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According to a recent CNN report, “Pope Francis spoke of empathy and mercy as he met Saturday with migrants on the Greek island of Lesbos.” As a gesture of welcome toward the refugees, he took “to Rome three families of refugees from Syria, 12 people in all, including six children.” All the three Syrian families are Muslims whose homes “had been bombed” (April 16, 2016).
One cannot but admire the generous gesture of the Pope in providing a much needed help to Syrian refugees. We are yet to see a similar humane step taken by any prominent Muslim cleric toward his brethren in faith! We as Muslims have been taught for centuries that we should sympathize with each other.
There is actually a binding moral obligation on all Muslims to show sympathy and compassion toward their other Muslim brothers and sisters.
For example, in Surah Alfat-h, God says, “Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. Those who are with him are harsh against the unbelievers but merciful to one another. You see them bow and prostrate themselves seeking the bounty and pleasure of Allah” (29).
Once again, we are yet to see one single famous Muslim cleric from any of the two major sects in Islam make a similar visit to any Syrian refugee camp and accompany any number of Syrian families to his home country! In fact, it is not far-fetched to argue here that Muslim coverage of the refugee crisis is muted if not fully corrupted with stupid sectarian hatred. Instead of assisting Muslim refugees some “popular” Muslim scholars have been busying themselves with ineffective proselytizing, trying to persuade non- Muslims to convert to Islam.
Most of the times, Muslim scholarly and preaching-efforts about the Syrian crisis revolve around agitating Jihadism against other Muslims. I would even argue that Pope Francis’ recent visit to the Greek Island of Lesbos proves once again that the “Christian” Western world has shown more genuine sympathy toward the plight of Middle Eastern refugees. In addition to spending Millions of Dollars in humanitarian aid, Westerners tend to link their words with action. Moreover, it is not surprising to expect that those three Muslim Syrian families who are now honored guests of The Holy See in the Vatican would start to think deeply about who caused their suffering and who actually and physically extended them a helping hand.
Pope Francis proves once again that he is genuinely a true and an authentic man of peace preaching what is fundamentally a religion of peace. Many Muslim individuals find it hard sometimes to question some of the extreme religious views against the non-Muslim other they have been exposed to for centuries. Fearing exclusion and sometimes fearing religious ostracism, many contemporary tolerant Arab Muslims fear intolerant lash backs against their call for religious and sectarian harmony in their societies.
Those who dare applaud the humanitarian approaches of Non-Muslims may actually face more social alienation, and sometimes real prosecution. As a Muslim individual, I feel proud of how many of my Christian and Jewish brothers and sisters have been showering Muslim refugees with sympathy and care. Pope Francis’ humane gesture, taking three Muslim families to live in Italy, represents a genuine human effort to link religious preaching of peace with real and actual work.
By Khaled Aljenfawi