ROME — Christian and Muslim communities can work together to safeguard places of worship, thereby helping guarantee the freedom to profess one’s own belief, said the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue’s annual message to Muslims for the end of Ramadan.
Cardinal Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, president of the council, also said he was wishing and praying “that Christians and Muslims, united in a spirit of fraternity, demonstrate solidarity” with all of humanity, affected as it has been by the coronavirus.
In a separate note added to the annual message, which had been written before the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, he asked Christians and Muslims to pray that God would protect “every human being,” and, especially, pray “for the healing of the afflicted and for the grace for all to overcome these difficult moments.”
The annual message to Muslims for the month of Ramadan and Eid al-Fitr, the feast marking the end of the monthlong Ramadan fast, was published by the Vatican May 1. Ramadan began April 24 and will end on or around May 23 this year.
The message was titled, “Christians and Muslims: Protecting together the places of worship,” and it was also signed by the council’s secretary, Msgr. Indunil Janakaratne Kodithuwakku Kankanamalage.
Places of worship hold an important place in Christianity, Islam and other religions as well, the message said.
They have also been an important place to show “spiritual hospitality, where believers of other religions also join for some special ceremonies like weddings, funerals, feasts of the community,” it said.
Guests show due respect to the religious observances of others as well as “savor the hospitality accorded to them. Such practice is a privileged witness to what unites believers, without diminishing or denying what distinguishes them,” the message said.
However, “in the context of recent attacks on churches, mosques and synagogues by wicked persons who seem to perceive the places of worship as a privileged target for their blind and senseless violence, it is worth noting” what was said in the document on “Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together.”
Signed by Pope Francis and Sheikh Ahmad el-Tayeb, grand imam of al-Azhar, in 2019, the document said “the protection of places of worship — synagogues, churches and mosques — is a duty guaranteed by religions, human values, laws and international agreements.
“Every attempt to attack places of worship or threaten them by violent assaults, bombings or destruction, is a deviation from the teachings of religions as well as a clear violation of international law,” said document, cited in the message.
The pontifical council said that while it appreciated what was being done by the international community at different levels for the protection of the places of worship worldwide, “it is our hope that our mutual esteem, respect and cooperation will help strengthen the bonds of sincere friendship, and enable our communities to safeguard the places of worship to assure for coming generations the fundamental freedom to profess one’s own beliefs.”