MESSAGE FOR THE END OF RAMADAN ('ID AL-FITR) 1998/1418
Christians and Muslims: Together in Hope
Dear Muslim Friends,
1. On the occasion of 'Id al-Fitr which closes the month of Ramadan, I wish to express to you, in my capacity as President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the best wishes of Catholics throughout the world.
2. Together with other believers, we Christians and Muslims, are "God seekers". The Book of Psalms, the Zabûr, describes this human endeavour as a search for the Face of God: "My heart has said of you, 'Seek his face'. Lord, I do seek your face; do not hide your face from me." (Ps 26:8-9). All the good actions which the believer tries to perform, such as prayer, fasting and alms-giving, come under the sign of this search for God. They are an expression of a continuous conversion to God. We can say that the search for God is also a sign of hope.
3. During our earthly pilgrimage to eternity, al-dâr al-âkhira, it is belief in God which enlightens, guides and strengthens us, while hope creates in us a desire and expectation for the good things to come, God's reward if we have lived a life of faith and of love for God and our fellow human beings.
4. Hope enables us to perceive the good that exists in our world. It is the fruit and mark of divine action in human hearts. There are numerous "signs of hope": the growing solidarity among people in our time, especially with the poor and destitute, the desire for justice and peace, voluntary service, the return of religion, an awareness of human dignity and of the rights which flow from it, attention to the environment, etc. I wish to mention here a particular sign of hope, which Pope John Paul II has underlined, namely interreligious dialogue.
5. How sad it is when members of the same family no longer speak to one another, avoid looking at one another, avoid meeting ! How sad it is when Muslims and Christans, who are part of the one human family, ignore one another, no longer exchange greetings or, even worse, quarrel with one another ! And yet, how beautiful it is to live in peace with everyone, to meet together, to speak of our joys and sorrows, our fears and hopes ! How can we not see in the dialogue between believers, and in particular between Muslims and Christians, a sign of hope for the present and for the future ?
6. People of faith and hope are, at the same time, realists who do not close their eyes to reality with all its positive and negative aspects. We cannot turn a blind eye to the dramatic crises of our world: the wars between different countries, civil wars, terrorism in all its forms, injustice which is forever widening the gap between rich and poor, hunger, the lack of shelter, unemployment - especially among the youth, the problem of drugs, immorality, abortion. The list could be extended. Nevertheless the small lamp of hope must always remain alight, shining on the paths leading humanity to a better future.
7. Christians and Muslims, we can work together to give increased hope to humanity. Yet first we must accept our differences, show each other mutual respect and true love, under the eyes of God who shows his mercy to all. We are called to make an "alliance for peace" in which we renounce violence as a method of solving matters of contention. We wish to present ourselves to the world as believers in God and as faithful to human beings, to their dignity, to their rights. This will render us more credible as believers, and we shall be for humanity a further sign of hope in addition to those which exist already.
8. It is in this spirit that I convey to you once again, dear Muslim friends, my best wishes for 'Id al-Fitr.
Cardinal Francis Arinze