(Vatican Radio) Before setting out for Lebanon where she is awaiting the arrival of Pope Benedict XVI, Vatican Radio’s Tracey McClure spoke to Father Pier Giorgio Gianazza - a Salesian of Don Bosco who teaches Dogmatic and Oriental Theology and Islamic Studies in the Holy Land where he has lived and worked for over 50 years of his life.
Father Gianazza speaks of the everyday reality of Christian/Muslim dialogue in the Middle East and of the conditions of life for Christians in the region, but first - he points out - "there are differences in Christian/Muslim dialogue" according to the part of the world in which that dialogue is taking place ...
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Father Gianazza says that he thinks that in the M.E. dialogue is particularly difficult because of the many wars in the past few decades that have involved the minorities, and especially the Christians.
He points to Iraq, which has seen an exodus of Christians due to the war, and more recently Egypt, and now Syria.
However, normally - he says - the relations between citizens are good.
Father Gianazza says that high level inter-faith dialogue takes place only between scholars: priests, Immams and those who study.
But he says: normal life is good, even although the population has a sense that someone or something from outside is disturbing their rerlations with the aim of upsetting the region and taking advantage of them at the expense of the population. Especially he says "at the expense of the Christians".
Speaking of the life of Christians in the Middle East, Father Gianazza says Christians in the Middle East have a sort of a mission to live in the region. "Our Church is the Church for the Islamic world, and being a Christian in the region where Christians are a minority, is not only a condition, it is a mission. This is the place where God wanted us to be and to live, and we must not have fear to dialogue with Muslims" not withstanding some fundamentalist events.
So, Father Gianazza says, the feeling is: "little flock stay here, don't fear, and God will build a new era..." and the Pope he points out, swill be in Lebanon to strengthen the presence of the Christians.