035 - Christians and Muslims: Comparison of cultures in theory and practice

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Meeting of civilization-Bari – 1/05 – 2006

In five years the number of immigrants in Italy has risen from one to three million, a third of whom are Muslims: to what extent is immigration sustainable? There are difficulties for Arab Muslims to integrate into the West. In order to understand the existing problems, it is necessary to take a step back on the contrasts existing in the realities between the Middle Eastern Arab world, the political situation, and the reasons for hostility, the desire of Islam for revenge and conquest.

The Arab World: contrasts between south and north of the Mediterranean (-1/3)

  • Inequalities between North and South of the Mediterranean: there are driving forces of emigration, escape from the villages
  • Starting from Egypt one can express and condense the great problems of the Arab world: Population growth -> economic backwardness -> cultural underdevelopment (schools, teaching system- little reflection and critical sense) -> political underdevelopment -> fundamentalism…
  • Absence of stable social fabric in cities leads to emigrations.


In order to manage the immigration of Muslims and to manage cohabitation with them, the Agnelli Foundation asks to draw on the experience of the Christian Arabs.


The invisible difficulties to understand Muslims in Europe (9).

The relationship between Islam and Christianity in the Middle East indicates some critical knots relative to the question of cultural and religious minorities, knots of great importance also for understanding and managing the presence of Moslems in the European countries. (Agnelli Foundation)

Muslims and Christians: the invisible knots of dialogue (Page 15).

The fact that more illegal immigrants are Muslims from North Africa should not be overlooked, because they bring with them a cultural level and a set of traditions and habits which, in addition to being very different from ours, constitute a sort of spectacle through which they see and judge Western society. This difference in cultural level is already expressed in the impact with the forms of political organization of our states. In fact, all Arab countries with a Muslim majority are governed through systems that are by no means comparable to European democracies.


Why native Arab Christians are slowly disappearing? By what means does the Umma seek the conquest of power?

The challenge of radical Islam.

Christians have been tolerated by Muslim powers in certain times and places. When circumstances change, this tolerance disappears. The Arab conquest and later the Turkish conquest put in place an identical strategy: some decisive military operation allows Muslims to take political control of a province or a State: the new power then causes divisions among Christians; finally, the dhimma regime (protection) imposes a mixture of discriminatory measures and financial oppression and pushes Christians to convert, even entire families or communities, a little at a time. Thus a country that was 90% Christian finds itself hosting a Christian minority reduced to a secondary status, forced to emigrate.

In certain Islamic countries the phenomenon accelerates with the growth of fundamentalist or Islamist movements within Muslim society, which preach a permanent jihad and the total exclusion of non-Muslims from areas of ancient Islamization, such as the Arab world.

At this moment, since the separation between State and religion does not exist in the Arab Countries, it is only the different application of the Islamic laws which differentiates the “radical” or “integralist” Islam from the “moderate” one.




Arab Christian migrate

The loss of Christian presence from the 20th century to the present (about 3.5 million) represents 44% of that of the 20th century and 31% of that of the present (7.8 million) 3/3

Diaspora of Arab Christians.


The harassment, combined with increasing poverty among the population and unstable individual freedom laws, has led to a numerical impoverishment of the already small Christian communities in the Middle East. Emigration, the dripping of water, has not yet come to an end… What about the Arab Christians who have emigrated? What is the extent of the phenomenon?

There is a dispersion of a population living between two or more cultural worlds. Continuous interdependencies are born between those of origin and those of arrival, giving rise to new energies and models of globalization.

How many Arab Christians are outside their country of origin? (They exceed the number of those left). What is the future of the Eastern Churches?

Diaspora of Eastern Churches

Oriental churches stand alongside their worshippers.

Problems: structures, formation of the Arab and local clergy, different religious traditions and practices, limitation of the Patriarch’s jurisdiction, distances, translation of the liturgy…

Positive contributions to the Co

uncil: use of the local language, synods, the Eucharist under the two species.


What mission do these churches intend to pursue?

The secular coexistence of the Christian Arab minority in Muslim-majority countries is an example for the future of relations between two such different worlds. Christians, who have been pioneers in the promotion of Arab culture, maintain a spiritual openness towards the West, which has become the destination of many of its co-religionists.


Mission of the Churches in Diaspora

Keeping alive the Eastern liturgical traditions and the patrimony of the Fathers of the Church

Training new seminarians

To create a bridge between the two lungs of the East-West Church, between Christians who are one, between Islam and Christianity.


A photograph of the comparison between Islamic and Western societies, between Italy and the Arab world.

