“I recommend that you too read this sacred text of the Muslims, because the challenge of Islam will be with us for the remainder of our lives – at least,” Cardinal Georges Pell of Sydney affirmed at a conference titled 'Islam and Western democracies', in Naples Florida.
The Archdiocese of Sydney published this week the text of a conference given on Islam and Western democracies on February 4, in Naples, Florida. Cardinal Pell sought to answer these following questions: Can Islam and the Western democracies live together peacefully? What of Islamic minorities in Western countries?
Cardinal Pell gave his own personal experience on Islam, particularly in the aftermath on September 11. “ I recognized that I had to know more about Islam” he conceded.
“I decided then to read this book for myself as a first step to adjudicating conflicting claims. And I recommend that you too read this sacred text of the Muslims, because the challenge of Islam will be with us for the remainder of our lives – at least,”, he said at the beginning of his conference.
Pell affirmed that “Most ordinary people, both Muslim and non-Muslim, share the desire for peace, stability and prosperity for themselves and their families.”
“I accept with reservations the claim that Jews, Christians and Muslims worship one god (Allah is simply the Arabic word for god) and there is only one true God available to be worshipped!”
Cardinal Pell also gave a historical survey of the relations between religious communities, clearing the myth of a genuine tolerance of Christian and Jewish minorities under Arab rule: “Arab rule in Spain and Portugal was a disaster for Christians and Jews, as was Turkish rule in the Balkans.”
The Sydney Cardinal wished to underline the fundamental differences between Christian and Muslims in understanding revelation: “In the Muslim understanding, the Koran comes directly from God, unmediated. The Bible, in contrast, is a product of human co-operation with divine inspiration.”
“Above all else we have to remember that like Christianity, Islam is a living religion, not just a set of theological or legislative propositions. Considered strictly on its own terms, Islam is not a tolerant religion and its capacity for far-reaching renovation is severely limited,” Cardinal Pell said.
Though he moderated this view by adding that “It is easy for us to tell Muslims that they must look to themselves and find ways of reinterpreting their beliefs and remaking their societies. Exactly the same thing can and needs to be said to us.”
Cardinal Pell said the West's secularism spawns "meaninglessness." The West also needs to "understand the secular sources of emptiness and despair and how to meet them, so that people will choose life over death."