By Devin Watkins
As Muslims celebrate the month of Ramadan, the Vatican is urging both Muslims and Christians to protect places of worship.
In a message released on Friday for Ramadan and the feast of Eid al-Fitr, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue recalls the centrality of this month for Muslims.
“It is a time for spiritual healing and growth, of sharing with the poor, of strengthening bonds with relatives and friends,” reads the message.
The Council wishes all Muslims “prayerful best wishes and hearty congratulations”.
Spaces of prayer
This year’s message focuses on places of worship. “For both Christians and Muslims, churches and mosques are spaces reserved for prayer, personal and communitarian alike. They are constructed and furnished in a way that favours silence, reflection and meditation.”
As the prophet Isaiah says, they are “a house of prayer”.
The Council calls places of worship “spaces for spiritual hospitality” for special events like weddings, funerals, and community feasts.
“Such practice is a privileged witness to what unites believers, without diminishing or denying what distinguishes them.”
Sign of harmony
The Ramadan message also recalls the Document on Human Fraternity, signed by Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar.
It quotes a portion of the Document which states: “Meeting one another in fraternal friendship in this place of prayer is a powerful sign, one that shows the harmony which religions can build together, based on personal relations and on the good will of those responsible.”
Target of senseless violence
The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue then condemns recent attacks on churches, mosques, and synagogues “by wicked persons who seem to perceive the places of worship as a privileged target for their blind and senseless violence”.
International efforts to protect those places of worship are worthy of praise, reads the message.
It also expresses the hope that “our mutual esteem, respect and cooperation will help strengthen the bonds of sincere friendship, and enable our communities to safeguard the places of worship to assure for coming generations the fundamental freedom to profess one's own beliefs.”
Finally, the Council wishes all Muslims a “fruitful month of Ramadan and a joyous Eid al-Fitr.”