Throughout its history, Middle East — the land of the prophets — has been the starting point of peace and harmony envisaged in the divine revelations. People learned to coexist as a result of the preaching of prophets in this part of the world.
In this context, Pope Francis’ visit to the Middle East to promote peace and harmony is of great importance. His visit to various Muslim countries and Israel and invitation to Peres and Abbas to visit the Vatican (which both have accepted happily) has come as a breath of fresh air in the turmoil-ridden region. The concept of peaceful coexistence is very much needed in the Middle East. Undoubtedly, due to his important position Pope Francis could prove to be instrumental in promoting peace and harmony among followers of the three major religions of the world.
Until recently, the Muslim world regarded the papacy as worthy of respect but Pope Benedict XVI’s negative comments on our Prophet (peace be upon him), his call for a Christian Union against Muslims and his opposition to Turkey’s EU membership simply for being a Muslim-majority country affected the position of the Vatican in the Muslim world. All this came at a time when the US policies toward the Middle East were heavily influenced by the neocons and the region was in turmoil. Unfortunately, Benedict XVI refused to use the language of peaceful diplomacy. Although his later visits to Muslim lands somewhat softened his image, he remained in everyone’s mind as a pope who regarded “Islam as a threat.”
Certainly, Benedict XVI was elected to the post as a symbol of moral virtue. However, representing Christianity means to be able to represent the modesty and loving nature of the Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him). Pope Francis, who was elected following the abdication of Benedict XVI, appeared with these characteristics and changed the 1,000-year-old perception of the papacy with his inclusive spirit and language and his humble behavior.
Pope Francis is a religious leader who rejects all the material privileges bestowed by the rank of pope, who – it is said – goes out at night dressed as a priest to distribute food to the poor, who teaches that people who suffer will be blessed and, most important of all, who extends the hand of love and friendship to Christians, Jews, Muslims and even atheists. He possesses qualities that are particularly sought after in this century of hatred.
Religion requires such virtues. Religion is based on love, modesty and inclusivity. The reason why people responded to the preaching of our Prophet (peace be upon him) is the moral values of the Qur’an that he lived by and applied. Our Prophet (peace be upon him) taught love, as commanded by the Qur’an; he embraced all people, as commanded by the Qur’an; he always exhibited the most immaculate humility, again as commanded by the Qur’an. His moral virtues were instrumental in everyone around him living happily and at ease.
It is said that practice what you preach. Such an approach is even more important in the case of religious leaders, as it makes them more effective. Feelings of love and humility are not unique to religious leaders but form an important part of human nature. Despite his religious duties, our Prophet (peace be upon him) also ruled the state of Madinah, home to many different faiths, drafted the most democratic treaty and constitutions in history, and was the head of a state that protected people of all faiths and opinions. In other words, he set a perfect example for others to follow. However, politics has evolved into a vicious game today. It has become an arena of fear where hatred prevails, where baseless and scurrilous accusations are regarded as legitimate and where there is no mercy shown to rivals. Politics today is understood as a game where there is no room for love and kindness. People fail to see that such an approach can never help promote peace and harmony in the world.
We hope that Pope Francis’ visit will help change people’s perception of politics. His visit to the holy land at a time of wars and confusion may help people recall the true teachings of Allah’s prophets. It is high time the world politicians realized the importance of coexistence. They should realize their responsibilities and shun the false notions about politics being void of mercy.
Politics is not about promoting vested interests; it’s about managing affairs effectively without hurting anybody. Removing religion from politics has caused all this turmoil in the world. This approach has rendered politicians merciless and selfish individuals who at times don’t hesitate in acting like mercenaries. Religion counsels everyone to speak kindly, to put other’s benefit before themselves and to love and respect others without any discrimination. This call in the Holy Scriptures is for all people, from all walks of life, not just for men of religion.
The writer has authored more than 300 books translated into 73 languages on politics, religion and science.
He tweets @harun_yahya