by Adedayo Ademuwagun
Picture the Pope praying in a mosque alongside top Muslim leaders. That’s what happened in Turkey last weekend.
Pope Francis was at the Blue Mosque in Instabul on Saturday as part of his three-day visit to the predominantly Muslim country. He also celebrated Mass at the Catholic Cathedral of the Holy Spirit in the city.
The visit to the mosque is significant as the Pope tries to promote peace and unity between Muslims and Christians. He’s the second Pope to worship at the Blue Mosque. The first was his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, who was there in 2006 for a similar purpose.
The world has made remarkable progress in bringing Muslims and Christians together, partly through efforts by world leaders such as Pope Francis. However, there’s still a fence between Christians and Muslims today.
A lot of believers today minimise their contact and association with people of the other faith. This manifests in everyday life, like the Christian who immediately changes the channel when a Muslim preacher shows on the TV, or a Muslim who will not date a Christian. It’s like the world is still far away from the point where people can cross the fence freely without bias or condemnation.
So the Pope’s worship at the mosque is considered nice from a diplomatic perspective. But is this the cool, progressive thing for the rest of us ordinary Christians and Muslims to do? Is this the way to go? To what extent should we be willing to cross the fence and bond with people of the other faith?
Taofeek says, “I read about the Pope’s visit in the news. I think it’s timely because of all the terrorist stuff happening right now – the Isis, the Al Qaeda and all that. He’s trying to connect with the Muslim world. It’s a good one from that angle. But personally I think they shouldn’t have allowed a person who doesn’t believe in our faith to worship in the mosque. I think it’s not right. The Pope is not Muslim and obviously doesn’t believe in Islam. He shouldn’t be let to pray in the mosque with Muslims.”
The feeling is mutual.
Samuel says, “It’s nice to see the Pope take such a step for the sake of peace. But I personally don’t see myself worshipping in a mosque. It’s inappropriate. As Christians, we can make friends with the Muslims and work and play with them. But that’s probably the limit. Marrying a Muslim is unacceptable to me, for example, because we don’t share the same faith.”
There are some moderate Christians and Muslims who have liberal views though.
Maruf says, for instance, “I mix freely, and I don’t discriminate between Christians and Muslims. I have cousins who’re Christians and sometimes I attend a church event at their invitation. I also watch Pastor Sam Adeyemi and read Christian writers. My point is, I try to keep an open mind regarding these things.”
Amaka also says, “I think religious leaders contribute to this thing, because they’re the ones who make the fence bigger through their teaching. I’ve been in churches where the pastor said negative things about Islam just to make his own faith look good. I’ve also heard in my neighbourhood, where the Muslims have an outdoor lecture and the preacher calls out Christians inappropriately. These things simply pit both sides against each other and further polarise the world.”
So then, how is the Pope’s action particularly relevant to Nigeria?
Amaka says, “The Pope’s move is particularly relevant to our nation if you look at the ethnic and religious problems that’s going on. We need to show love to each other and interact more freely with each other, treating each other as one regardless of faith or ethnicity. We need to unite, so that way our nation can move forward.”