Marwan al-Husayni *
Churches in the Arab region are oriental spiritual heritage and no one has the right to tamper with it, whether in the name of religion, politics or ideology. Christianity in the East is a basic component of a human civilization in the region, which cannot be abandoned or damaged. As is the case with Islam, mosques and the call to prayer five times a day, Christianity is a fundamental part of the psychological, social and historical collective fabric of Arab individual, whether Muslim or Christian.
The call for the demolition of churches in the region or in the Arabian Peninsula, on the lips of the Mufti of Saudi Arabia, is a call for the destruction of Arab individuals. It is worse than killing them, and not less dangerous than the call for the demolition of mosques, schools, hospitals or kindergartens. It is no different from calling for the destruction of the Kaaba itself, Al-Aqsa Mosque or the Dome of the Rock.
I am not concerned here with the reactions which depicted such call as part of a global scheme to create chaos in the Middle East. What concerns me more is the psychological reaction. Passing such call without highlighting its danger, or without expressing discontent with what it invokes, is a terrifying sign of new sadism. Allowing the demolition of churches is no different from sadistic behavior towards brothers, sisters, sons or daughters.
I do not want to say that such call is in full contradiction with the principles and teachings of Islam. This fact must be taken for granted, especially that we are still living the results of the policies and ideologies of intolerance, narrow-mindedness, hatred, denial of the other and commercialization of religions and humans.
I’ve read the recent news about the exhibition “Hajj… journey to the heart of Islam” at the British Museum in London. The exhibition witnessed a huge number of visitors. I hope there would be serious calls and efforts in our region to activate common spiritual exhibitions that highlight the compound and deep spiritual heritage of Islam and Christianity in Arab and Eastern countries. This part of the world is the historical incubator of interactivity between heaven and earth since the beginning of creation.
Such suggested exhibitions would activate and create an advanced status of respecting and understanding diversity and plurality in the region. They would also protect our peoples from closed ideologies, dogmatic fanaticism and narrow identities, offering them the openness of the divine concept of creation and human life. No one can predict that the absolute truth is his or her own property; no one speaks on behalf of the Creator.
Oriental Churches and Christian existence in the Middle East are Islamic spiritual heritage. They survived through centuries by true Islam. They are the witnesses of a human civilization which early Muslims knew and maintained its value.
I am afraid the call for the demolition of churches might evolve to a more comprehensive destruction of what remained of the Arab mind and dignity.
* Media Strategist, Interfaith and Intercultural specialist