Cardinal challenges Muslims to defend persecuted Christians

Muslims must speak up for the rights of Christians in Islamic countries and work with Christians towards a "mutual witness" to the shared values of peace and justice, British Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor said in Melbourne last night.

"This is a vital principle of sacred hospitality, and it is vital for the relationship between Christians and Muslims," The Age quoted the Cardinal as saying.

"Where Christians are being denied their rights or are subject to sharia law, that is not a matter on which Muslims in Britain or in Australia should remain silent," Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor added.

"Where religious rights of minorities are disrespected in the name of Islam, the face of Islam is tarnished elsewhere in the world."

Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor was speaking at the opening of the Australian Catholic University's new Asia-Pacific Centre of Inter-religious Dialogue - along with Mehmet Ali Sengul, honorary president of the Australian Intercultural Society.

The whole point of interfaith co-operation was to uphold religious freedom, he said.

The challenge for each religion was to keep its exclusive claims while overcoming ignorance and learning respect.

"What is good is growth towards mutual understanding, but also a mutual witness to values we share - peace and justice - and that's not insignificant."

Meanwhile, in Malaysia, the nation's Star reports that the Syariah (Shariah) Court has turned down a former Catholic's attempt to return to Christianity after his conversion to Islam because he had used the wrong process.

The court this week ruled that Kenneth Wong Chun Chiak should file a summons and statement of claim instead of the notice of application supported by the affidavit he had filed.

However, the court agreed to hear Mr Wong's application if he filed it again.

In his application, Mr Wong, who took on the name Kenny bin Abdullah when he converted to Islam in 2001, said he never practised Islam after his conversion. Instead, he had continued to be a practising Christian.

His affidavit did not say why he converted to Islam.

Mr Wong said he had publicly announced that he was no longer a Muslim through a statutory declaration on 1 March this year.

In his application, Mr Wong said that he was seeking a declaration to have his name removed from the list of Muslim converts in order to be able to marry a non-Muslim woman and to live as a non-Muslim.

Cardinal pleads for rights (The Age, 1/9/06)
Petition filed wrongly (Malaysian Star, 31/8/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster
Australian Catholic University

No joy for Malaysian Muslim convert to Catholicism (CathNews, 25/8/06)
Melbourne Muslim leader challenges Pell to debate (CathNews, 26/7/06)
Pell affirms commitment to dialogue with Muslims (CathNews, 8/5/06)
Pope challenges Islam on religious freedom (CathNews, 16/5/06)
Pope talks Islam dialogue with world's cardinals (CathNews, 24/3/06)

1 Sep 2006