CWNews.com - Two Lebanese Catholic prelates questioned the feasibility of dialogue with Islam during discussions on October 21 at the Synod of Bishops.

Commenting on propositions advocating inter-religious dialogue, Syrian Catholic Bishop Flavien Joseph Melki of Dara, Lebanon questioned whether the suggestions were realistic:

Is it even thinkable that the Arabic countries of the Middle East, where fundamentalism is becoming more entrenched, will accept in the near future abandoning their theocratic regimes founded on the Koran and the Sharia, which constitute flagrant discrimination towards non-Muslims? To me this seems to be in the domain of utopia, for the centuries to come.

Archbishop Raboula Antoine Beylouni, also a Syrian-Catholic prelate from Lebanon, raised similar questions. Because the Muslim believes that the Qu’ran offers the absolute and complete truth, the archbishop said, “he comes to dialogue with a sense of superiority.” More ominously, he continued, the Qu’ran “commands the imposition of religion through force—with the sword.” As a result, the archbishop said, Muslims are unlikely to recognize religious freedom.

Archbishop Beylouni offered a practical suggestion for efforts at dialogue with Islam. Because the Qu’ran treats the Virgin Mary with great reverence, he said, “we should turn to her for all dialogue and all encounters with the Muslims.” He concluded his remarks with a reference to one very significant inter-faith agreement in his own country: “If it pleased God that the Feast of the Annunciation was declared a national feast day in Lebanon for Christians and Muslims, may it also become a national feast day in other Arab countries.”

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