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Europe and West Must Rethink Relations With Islam, Pope Says


John Burger - published on 05/18/16

Francis, in latest media interview, offers advice on immigration and integration

Islam and Christianity can coexist, Pope Francis said in his latest media interview, which appeared Tuesday. And while Islam does have a prominent concept of “conquest,” the Christian West must also examine the ways it has imposed its system on Islamic countries.

The Pope spoke with the French Catholic newspaper La Croix, in a wide-ranging interview covering topics such as the Christian roots of Europe and the recent waves of immigration from the Middle East and Africa.

Francis said he has witnessed firsthand examples of peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims. In Argentina, he said, Muslims visit shrines to venerate the Virgin Mary and St. George.

“Similarly, they tell me that for the Jubilee Year Muslims in one African country formed a long queue at the cathedral to enter through the holy door and pray to the Virgin Mary,” the Pope said. “In Central Africa, before the war, Christians and Muslims used to live together and must learn to do so again. Lebanon also shows that this is possible.”

Fear of Muslim immigration among Europeans is based more on the highly-publicized goals of conquest of the Islamic State group than on Islam itself, he said.

He acknowledged that it is fair to ask whether Europe can handle so many immigrants from Muslim countries of the Near and Middle East and the Maghreb, but suggested that a more fundamental question is the reason for that migration.

“The initial problems are the wars in the Middle East and in Africa as well as the underdevelopment of the African continent, which causes hunger,” the Pontiff declared. “If there are wars, it is because there exist arms manufacturers – which can be justified for defensive purposes – and above all arms traffickers. If there is so much unemployment, it is because of a lack of investment capable of providing employment, of which Africa has such a great need.”

This led the Pope to reflect on the world economic system, which, he claimed, has descended into “the idolatry of money.”

“The great majority of humanity’s wealth has fallen into the hands of a minority of the population,” he said, stating that a “completely free market does not work.”

“Markets in themselves are good but they also require a fulcrum, a third party, or a state to monitor and balance them. In other words, [what is needed is] a social market economy,” he said

At the same time, Europe must avoid “ghettoizing” its Islamic immigrants,” the Pope charged. “On the contrary, it’s necessary to integrate them,” he said. “In Brussels, the terrorists were Belgians, children of migrants, but they grew up in a ghetto.”

Integration is vital, he added, because Europeans themselves are declining:

This integration is all the more necessary today since, as a result of a selfish search for well-being, Europe is experiencing the grave problem of a declining birth rate. A demographic emptiness is developing. In France, at least, this trend is less marked because of family-oriented policies.

“In the face of Islamic terrorism, it would therefore be better to question ourselves about the way in an overly Western model of democracy has been exported to countries such as Iraq, where a strong government previously existed,” he said. “Or in Libya, where a tribal structure exists. We cannot advance without taking these cultures into account. As a Libyan said recently, ‘We used to have one Gaddafi, now we have fifty.’”

The Pope also discussed issues of Church-State relations, conflicts over moral issues, and the future of traditional Catholic movements in the interview, which appears in an English translation here.

ImmigrationIslamIslamist MilitantsPope Francis

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