G. Lazar SVD
Director, Institute of Dravidian Culture and Research Hyderabad
1. Why did you go for Islamic studies? What makes you interested in Islam?
As a missionary priest, my élan and enthusiasm was to preach the Good News of Jesus among the non-Christians. My Congregation gladly appointed me to serve the Muslim community in Andhra Pradesh. The Muslim Community inspired me in many ways. As a priest I too had easy access to reach the families. Islam has a monotheistic message, and follows some of the same principles as Christianity. As shown by the evidence given through the documents, Islam spread to many areas of the world not just because of military conquest but also of its positive messages, political order, and trade. Islam is an immensely extensive and renowned religion that has largely influenced society and its separate religious beliefs.
2. ….Why in India no serious initiative has taken place in our relation with Muslims? What has happened to this teaching of Vatican II, What steps you propose to enhance mutual relationships?
Most Christians suffer from minority complex. We are afraid to reach out to the Muslim brothers and sisters for fear of bad association. Many of our Christian leaders have not fully understood either the Christian Documents or Islam in its fuller sense. Popes have been taken initiatives several times. Though Islam does not propagate or encourage inter-religious dialogue, they are always with us to stand for justice, peace and integrity of creation.
I propose that in every parish there could be a team to promote inter-religious dialogue. During Christmas, Easter, Ramzan and Bakrid we an invite the Muslim brothers to share their ideas and observations with us. This could be a starting point. We can also organise inter-religious meetings at times of violence and pandemic. Schools and Colleges must have prayer meetings to bring awareness to the students.
3. Pope Francis has the encyclical Fratelli Tutti very much to the Human Brotherhood which is also directly pointing to the Islamic world. In 2019 Pope visited to the United Arab Emirates, where he signed the document on “Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together.” Also known as the Abu Dhabi Document, it aims to “build a future together.” Why do you think this Pope like St Francis who visited the Sultan during the second crusade is extending his hands in fraternity to the Muslim world?
The world cries for peace. Humankind is still in search of moral values. Only by joining hands together we can win the war against the emerging evil forces. Pope Francis knows by wisdom that Muslim community is force to reckon with.
4. Is Pope Francis is trying to prove the confrontational rhetoric of Samuel Huntington’s “clash of civilizations” wrong?
Not exactly. Any Anthropologist would know what Samuel Huntington meant by “clash of civilization” It has a cultural and political clout. Pope Francis goes beyond political terms. According Pope Francis, Abrahamic religions can make a big difference in the divided world and the divisive cultures.
5. Do you think there is an orchestrated hate campaign against the Muslims in India? Are the Christians falling victims of the hate campaign?
There have been several instances of religious violence against Muslims since the Partition of India in 1947, frequently in the form of violent attacks on Muslims by Hindu nationalist mobs that form a pattern of sporadic sectarian violence between the Hindu and Muslim communities. Over 10,000 people have been killed in Hindu-Muslim communal violence since 1950 in 6,933 instances of communal violence between 1954 and 1982. In 1989, there were incidents of mass violence throughout the north of India. I believe these periodic acts of violence have “scarred India’s post independence history” and have also hindered India’s cause in Jammu and Kashmir with regard to the Kashmir conflict. Partly Christians have fallen prey to this hate campaign.
6. There is a sizable number of Muslims who have migrated to Europe and America because of war in the Middle East, how the Muslim-Christian relation will grow in the West?
Belief in the Universal Human Family is Critical in Christian-Muslim Exchanges particularly in the West. The notion of the universal human family coupled with the need for the communal harmony and continuous survival calls for the entire membership of the society to work together in pursuance of collective goals and interests. In this context, Christian- Muslim relations become an inevitable means of attaining the shared, communal aspirations. This calls for a certain synchronization of individual as well as religious organisational interests for a much broader public ambition.
It also demands an adoption of the traditional religious consciousness which is fundamentally indifferent to polemics but open unreservedly to dialogue and communal cooperation. Here, dialogue is best described in the sense of ‘witness’ in the light of lived and shared experiences which have been constantly proven to be the most advanced and the best missionary strategy. In view of this common humanity, Muslims and Christians, in fact adherents of all religions constitute one universal human family, the most important source of unity and a valuable model for Christian-Muslim relations.
7. There are three Abrahmic religions, Christianity, Judaism and Islam, why are they in some sort of animosity and non-dialogic attitude?
Judaism: Messiah hasn’t arrived. Jesus was not Messiah because he didn’t have a father and that he was killed by crucifixion, regarded as a humiliating death. Awaiting Messiah.
Christianity: Believe in original sin. Believe in Trinity, all three to be worshipped. Jesus is the redeemer and Son of God who died on the cross for the sins of many. Jesus will return on the final day of the world.
Islam: Jesus was the Messiah (rasul) who did not die but was raised by God to Himself and will be returned to his people at an appointed time in future. Jesus was a Prophet who was immaculately conceived by his virgin mother Maryam. Jesus’ alleged crucifixion is debunked by God in the Al Quran as mere conjecture. Awaiting return of Jesus the Messiah.
The followers of all 3 religions are awaiting the arrival/return of the Messiah but some of them will be deceived as there is the Anti-Christ factor, or Al Masih Ad-Dajjal in Islam.
All three faiths talk about fear as the most damaging of emotions as it leads to a passive-aggressive state of being/living. Religious/ethnic communities have always feared losing their land or resources, power or freedom.
Most of us do not know the basic theology of their religions hence the problem.
All three faiths warn against the over-whelming power of the ego, greed and pride if these are given full rein over our lives. Groups and communities often seek to elevate their social status and increase their wealth (often at the expense of another community). That’s why all three faiths encourage us to work for the well-being of all and to seek to reduce the suffering of others, rather than be consumed by our own pain and pleasure.