So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thess. 2:15). Guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the godless chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge, for by professing it some have missed the mark as regards faith (1 Tim. 6:21-22).

Monday, July 27, 2015

United Arab Emirates: a refuge for Christians.

From AsiaNews.It (7/22/2015):

Abu Dhabi (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The United Arab Emirates on Monday announced new legislation imposing harsh sentences including the death penalty for crimes related to religious hatred.
A presidential decree by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, distributed by the official WAM news agency, criminalises any act that stirs religious hatred and also prohibits discrimination "on the basis of religion, caste, creed, doctrine, race, colour or ethnic origin".
Follow up story featuring commentary (7/24/2015): CLICK HERE for full story.
Beirut (AsiaNews) – The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has adopted a new law that bans “all forms of discrimination based on religion, caste, creed, doctrine, race, colour or ethnic origin,” Fr. Samir Khalil Samir told AsiaNews. This is a “step forward,” according to the Egyptian Jesuit, one that runs counter to what other countries do in the region, many of which are still under the thumb of Islamic totalitarianism.
The UAE’s openness compared to other Muslim nations is further evinced by the presence of 24 churches on its territory, partially built with funds provided by local rulers. As a local bishop once said, “The UAE is the only country where Christians are well treated”. It is no accident that many Christians who live in Saudi Arabia travel to Abu Dhabi for Christmas and Easter celebrations (pictured below).

The quest for universal recognition of inalienable rights necessarily including the fundamental dignity of man requires a sustained and informed effort predicated on a dialogue in the truth, the truth which includes discussion of the limitations or restrictions and dangers that Christians and other non-muslims face in most Middle Eastern countries.

A very large part of the effort to promote inalienable rights also includes overcoming the bias in the Western secular media that continues the myth that there is no widespread persecution of Christians. That bias is more one of silence, unfortunately, and tends to confirm the perception that the secular media is either incompetent or willfully ignorant of events, or both. The omission of daily attacks on Christians and other non-muslim minorities constitutes a glaring (and, frankly, damning) oversight on the part of secular media organizations, one that contradicts the dignity of journalism to which journalists should aspire. That is, the dignity and responsibility which compels journalists to report the facts truthfully, wholly and in a timely manner. Without responsible journalists, no democracy can function. One could hope that some independent journalist, if such a journalist hasn't already done so, will thoroughly investigate a likely correlation between the demise of fundamental freedoms in the West and the apparent demise of responsible journalism.
Christians routinely face intense persecution throughout the Middle East and on the African continent from extremist Islamic groups. Journalists would do well to acquaint themselves with and report the experiences of Christians living in countries, for starters, that do very little to protect non-muslim citizens from violence: the burning of Coptic churches, homes and businesses; acid thrown in the faces of women; the rape of nuns and children; etc. Religious blasphemy laws in Pakistan, for example, are routinely used to falsely accuse Christians and deny Christians a right to due process.
As mentioned above, the attack on fundamental freedoms is not limited to foreign nations. Freedom of speech is under attack in North America, whether by those who seek to silence criticism of domestic terrorism by Islamists or by militant secularists who work to silence the religious voice in the public square concerning any of the hot button issues. Given the anti-Christian bias at home, and, for example, the use of human rights commissions to persecute Christians, there is little hope that western countries will defend international religious freedom.
Freedom is exercised in relationships between human beings. Every human person, created in the image of God, has the natural right to be recognized as a free and responsible being. All owe to each other this duty of respect. The right to the exercise of freedom, especially in moral and religious matters, is an inalienable requirement of the dignity of the human person. This right must be recognized and protected by civil authority within the limits of the common good and public order.—CCC 1738
It may be that the UAE is a long way off from permitting Catholics and Orthodox Christians, some 10 per cent of the population, to host religious processions in the streets and Eucharistic congresses, or from permitting the freedom to allow muslim citizens to accept invitations to attend Mass and become Catholic if they so choose. Nevertheless, the freedoms Christians do enjoy in the UAE are far, far more advanced than most other countries in the region.

Thanks be to God and to the rulers of the United Arab Emirates for allowing Christians to enjoy an oasis of acceptance in the UAE.

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