offers us a new existence in love.
Those who ignore this make of Christianity a political ideology similar to the Muslim fundamentalism which is a distortion of Islam. Aren’t we, too, using religion as a support and defense of our interests? Aren’t we, even nowadays, looking for a “Christian state” which might impose the Gospel by law and hinder and punish those who do not comply? All this has nothing to do with Jesus who refuses political power as a devil’s temptation in order to fulfill the Kingdom (Luke 4:1-13). Jesus also stated: “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account” (Matthew 5:11). Blessed are we if we are like Him because that’s how He saved the world.
Christians can and should enter into politics. But following the example of the Beatitudes (Luke 7:20-38), so that people may become brothers and sisters, in justice and solidarity. At present, we see that this is the only way in order to have a “humane” life, without destroying each other. Christians know how to exercise power responsibly. But as a “lay” possibility of serving the community, not as a “clerical” occasion of unjustly prevailing over the others.
Sweden is a secular state which gives its citizen equal opportunities. In this case, I think that it has no difficulty in conceding a place for prayer to the Muslims. Since, however, we are dealing with a mosque which is financed by South Arabia, it can and should demand reciprocity of religious freedom for its citizens.
The monks Giustiniani and Quirini, in their 1513 book about the reform of the Church (Libellus ad Leonem X, only published in 1995!), recommended not to make crusades against the Moors of Northern Africa. They were Christians who had been forced to become Muslims. Missionaries should be sent to them: if they would accept them, so much the better; otherwise, the missionaries would become martyrs like Jesus. They, however, recommended to the European sovereigns a crusade against the Turks. But not for the reason of faith, but in order to defend freedom because it is more important than faith: without freedom there cannot be faith! This is good for the state, not for the Church which is free only if it knows how to love like its Lord.