The Holy See
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‘ID AL-FITR1422 A.H./2001 A.D.


Dear Muslim Friends,

1. I am writing to you again this year on the occasion of the end of Ramadan to assure you that I share the joy you must feel at having completed the fast and come to the celebration of 'Id al-Fitr. I address this message to you as a sign of esteem and friendship on the part of the Catholic Church. Many Muslims write to us in reply to this annual message, to express their gratitude, but also to share their point of view on the reflections it proposes. We are sure that the positive reactions are not limited to those sent to us, but could also be found in many local situations where Muslims and Christians live and work together.

In addressing you at this moment, the end of the period in which you have been fulfilling a specific religious duty in order to come closer to the Most High, I cannot forget, in the first place, the dramatic events which our world is experiencing, events which affect in a particular way the hearts of believers belonging to the monotheistic religions. The faithful adorers of the One God are called to be in the world the artisans of a civilisation founded on the perennial values of peace and justice, of unity and love, of dialogue and freedom, of cooperation and fraternity, between persons and among peoples. May expressions of solidarity and fraternity among believers and all people of good will lead society along new paths, in full respect for human values and in the promotion of these values.

2. This year it is precisely upon this theme of human values and their promotion in an era marked by great technological progress that I wish to reflect with you. We are living in an era of technology which touches all spheres of activity: transport, communications, information, medicine, genetics, etc. Technological advances are constantly transforming the face of the earth and even allowing human beings to reach out to conquer space. However the most exciting and at the same time controversial field of technology is genetics which touches human nature directly, as human beings try to pierce its mysteries with the aid of technology, with the risk that human life itself and the respect due to it are endangered.

3. Another area is that of information technology which, through the Internet, makes possible widespread and rapid communication. We can only praise the Creator for human genius which has invented these means of information, learning and communication. Here also, however, much depends on the use which human beings make of these means.

4. The Bible speaks of the human person as one who experiences temptation and sin. The human heart is inclined to pride, to hardness, to duplicity (cf Proverbs 21:4; Job 41:16; Psalm 11:3). Human relations cannot help being affected by this situation. The Qur'anic meditation on human nature also reminds us that human beings are always tempted to put themselves in the centre, forgetting the One who created them. The human person is prone to injustice, to unbelief (cf Qur'an 14:34). Yet true well-being lies in submission to the will of God.

Faced with the lights and shadows of our world, including the challenges of technology, the Second Vatican Council affirmed: "In the light of the foregoing factors there appears the dichotomy of a world that is at once powerful and weak, capable of doing what is noble and what is base, disposed to freedom and slavery, progress and decline, brotherhood and hatred. Man is growing conscious that the forces he has unleashed are in his own hands, and that it is up to him to control them or to be enslaved by them" (Gaudium et spes n.9 §4).

5. What can we do, Christians and Muslims, together with the believers belonging to other religions and other people of good will, to ensure that we make good use of these new means at our disposal?

Can we not work together to protect the most important human values which are threatened by a world in continual transformation ? In the first place comes the right to life, to be protected from conception right up to natural death. For life comes from God and it is to Him that it must return, when He wills. Life is a most precious gift from God, the precondition for all other divine gifts. Next comes the dignity of the human person and the rights which flow from it; these we must promote for all. Social justice, peace and freedom are also major values that are necessary for a life worthy of human beings, a life which gives glory to God who created it.

6. How can we protect and promote these values together in this technological era? First of all through dialogue, which is an exchange characterised by openness and friendship. Such dialogue, which would be concerned essentially with the ethical dimensions of new discoveries, could lead naturally to collaboration in the fields already mentioned. This dialogue and collaboration are to be pursued at all levels, local, regional, national and world-wide. All are called to make a contribution, according to their particular responsibilities and capacities. The common action to which we are invited concerns the whole of humanity, considered as one large family, having God as its origin and end. Consequently, constant reference to God and a continual search to discern His will are of capital importance in our efforts to promote human values.

With the expression of my best wishes for peace and prosperity

Cardinal Francis Arinze