Friday, September 2, 2011

Christian Muslim Dialogue in Korea

In Korea, there are about 120 to 130 thousand Muslims; about 35 thousand are Koreans. Among OECD countries, the country with the greatest increase in the number of immigrants is Korea. If this trend continues, as is likely--in the last ten years the number of immigrants has increased 611 percent--Korea will soon cease to have a homogeneous population. And it is easy to foresee a time, suggests the desk columnist of the Catholic Times, when a  significant portion of the population will be Muslim.

Since 55 percent of the world's population are either Christian or Muslim (with one billion 600 million Muslims) it is imperative, the columnist says, that we start talking to each other. After citing the recent London riots and the Norwegian tragedy that were fomented, at least in part, by the terrorist mentality now being spread by Muslim extremists, she goes back to the time of the crusades, when the conflict between Christianity and Islam was the central story. Since Islam has emerged as the second largest religion in the world, and since even in Europe we can see its strength growing as the number of Muslims increase, it is becoming increasingly clear that dialogue is necessary if we are to have world peace. And the Vatican continues to keep the way open for this type of dialogue.

The Pontifical Council For Inter-religious Dialogue as usual has sent to the Muslim community a message for Ramadan, their month of fasting from sunrise to sunset, which began this past month.  The message starts with "Dear Muslim friends" and continues, "Christian and Muslims, beyond their differences, recognize the dignity of the human person endowed with both rights and duties. They think that intelligence and freedom are indeed gifts, which must impel believers to recognize these shared values because they rest on the same human nature."  The message is just one effort, among others, to improve communication between the faiths. As we know, these attempts at productive dialogue have not been easy.

In 1955, the Korean Muslim Society was founded, developing later into the Korean Muslim Federation. And in the 70s many Korean workers stationed in the Near East  accepted the Muslim faith, further increasing, along with the number of foreign Muslims working here, the number of Muslims in the country.

Two years ago, according to a government survey, there were 65 mosques in the country, and this number has undoubtedly increased, and will continue to increase in the years ahead. What should be the response of the Korean Catholic Church, asks the columnist, in the face of this growing Muslim presence in the country? She believes the Church should turn its attention to the growing significance of Muslim religion and culture in Korea, and find ways to reach out a supporting hand as this new culture to our country tries to adapt to our ways and our culture, and at all times keeping open the lines of communication between the two faiths.                                                                                                                                                                                                        

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