Pope Francis has recently made historic trips to Kazakhstan and Bahrain, both overwhelmingly Muslim countries. In addition to seeing a new church, Our Lady of Arabia, being built in Bahrain its 3rd in all of the country for 161,00 faithful), he participated in conferences for building dialogue and peace in our world. In doing so, the Holy Father has received criticism for participating in conferences that present Catholicism as just one faith among many and not as the one true faith, yet these individuals fail to remember that Pope Francis is living the charism of his namesake, St Francis of Assisi, who risked his life to speak with a sultan about our faith in the 13th century. The fact that he can be at these tables of discussion for human progress is unprecedented in recorded history.
Pope Francis is teaching us and the world that to move forward in our dialogue with the world, we must focus on what we have in common. During the Seventh Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions held in Kazakhstan, the focus was: the pandemic, the challenge of peace, fraternal acceptance, and care for our common home. In a real sense, it is about only one thing, love of our brothers and sisters.
So often we agree, as Christians, this is our call, but we often struggle when the details are put into focus. We say “Yes Lord I will do whatever you ask me, I will love my enemies, but don’t ask me to love my ex-wife or Muslims or gays, etc.” We learned as children, I hope, that God loves everyone, that everyone is a child of God. We may disappoint God; we may act against His desires and commands but that does not put any one group outside of His care or His desire to bring us into one family. If God is love, and we are Christ-bearers, our mission is clear, it is to love. Pope Francis is giving us one face of this love, we are called to care for the health of our brothers and sisters and our planet, as we learn to accept others who are different. If we can do these things, peace flows naturally. On a personal level, if I am taking care of you while you are sick, if I am working to help clean our air and our water, making sure you have the same basic resources as I have, am I not building peace in the world? If I do something for the homeless or for abandoned animals or fight to defend the unborn to have the same privileges I enjoy, am I not building the peace in our world as I build it in mine? If I learn to be more forgiving and merciful to others who are different than me, am I not building peace in the world? We all want peace in our lives, and as the song goes, “let it begin with me.”
With a heart for Mission,