The Chaldean Church, which is in full Communion with the Roman Catholic Church, is reaching out to Muslims with the hope of advancing the cause of religious freedom between Muslims and Christians. Archbishop Raphael I Sako has suggested that the Catholic Church deliver a document for Muslims to translate the ideas of religious freedom into terms that are understandable to those that follow Islamic teachings.
The aim of the patriarch’s plan is to develop ties between the Muslim world and Christians living in Muslim countries. These Christians have historical ties to nations in the Middle East, which are now predominantly Muslim. By preaching religious freedom, and tolerance, to the Muslim world, Sako hopes to prevent further repression of Christianity in Muslim nations. By building ties between Muslims and Christians through the teaching of religious freedom, it is hoped that Christians living in countries such as Iraq, where over 1,000 Christians have been killed since 2003, will be allowed to practice their religion freely.
The majority of Muslims are “moderates”, and these are the people Sako is aiming to reach with his thoughts on Christianity and religious freedom. These moderate Muslims do not agree with the extremists, but they are also afraid to speak out against the extremist minority. Sako hopes that by providing these Muslims with teachings on Christianity that they are able to understand, teachings that approach Christianity from a Muslim perspective, the voice of the moderate majority will gain strength and Muslims will become more tolerant of Christians living alongside them.
Reaching out to Muslims makes sense. The Muslim population of the world is second only to the Christian population. Much of Muslim animosity toward the West is directed at Christianity, mainly due to what happened centuries ago during the crusades. By teaching Muslims about the Christian roots in the Middle East, it may be possible to teach them how to live alongside Christians. Through teaching religious tolerance, freedom, and understanding, it may be possible to begin bridging the chasm between the West and the Muslim world.
Maybe Archbishop Sako has touched on something profound. Maybe that by teaching the Muslim world about Christianity from a perspective of freedom of religion, Muslims will begin to build ties with Christians that could spill over from a simple “religious tolerance” into a “whole tolerance” of the West and all it has to offer to the Muslim world.