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By Khalid Amayreh
In two weeks' time, the Pope of the Vatican, Pope Francis, will arrive in Occupied Palestine in a visit that will last for a few days. He is slated to meet with religious and political leaders representing Muslims, Christians and Jews. He is expected to visit religious shrines belonging to the main monotheistic faiths in the Holy Land.
We Palestinians wish the Pope a successful and rewarding visit. We also hope and pray the visit will help enhance relations between the followers of the Roman Catholic Church and the followers of Islam. Needless to say, the stabilization and possible reconciliation of relations between Muslims and Christians, especially Catholics, is a human and religious obligation incumbent on true believers of all confessions.
Muslims and Catholics live as neighbors and compatriots nearly everywhere in the world. Hence, it is paramount that the political and especially the spiritual leaders of both communities work together in a spirit of good will to create serenity and concordance amongst believers.
I know the task may not be easy. It is actually not easy. But we ought to the future generations of Muslims and Catholics to inculcate tolerance and mutual respect in our respective communities.
We must teach ourselves and our children to accept the other, without ifs and buts.
As humans and especially as Muslims, we know that the upcoming papal visit will not achieve miracles. However, we do believe that with his unique status and influence, Pope Francis can significantly, even radically, influence the cause of Christian-Muslim relations.
That is why we expect the pope to stand on the side of justice, not passively or through noncommittal rhetoric, but through effective, concrete and pro-active deeds.
We would like to see His Eminence condemn, preferably in the strongest terms, the despicable apartheid system practiced by the Israeli regime. Needless to say, Israel's protracted and uninterrupted repression of Palestinians-all Palestinians irrespective of their religious affiliation-constitutes a real desecration of the Almighty.
We must display honesty and rectitude on this matter. It is Israel's enduring repression of Palestinians that has forced thousands of native Palestinian Christians to leave the Holy Land. This is a sad fact for which Israel ought to be squarely blamed. Moreover, the Vatican must not allow itself to be misled or deceived by Israeli lies and false propaganda in relation to Christians’ flight from Palestine.
Similarly, we would like to see the Pope condemn Israel's lebensraum policy in the West Bank, the very policy that has effectively decapitated any remaining real chances for true peace in the Holy Land.
We all know the disastrous ramifications of the lebensraum policies in Europe some eight decades ago. Hence, it would be unforgivable if we allowed the same nightmare to repeat itself once again.
Yes, it is true, the Vatican is not a political or military superpower that can impose its will on evil players on this planet. But the Vatican is a moral authority for hundreds of millions of people around the world. And as such, it can make a difference.
Vatican-Jewish relations must not be at the expense of Muslims
We, as Muslims, do understand the Vatican's propensity to improve Catholic-Jewish relations. In fact, Muslims appreciate and value the ideal of universal harmony whereby peaceful and brotherly relations prevail amongst the followers of various religions. We also have no problem seeing good relations prevail between Jews and Catholics.
However, it is imperative that "good relations" between the Vatican and Israel be kept within the confines of equity and fairness and in no way prejudices the human rights and civil liberties of other peoples.
Hence, the Vatican is advised to exercise utmost caution with regard to Israel's unending efforts to exploit things like the Holocaust in order to silence the Holy See, especially in the face of Jewish oppression meted out to both Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land.
Your eminence: The holocaust, or whatever happened to European Jewry in the course of the Second World War, doesn't give Jews a license to commit another holocaust, even a low-combustion holocaust against our people.
I am not indulging in excessive exaggerations, for Israel has killed the prospects of peace in this part of the world by way of dotting the map of occupied Palestine with Jewish colonies.
This means that Zionism can only be maintained by either violent military occupation and apartheid or a combination of genocide and ethnic cleansing.
Needless to say, the Vatican wouldn't be faithful to its moral ideals if it kept silent in the face of Israeli criminality and nefariousness. Indeed, meeting Israel's evil policies in Palestine with either silence or apathy is very much like similar reactions to Nazi policies and practices. In the final analysis, when Jews think, behave and act like the Nazis thought behaved and acted, they should be viewed as Nazis, pure and simple.
It is clear that the overall outlook of Christian-Muslim relations is far from being impressive. In the Central African Republic, a real genocide by Christians against Muslims has been going on for months. Thousands of innocent Muslims have been brutally massacred there despite the belated presence of French "peace keeping" troops.
In Nigeria, a heretic group, known as Boko Haram, has been committing savage acts of murder and kidnappings, causing an unprecedented deterioration in relations between Muslims and Christians in the most populous African country.
And, unfortunately, in Egypt and Syria, the Christian minorities have been embracing the criminal tyrannical regimes that deny the masses basic human rights and civil liberties. This in turn prompted many Muslims in both countries to view their Christian countrymen with suspicion.
I don't really know what the Pope can do to alleviate the situation. What is amply clear though is that the rectification of Muslim-Christian relations, in the Middle East and beyond, requires some extraordinary efforts by sincere people from both sides.
Let us pray for peace.
Khalid Amayreh is a senior Palestinian journalist and political commentator based in Occupied Palestine
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