Challenges in a Muslim area of the World Mission Sunday Celebration | October 14, 2009
On October 18 Catholics in the world will celebrate WORLD MISSION SUNDAY. This celebration was initiated by Pope Pius XI in 1926.On this eighty-third World Mission Sunday the theme proposed by Pope Benedict XVI is “The nations will come to its Light” (Rev.21,24).How are we to understand this message today when less than 3% of the population of Asia is Christian, in spite of the fact that Christianity still is the biggest religion in the word? And how can we live the spirit of this celebration when in some Hindu or Muslim area Christians are often under pressure, and in some cases persecuted and killed?
The Pope gives an entry point for our consideration by saying “… put ourselves at the service of all humanity, especially the suffering and the excluded”. For sure today the concept of mission has become deeper compared to the time when World Mission Sunday was launched. The Second Vatican Council in the sixties gave a renewed understanding of the mission of Christians.
In some Muslim areas, like Mindanao where Silsilah Dialogue Movement started its mission of dialogue and peace , Christians share with Muslims their understanding of mission and the Muslims their understanding of the Islamic Dawa, which is similar to the concept of Christian mission. This we are able to do although we differ on the level of faith. Christians love the world because God loves the world, unconditionally, without expecting anything in return. Thus, “…the universal mission should become a fundamental concept in the life of the Church”, says Pope Benedict XVI.
A Christian during World Mission Sunday celebration has to reflect how he/she lives the Christian faith without compromise, even among Muslims, and how he/she has to promote the love of God and the love of neighbor guided by Jesus’ mission of love – Jesus who died on the cross and rose again as a clear sign of His divine mission of love.
We know that Muslims do not share the same understanding of Jesus’ mission and Christians have to respect it. In the past it was difficult for a Christian to dialogue with people of other faiths because the focus was about the truth we believe. Now the focus is more on a dialogue that respects the dignity of each person without compromising the faith. Thus, Christians are invited to be faithful to their faith and at the same time be in dialogue with people of other faiths. The recent letter of 138 Muslim scholars to Pope Benedict XVI and other leaders in the world is a great positive development that encourages Muslims and Christians to focus on the love of God and the love of neighbor, even if we reach the same conclusion starting from different perceptions of faith.
The celebration of the world mission Sunday is a great affirmation for Christians of the faith they have received, and a form of solidarity with all Christians in the world. A Christian in a Muslim area and in any part of the world has to be proud to be Christian and have the freedom and courage to practice his/her faith as Muslims also have to be proud to be Muslim and to practice their faith.
The great challenge that Christians have to rediscover on this occasion of the World Mission Sunday is how to live and promote the commandment of love that Jesus gave ” to the end of the earth” (Act.13,47). This is a critical time when religions are used and abused by those who do not believe that love is universal and that it must not remain only among one group of people of the same faith. It is a time to work together to reaffirm the centrality of God and His love that unites all in one big family.