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Religion and Society

Beyond the Ditch of Ignorance

 

 

Author: Maurice Borrmans

 

 


 

Title: Dialoguer avec les Musulmans. Une cause perdue ou une cause à gagner? [Introduction by Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran]

 

 


 

Publisher: Pierre Téqui éditeur, Paris, 2011

 

 


 

Few men in the world have the same experience and competence in relation to the subject of Islamic-Christian dialogue as the author of this book. The sub-title of this weighty collection of writings (which are for the most part recent) immediately removes any possible misunderstanding as regards a subject that could lend itself both to the risks of a superficial enthusiasm and to the risks of discouragement caused by evident and -persistent difficulties. Profound and irreducible differences, side by side with not equally insuperable but anyway tenacious forms of diffidence, characterise, in fact, relations between these two religious traditions. Indeed, it would not be unsound to state that the situation has even become more complicated in recent decades, both because of the worsening of forms of open conflict on the international scene, and because of the unresolved questions raised by the growing presence of Islamic communities in Western countries, and, lastly, because of misunderstandings and exploitations of facts that are episodic but which have a great impact at the level of the mass media, all of which have deepened an already wide ditch of incomprehension between two worlds that are still largely unable to know each other and respect each other.

 

 

In the short, but pregnant introduction, by Cardinal Tauran there is an opportune reference to ‘persevering efforts which have been too often rendered fragile by the intervention of unexpected figures or events’, without forgoing, however, advancing the doubt that we are still ‘too interested in the forms rather than in the substance of our respective spiritual heritages’ which, instead, should be making the same journey ‘so that we can be happy together’. Father Borrmans does not propose pre-packaged answers. He provides facts and experiences, helps in assessing their importance and prospects, and guides us in interpreting and contextualising their meaning in a medium- and long-term perspective so that we come to ask basic questions, without being satisfied with those superficial and ephemeral impressions which, instead, dominate perceptions of the challenges that are underway as a result of their portrayal in the mass media.

 

 

This is a discomforting position which exposes him on both sides to being seen as ingenuous and utopian, not aligned enough, even ambiguous in his constant efforts to ‘intercede’ (place himself amongst) both sides, too often led by identity-based logic to emphasise distances, boundaries and separations, and inclined to see every bridge that is built as a mere castle in the air or even a breach through which the enemy could slither. No human undertaking, obviously, is immune to such dangers, but the prior forgoing of constructing contacts, exchanges and relations would not constitute a mere omission: it would be complicity in making consciences more confused and darkened in the face of the task that the signs of the times demonstrate is crucial for our shared destiny. Whereas many prejudices still have to be knocked down and knots still have to be untied (all on account of the ‘lost cause’ of the sub-title), there is no absence of lines that we can follow, of instruments and opportunities already to hand, and narrow, but anyway open, passages through which to pass (the ‘cause to be seized’ of the sub-title), amongst which stand out the declarations of the Second Vatican Council, the magisterium of the recent Popes, and the letter by 138 Muslims sent to the heads of Christian Churches after the lectio of Benedict XVI at Regensburg. But even more than dialogue at the top, what could and should be fertile and set in motion by these pages is dialogue in daily life, between women and men of faith searching for new pathways to share, to make of them a new ethical and spiritual dynamic which is still widely disregarded.

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