Saturday, 19 June 2004

The Secretariat for Relations with Islam

During the very first years of Muslim immigration, the Catholic Church was strongly engaged in helping the Muslims to integrate within the French reality. It was a matter of helping them as foreigners and socially penalised people. Several groups and parishes helped and assisted them in facing the difficulties they were up against, to the point of lending them their premises to allow them to gather and worship. In 1971 the Permanent Council of the Bishops of France, entrusted Bishop Huyghe with the task of forming a small committee of people with profound knowledge of this subject: in 1974 the Secretariat for Relations with Islam was founded (SRI). This organism has the task of establishing friendly contacts with the Muslims in France on behalf of the Catholic Church and helping the Catholics to live their many occasions of meeting with Muslims fruitfully.

 Relations with other Religions

In the last few years, in different places, interfaith meetings have started taking place, promoted by local or religious authorities. By facing social, cultural or political problems of the population, the leaders of different religions were urged to take a common stand against violence, racism, unemployment and other problems. In Nice, the religious authorities (Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists…) published an appeal to the civil authorities for new ways of managing local issues. In Marseille and Roubaix these initiatives have the symbolic name of “Marseille-Espérance” and “Roubaix-Espérance”. These initiatives respond to the expectations of the people who ask religions to take common stands on important issues of human and civil coexistence. However, there is the risk of instrumentation: civil authorities summon religious leaders only when they are no longer capable of enforcing public order. Furthermore, every single religious community may de facto lose its right to speak on its behalf when values considered important are called to be discussed.
(Fides Agency 19/6/2004)

Dossier by Rossella Fabiani