Muslims who interpret Quran peacefully 'find a strong ally' in the Church

Great Mosque of Aleppo in 2010 Credit yeowatzup via Flickr CC BY 20 CNA The Great Mosque of Aleppo, as it appeared in 2010. / yeowatzup via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).

A Vatican bishop spoke out last week stressing that while few Muslims are terrorists, there are passages in the Quran advocating violence that can't be ignored, and must be clarified from within the Muslim community.

"It would be naive to pretend that there are not certain episodes in the Koran and the Hadith that may lend themselves to a violent interpretation," Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, said Aug. 5.

He added that "how the Muslim community worldwide can give a peaceful hermeneutic to these passages is a task which I imagine will be made more difficult with too much pressure 'from outside,'" and that thus "I wouldn't dream of telling Muslims how to interpret their faith."

"But those who want to work towards that end from within will find a strong ally and friend in the Catholic Church, ready to accompany on the way."

Bishop Sánchez delivered this reflection during a "Meditation for Peace" hosted by The Art of Living, an India-based Hindu organization.

His speech came just days after Pope Francis on his July 31 return flight from Krakow voiced his belief that it is not right to identify Islam with violence. "This is not right and it is not true," he said.

In his speech Bishop Sánchez agreed with the Pope, but noted how the "religious-inspired terrorism" of the last few decades has been "propagated by a few individuals who insist that they alone have the correct interpretation of Islam."

These individuals persist "in the face of the billion other adherents of Islam who testify to a tolerant religion which does not recognize the legitimacy of the actions of these few wicked individuals," he said.

Bishop Sánchez acknowledged that most Muslims are not guilty of the violence perpetrated "in the name of their religion," and that Muslims themselves were killed in the July 15 act of terrorism in Nice, when a truck plowed through crowds celebrating Bastille Day, killing 84 people and wounding roughly 50 others.

He also noted how an "overwhelming majority" of the victims of terrorist groups in the Middle East such as the Islamic State are Muslim.

"It therefore falls upon all leaders of moral authority in these times to do all they can to calm an increasingly tense situation – made all the more tense by the actions of the few," he said.

The bishop quoted a prayer Pope Francis offered July 30 at World Youth Day in Krakow for the conversion of terrorists to the "way of peace and goodness, of respect for the life and dignity of every human being."

"I think this is also the sincere hope of everybody – of whichever faith tradition," he said.

In light of continued terrorism around the world, "every single person, irrespective of personal faith, has the responsibility to speak – and to act – with the utmost prudence … Only ever appealing to our neighbor's most noble sentiments and never to his worst instincts," Bishop Sánchez said.

He concluded his speech by emphasizing that "what I want to say – and this is my central message for the Meditation for Peace today – is that perhaps it is the case that this generation has been entrusted with the last opportunity of preserving peace throughout our societies…across the European Union and the wider world."

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