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.

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