Christian Minorities in Islamic Nations

"There are too many majority Muslim countries where non-Muslims are second-class citizens"
( [email protected] ) Jan 02, 2004 11:53 AM EST

PARIS – The recently retired Vatican foreign minister, Cardinal Jean-Louise Tauran, expressed his concern over the treatment of Christian minorities by Islamic nations, Wednesday, Dec. 31.

According to the Tauran, Christians are treated as second-class citizens, and are barred from building churches, making the relationship between Islam and Christianity even more strenuous.

"There are too many majority Muslim countries where non-Muslims are second-class citizens," said Tauran, the church's top diplomat for 13 years before he had to step aside on being made a cardinal by Pope John Paul in October.

Tauran was the latest and highest-ranking Catholic official to voice concern about Vatican relations with Muslims.

The cardinal pointed out the “extreme case of Saudi Arabia, where freedom of religion is violated absolutely -- no Christian churches and a ban on celebrating Mass, even in a private home."

"Just like Muslims can build their houses of prayer anywhere in the world, the faithful of other religions should be able to do so as well," the French-born cardinal said, noting the freedom given to Muslims by Western countries to build mosques.

Tauran’s concerns were shared by leading church figures around the world. La Civilta Cattolica, a Jesuit journal published with Vatican approval, said last October Islam had a "warlike face" throughout history and charged Muslim countries such as Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Pakistan discriminated against Christians.

In Rome that same month to celebrate Pope John Paul's 25th anniversary as pontiff, several cardinals cited relations with Islam as a key issue for the next papacy, akin to the Communist challenge at the beginning of the Polish pope's reign.

The head of the United States bishops' conference, Bishop Wilton Gregory, spoke of potential religious violence.

Referring to Islam in the West and in Africa, he said, “It's growing in places it didn't exist before and it is growing in places where Christianity is growing. The world cannot afford a violence that is born of religious intolerance."