‘There is no Objection to Building Churches with Muslim Money’

Islamic law does not contain any legal objection to the possibility of building churches using money belonging to Muslims. This relevant observation, full of possible applications with respect to situations of potential sectarian conflict in many countries with a Muslim majority, also deserves attention for the authoritativeness of the source: this is what Sheikh Shawki Ibrahim Abdel-Karim Allam, current Gran Mufti of Egypt, said during his speech on a television program conducted by the journalist Hamdi Rizk, reported Fides News Agency.

The Egyptian Grand Mufti, in his speech, indicated Egypt as the country with a Muslim majority where more public resources are used in the construction of Christian places of worship, indicating this figure as a manifestation of strong national social cohesion. Shawki Allam (in the photo together with Coptic Orthodox Patriarch Tawadros) referred to the teachings of Mohammad who, even when he justifies military self-defense campaigns, commands not to destroy places of worship and not to kill monks. The Egyptian Grand Mufti also intervened on the reconversion of the ancient Hagia Sofia Basilica in Istanbul ordered by Turkish authorities. In this regard, Sheikh Shawki Allam said it was illegal to convert a church into a mosque, declaring that in the history of Egypt no Christian place of worship has been transformed into a Muslim place of worship.

The office of the Grand Mufti of Egypt is subordinate to the Ministry of Justice. The holder of this position chairs the “House of Fatwa” (Dar al Ifta al Misryah), a legal advisory committee on Islamic legal issues. In June, as reported by Fides (see Fides, 10/6/2020), the Egyptian “House of Fatwa” had gone so far as to define the same Ottoman conquest of Constantinople as an “occupation”, marking as an unfortunate event the transformation of the Basilica of Haghia Sophia into a mosque. This pronouncement also confirmed the strong geopolitical dimension assumed by the event of the reopening of the monumental complex of Ayasofya to Islamic worship, strongly pursued by the current Turkish political leadership, also as a symbolic act to reaffirm its identity and its sovereignty, opposed by the Egyptian political and religious organisms, in the current historical situation marked by the strong clash taking place between Egypt and Turkey also on the Libyan scenario.

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‘Franciscan International’ Denounces Human Rights Abuses in Asia

The situation of respect for human rights in East Asia and the Pacific area is precarious due to phenomena such as xenophobia, religious intolerance and the impact of climate change: these elements also represent the areas of action on which in 2019, Franciscan International (FI), an NGO of the Franciscan family, accredited to the United Nations, operated most. This is what the Annual Report reports, sent to Fides by the Organization, which carries out advocacy activities at the United Nations, promoting respect for all human rights and environmental justice.

Among the various issues addressed and the requests presented to the UN assembly, there is the difficult relationship between West Papua and the Indonesian government and the abuses committed by the Philippine government. During 2019, FI reported “human rights violations in West Papua in a context of persistent conflict over independence issues, alleged discrimination against indigenous Papuans and the development of unsustainable agricultural megaprojects”. The information reaches FI mainly thanks to the rooting of the Franciscan Family on the island, where several Franciscan communities reside, as “access to journalists and other international observers is still severely limited by the Indonesian authorities”. In this context, however, representatives of Franciscan International were able to help organize an ecumenical visit to West Papua, sponsored by the World Council of Churches (WCC), the first allowed since 1969, the year in which the region was integrated into Indonesia. “During the year, Franciscan International exploited its access and presence in West Papua to bring to light these continuous violations, also through two events organized during the meetings of the Human Rights Council, talks with Indonesian diplomats and one series of urgent appeals to the UN”, reads the note.

As for the Philippines, however, the organization has brought to the attention of the UN the continuous violations of human rights perpetrated by security forces as part of a government program of “war on drugs” which, according to the groups operating for the protection of human rights, could have caused about 27 thousand victims. In this regard, it is noted that “the Franciscan Family and the entire Catholic Church in the Philippines have manifested strenuous opposition to government actions, also providing rehabilitation for drug addicts and pastoral and financial support for the families of the victims”. This commitment has provoked threats to Franciscan religious by government and police officials, including President Duterte himself, in an environment “increasingly hostile to the work of civil society groups and confessional organizations”.

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