Dear Muslim Friends,
1. I am writing to you again this year on the occasion of the end of Ramadān
to assure you that I share the joy you must feel at having completed the
fast and come to the celebration of ‘Id al-Fitr. I address this message to
you as a sign of esteem and friendship on the part of the Catholic Church.
Many Muslims write to us in reply to this annual message to express their
gratitude, but also to share their point of view on the reflections it
proposes. We are sure that the positive reactions are not limited to those
sent to us, but could also be found in many local situations where Muslims
and Christians live and work together.
In addressing you at this moment, the end of the period in which you have
been fulfilling a specific religious duty in order to come closer to the
Most High, I cannot forget, in the first place, the dramatic events which
our world is experiencing, events which affect in a particular way the
hearts of believers belonging to the monotheistic religions. The faithful
adorers of the One God are called to be in the world the artisans of a
civilization founded on the perennial values of peace and justice, of unity
and love, of dialogue and freedom, of co-operation and fraternity, between
persons and among peoples. May expressions of solidarity and fraternity
among believers and all people of good lead the society along new paths in
full respect for human values and in the promotion of these values.
2. This year it is a precisely upon this theme of human values and their
promotion in an era marked by great technological progress that I wish to
reflect with you. We are living in an era of technology which touches all
spheres of activity: transport, communications, information, medicine,
genetics, etc. Technological advances are constantly transforming the face
of the earth and even allowing human beings to reach out to conquer space.
However the most exciting and at the same time controversial field of
technology is genetics which touches human nature directly, as human beings
try to pierce its mysteries with the aid of technology, with the risk that
human life itself and the respect due to it are endangered.
3. Another area is that of information technology which, through the
Internet, makes possible widespread and rapid communication. We can only
praise the Creator for human genius which has invented these means of
information, learning and communication. Here also, however, much depends on
the use which human beings make of these means.
4. The Bible speaks of the human person as one who experiences temptation
and sin. The human heart is inclined to pride, to hardness, to duplicity (cf
Proverbs 21:4); Job 41:16; Psalm 11:3). Human relations cannot help being
affected by this situation. The Qur’ānic meditation on human nature also
reminds us that human beings are always tempted to put themselves in the
centre, forgetting the One who created them. The human person is prone to
injustice, to unbelief (cf Qur’ān 14:34). Yet true well-being lies in
submission to the will of God.
Faced with the lights and shadows of our world, including the challenges of
technology, the Second Vatican Council affirmed: ‘In the light of the
foregoing factors there appears the dichotomy of a world that is at once
powerful and weak, capable of doing what is noble and what is base, disposed
to freedom and slavery, progress and decline, brotherhood and hatred. Man is
growing conscious that the forces he has unleashed are in his own hands, and
that it is up to him to control them or to be enslaved by them’ (Gaudium et
spes n. 9 4).
5. What can we do, Christians and Muslims, together with the believers
belonging to other religions and other people of good will to ensure that we
make good use of these new means at our disposal?
Can we not work together to protect the most important human values which
are threatened by a world in continual transformation? In the first place
comes the right to life, to be protected from conception right up to natural
death. For life comes from God and it is to Him that it must return, when He
wills. Life is a most precious gift from God, the precondition for all other
divine gifts. Next comes the dignity of the human person and the rights
which flow from it; these we must promote for all. Social justice, peace and
freedom are also major values that are necessary for a life worthy of human
beings, a life which gives glory to God who created it.
6. How can we protect and promote these values together in this
technological era? First of all through dialogue, which is an exchange
characterized by openness and friendship. Such dialogue, which would be
concerned essentially with the ethical dimensions of new discoveries, could
lead naturally to collaboration in the fields already mentioned. This
dialogue and collaboration are to be pursued at all levels, local, regional,
natural and worldwide. All are called to make a contribution, according to
their particular responsibilities and capacities. The common action to which
we are invited concerns the whole of humanity, considered as one large
family, having God as its origin and end. Consequently, constant reference
to God and a continual search to discern His will are of capital importance
in our efforts to promote human values.
With the expression of my best wishes for peace and prosperity.
Courtesy: The Hamdard Islamicus, Vol XXIV, No. 4