Wednesday, May 31, 2006

secularism vs. Islam

Interfax has published the speeches and papers presented in English at the international conference, "Give a Soul to Europe: The Mission and Responsibility of the Churches." I'm still reading through them, but one small part of Met. Kirill's (of Smolensk and Kaliningrad) speech stood out to me in light of a lot of reading I've been doing lately about Christianity and Islam.
Today one might say that the Muslim population is increasing dramatically in Europe. In view of this, can Europe remain Christian while not entering into conflict with Islam? The recent scandal caused by the publication of caricatures of the prophet Mohammed demonstrates that it was not Christianity that caused the collisions, but rather secularism, the secularization of society, which behaved with disdain toward spiritual values and the sacred. In this regard the positive example of Russia is remarkable, where Orthodoxy, Islam and other traditional religions peacefully coexist to the extent that respect for faith and sacred things is maintained in society. In other words, Islam is ready to coexist peacefully with Christianity. Extremism, rooted in radical sentiments within Islam, is as a rule directed not against Christianity itself but against the lack of spirituality and the secularization of Western societies. Of course, we do not attempt to justify extremism, but are simply speaking of the causes that give rise to it. Thus, the secularization of Europe not only undermines the foundations of European identity but also provokes conflict with religious groups which do not wish to subject themselves to the general tendency of secularization.
This is not to say that Islam and Orthodoxy would otherwise be best pals without secularism in the mix. But it rings true for me that secularism and secularist practices like colonialism are really what's causing most of the problems between Muslims and the West these days.

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