Visit By The Pope To Turkey Puts UMNO To Shame

KUCHING: The just-concluded Umno General Assembly was marked by racist slurs, religious intolerance and bigotry, observed Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, while Christians and Muslims elsewhere in the civilised world are reaching out to each other in peace and tolerance.

Anwar pointed out that Pope Francis, currently on a visit to Turkey, had been invited by Grand Mufti Rahmi Yaran of Turkey to pray at the famous Blue Mosque which was once a Cathedral when the country was part of the Eastern Roman, or Byzantine, Empire.

“The gesture by the Grand Mufti is unthinkable in Malaysia under Umno,” said Anwar who was on a visit to Kuching. “Umno leaders are taking backward steps in their relations with non-Muslims.”

Anwar noted that the media had described the Pope’s visit to Turkey as demonstrating “a powerful vision of Christian-Muslim understanding at a time when neighbouring countries are experiencing violent Islamic assaults on Christians and religious minorities”.

“There is a need to appreciate this move. It has relevance in terms of our attitude and the Umno General Assembly’s on relations with non-Muslims in this country,” Anwar said. “Pope Francis’ visit is a gesture that would go a long way towards blazing a trail for a new chapter on Christian-Muslim relations and mending the strained relations of the past.”

“Once we get past theological polemics, which more often than not puts a strain on inter-religious relations, the matters that bind these two great faiths could be reason enough for cultivating tolerance and respect.”

Pope Francis was radical, pointed out Anwar, as he preferred to relate rather than pontificate.

“That has made all the difference. He goes to Turkey not to preach but to reach out, very much in the tradition of Christ, with humility and peace to the Muslim world,” said Anwar.

Pope Francis’ genuine desire for understanding must be received warmly and reciprocated by leaders of the Muslim world, he added, but ruled out Umno taking a positive attitude on the Pope’s visit to Turkey.



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