Cardinal Christoph Schönborn has said Christians must insist on Islam accepting the importance of religious freedom.
Speaking to the Austrian daily Kurier in a long interview on his
hopes that Islam would reform itself, the cardinal archbishop of Vienna
said the fact that there was no provision for conversion in Islam must
Muslims who converted were persecuted by their fellow Muslims,
he pointed out: “We must therefore make it quite clear that there will
be no going back on our demand for religious liberty. That is where
Islam has a backlog.”
While religion is playing less of a role in Western countries, many
Christians are against Islam as they felt threatened by it, he said.
Just being against something, however, was not a solution: “If we are
convinced that our Christian values are worth living for, then we will
offer them to those who come to us. It is no coincidence that many
Muslims here want to convert to Christianity,” he added.
The cardinal likened the present Sunni-Shia conflict, seen most
disastrously in Syria, to the Thirty Years War and recalled that it had
led to the Enlightenment, when many people were convinced that the world
had had enough of religion.
However, “the Enlightenment was a salutary,
cleansing challenge for Christianity. It had to go through a long and
painful regeneration process which was not resolved until the founding
of the ecumenical movement in the twentieth century ... Why shouldn’t
there be similar regeneration powers in Islam which will lead to genuine
spiritual renewal and a strict ‘no’ to the use of violence? I
personally very much hope so.”
The only solution to Islam’s present problems, Schönborn emphasised,
was for religious factions in Islam to learn to tolerate one another in
the same way as Christian denominations do today.
Meanwhile, it was “not appropriate” to blame Muslims for a “possible
Islamicisation” of Europe, he insisted. If churches are converted into
supermarkets, as in Holland, and consumer values replace Europe’s
Christian roots, “then we mustn’t be surprised if Europe is
dechristianised”, he said.