Amid foreigner influx, Gozo bishop calls for more Christian-Muslim dialogue

In open letter to Christians and Muslims on occasion of the Marian year, Gozo bishop Mario Grech underlines importance of inter-religious dialogue

Bishop of Gozo Mario Grech
Bishop of Gozo Mario Grech

The bishop of Gozo Mario Grech has stressed the importance of more dialogue between Christians and Muslims in a society which is seeing an ever-increasing number of foreigners living and working within it.

In an open letter to Christians and Muslims on the occasion of the Marian year, Grech lamented that it was “really silly” to think of foreigners “as a threat or as a purely economic resource”.

The bishop observed that amongst the foreigners were a significant number who were Muslim, including both those coming from African countries as well as from Eastern Europe.

“It is a real pity that there are those amongst us who are tempted to regard them as some kind of inferior class of people, and so they despise them even with violent acts or they take advantage of their vulnerability,” Grech said.

“This is the case when they are exploited by being made to work for a pittance without the benefit of social security as required by law, or when they are offered shelter at rental rates far higher than is normally the case,” he emphasised.

Grech said that a recent meeting between Pope Francis and Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, the Great Imam of al-Azhar, highlighted that dialogue between persons practicing the Christian and Muslim faith was of the essence.

Pope Francis and the Great Imam signed a text, Grech said, which asserted to be “a document that invites all persons who have faith in God and faith in human fraternity to unite and work together so that it may serve as a guide for future generations to advance a culture of mutual respect in the awareness of the great divine grace that makes all human beings brothers and sisters”.

The text showed the benefits which come into place if people of two religions were to engage in dialogue, Grech noted. This was not so much about dialogue between religious “institutions”, but amongst believers, he said.

“A dialogue not between Christianity and Islam but between us Christians and Muslims, we who mix together in our streets, in shops, at work, at school, in hospital and in so many other contexts,” he underscored.

In the context of the Marian year, Grech said that the figure of Mary could facilitate dialogue among believers in one God - Christians and Muslims.

Noting that devotion to Mary was quite widespread amongst Muslims, he said that “Mary is the road which can lead us to open out to each other and understand each other much better.”

“If in dialogue one’s attitude should be that of attentive listening and not of judgement or condemnation, then Mary is the model of the one who always listens,” Grech added.

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