The Sharia conditions life (11)

  • knots invisible to Italians

The law itself discriminates:

  1. a) Non-Muslims: a world apart.
  2. b) Legal situation of the Christian in the face of Islamic law: Sharia law.
  • Contrasts in constitutional systems compared to western ones

Discrimination under the law:

  • divine source of Koranic law
  • freedom of religious choice
  • equality among citizens
  • women’s rights
  • heredity


Because non-Muslims are suffocated, oppressed by society:

HUMAN RIGHTS in Islam (1)-13



  • Socio-cultural and political religion (instead of) faith and spirituality
  • Religious freedom
  • Cult
  • Apostasy
  • Wedding
  • Family
  • Inheritance
  • Trades


Human rights in Islam (2)-15

The woman

Women’s civil rights are halved compared to men in the Personal Status Act

  • Trades: some trades cannot be performed by non-Muslims
  • Inheritance
  • Repudiation: man can repudiate wife
  • Choice of groom: forbidden the marriage of the Muslim woman with a non-Muslim
  • Children
  • Freedom of movement
  • Testimony


In addition to legal discrimination, prejudices and the resulting social pressure are equally dangerous and play a key role in fomenting hatred and misunderstandings.

Prejudices between Christians and Muslims (19)

Religious (beliefs, scriptures, trinity, Church, mysteries and sacraments, divisions between Churches…).


In the West

Uses, customs and culture, they don’t see us praying, relaxed morals.

Maktub vs. man creates his own history, his future…

Attitudes of young people

Positive aspects

– Values in Arab society: family, parents, identity, sense of belonging.


Summing up:

Prejudices, frustrations, God-favourite people, economic backwardness, absence of stable social fabric due to migration vs. cities, feelings of hostility towards the West, are all components of a powder keg ready to explode in the West…….if it is not remedied in time


Before mentioning the material and moral support that the Christians of the West can give to the Churches of the East, I would like to take a look at the actions that we can take in the West indirectly benefiting the coexistence between Muslims and Christians in the Arab world and the stability of the Eastern Churches.

Since Muslims do not have a smattering of our beliefs except through the Koranic sources.



Knowing Islam, proclaiming the Gospel in the West (46)

We hope for relations of equality and fraternity and we insist and will insist that these relations also conform to the custom and the law in force in Muslim countries regarding Christians, so that there may be a just reciprocity. (Cardinal Martini)


Study of Islam and Christianity

Role of each of us to bring the Arab world and the West closer together


A great master of modern Islamic thought, Taha Hussein, during a meeting sponsored by the Cini Foundation in Venice at the Centre of Culture and Civilization, recognized the vocation, of which the Arab Christian is the bearer, to be the intersection of two worlds of which he can make a synthesis aimed at reviving and developing the Arab world from which he comes.


What can each of us do in Italy?

This conversation would be lame without a proactive note.

How to modernize the Arab world?

The action could be directed towards different paths:

  • In Europe:


  • towards Muslim preachers
  • towards the Muslims themselves immigrants in Italy
  • towards Europeans
  • towards the institutions


  • In Arab countries:


  • Women and human development
  • Politically
  • At the level of international organisations
  • Arab Christians: take advantage of their thousand-year experience

Rediscovering the spirit of the Koranic message (45) Free to choose their religious condition

What positive influence can the proper integration of Islam in Europe have on ourselves and on the churches of the East? Differences vs. enrichment

Distinction between religion and state: an opportunity for a free spiritual development of the Muslim. No privileged treatment- reciprocal knowledge


Christians in the land of Islam

The School (49)

Social pressure against Christians:

  • funding
  • Subtle discrimination
  • TV
  • Religious instruction in schools
  • In public school
  • Christian Schools
  • Teaching religion


To make Arab Christians overcome the sense of isolation and abandonment by the universal Church:

  • How to help Christians on Islamic soil (50)
  • Human Rights
  • Muslims fighting against extremism and for equality between citizens
  • Christian institutions: financial support
  • Reciprocity?
  • Tourism
  • Discovering Arab and Eastern Christianity
  • Churches united in common faith in Christ




A tool for mutual knowledge -ENEC

What positive influence can the proper integration of Islam in Europe have on us and on the churches of the East?

Could the Muslim in Italy become an agent of change?

Better to be a Muslim in Europe

Distinction between religion and state: an opportunity for a free spiritual development of Muslims.

Cultural dialogue is the leaven for economic development:


Giuseppe Samir Eid



Free web translation from the original in Italian



The published articles intend to provide the tools for a social inclusion of the migratory flow, shed light on human rights and the condition of life of Christians in the Islamic world from which the author come from. Knowledge of the other, of cultural and religious differences are primary ingredients to create peace in the hearts of men everywhere, a prerequisite for a peaceful coexistence and convinced citizenship in the territory.





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