[dropcap type=”4″]I[/dropcap]s it our Catholic duty to defend Muslims? The Catholic Church believes it is.

But more importantly, fellowship with Muslims and the whole community of genuine followers of the God of Abraham might help us make the world a better place.

Chris Benguhe is a columnist for The Catholic Sun. Opinions expressed are the writers’ and not necessarily the views of The Catholic Sun or the Diocese of Phoenix.
Chris Benguhe is a columnist for The Catholic Sun. Opinions expressed are the writers’ and not necessarily the views of The Catholic Sun or the Diocese of Phoenix.

I have been thinking about that a lot recently. A close friend of mine is Muslim and one of the kindest, most humanitarian doctors I know. Besides being helpful to my mother, to me and the rest of my family, he exhibits the highest level of what I would deem Catholic outreach in every other aspect of his life.

But interfaith sentiments are under attack over the last several decades as Muslim extremists have wreaked terror and havoc all over the world — murdering, in their words, in the name of God. The religious fears and animosity ratcheted up most recently when extremists killed 12 in an attack on the offices of the French newspaper Charlie Hebdo, simply for satirizing the prophet Mohammed. Five more were murdered shortly thereafter.

As a journalist I am concerned about my right to speak my mind without being killed for it.

But as I reflected on Pope Francis’ visit to Turkey in December, where he met and stood in solidarity with a Muslim cleric, it occurred to me that these events cannot and must not be viewed by the faithful as a separator, but instead must be seen as a unifier for those who believe in a God that instructs them to love, not to hate.

With the onslaught of Muslim extremists that have swept across the Middle East in recent years, it’s understandable and important that a conversation and debate be had about how to stop such madness. We need to defend our world and our faith from such horrors!

But unfortunately many use this as an opportunity to indict an entire world religion — one that traces its roots to ours. As for the Church’s position on Muslims, it could not be any more clear than when it was stated during the Second Vatican Council: “But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place among whom are the Muslims: these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.”

In a world rife with pagan beliefs, trite deities, and subjective human-based morality, the acknowledgement of the one true God is a valuable position to defend. As the old saying goes, united we stand and divided we fall.

Pope Francis greets a Muslim representative during a meeting with leaders of other religions at the Catholic University of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Tirana, Albania, Sept. 21. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
Pope Francis greets a Muslim representative during a meeting with leaders of other religions at the Catholic University of Our Lady of Good Counsel in Tirana, Albania, Sept. 21. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

As for me, my relationship with my Muslim friend is not the only experience that makes the question above more than an academic one. I have also been on the other end of religious persecution.

It happens whenever I am speaking to non-believers who indict me for everything and anything that any Catholic has ever done. I once had an employee who refused to respect my authority because she said my religion promoted the abuse and violation of women’s rights.

And a Protestant radio show host once insisted on the air that I was doomed to eternal damnation for following a worldly leader that didn’t answer to God and for worshiping idols and Mary — obvious misconceptions of what our faith teaches.

And what to say of those that lump us together with the likes of Olympic Park Bomber Eric Rudolph, the Christian terrorist responsible for the anti-abortion and anti-gay bombings across the southern United States between 1996 and 1998, which killed two and injured 111 others?

All of this brings me back to a deep heartfelt connection with my Muslim friend. But ultimately it’s not just the affiliation with those that commit heinous crimes and sins against humanity in the name of religion that connects us. More importantly it is the loving God we have in common, who calls us to love our brothers and sisters, as my friend does wholeheartedly every day of his life.

When the battle against evil intensifies, so does our need to come together to fight extremism, to fight hatred, to fight discrimination and intolerance. That is our common goal. And we will only achieve it together, not apart.


  1. Mr. Benguhe, I have some problems with your essay. I know, ‘SHOCKING”! 🙂 I’m sure your Muslim doctor is a fine man, and it sounds I could trust him with my life, his personal faith is irrelevant but his personal behavior is very relevant. He does sound like a good candidate for RCIA. Have you tried to convert him? I digress. We all have friends and family that believe differently than we do, e.i. pro-gay marriage, pro-abortion, and pro- euthanasia, but to me function as civil people. In other words, my grand kids can go into the front yard and I won’t worry.

    You mentioned Eric Rudolph as a ‘”Christian terrorist”. I know he belonged to a wacky supremacists group but to me it was more like another fascist organization. Catholics and Protestants both condemned his actions. But Islam is different in my opinion. For one it’s big. 1.6 billion. Two major factions, Sunni and Shia with all their sub-groups. Which is the real Islam? There’s no pope and no catechism so who is really following their prophet Mohammed properly? How is the behavior of ISIS different than those of Mohammed himself?

    There are many polls and most Muslims around the world want Sharia Law. Now Sharia is everything from simply mocking to execution. In a 2010 Pew poll, they asked about “Being in favor of floggings and amputation for leaving Islam”: 77% of Egyptian, 58% of Jordanian Muslims, 82% of Pakistanis, and 65% of Nigerian Muslims were for it. ‘ComRes’ in England did a survey for the BBC and asked the question, “I have some sympathy for the motives behind the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris”. 8% didn’t know and 27% agreed.

    I need to have a concluding paragraph. In the U.S. we are still blessed with massive oceans and even Americans like my wife’s cousin I can live with. This is first going to be Europe’s problem because they have lost their Catholic faith. I understand that there are some (a lot) of wonderful Muslims so why aren’t we at Mass openly praying for their conversion? People don’t get to heaven because they are nice but because they are saints.

  2. I take exception of the fellowship of believers with non-believers. The god of Islam is not the God of Christianity. There is no similarity between the two in any way. The article mentions Abraham. But what justified Abraham? Faith. Faith in what? When Abraham was ready to offer his own son as a sacrifice, Abraham learned what it would cost, God. God stopped him and provided a ram as a sacrifice instead. But Abraham also learned that God would eventually provide a perfect sacrifice for his sins. The Messiah, the Savior, the Son of God; Jesus. But in the mean time, he had to sacrifice animals to God that really never took away sin the the promised sacrifice would. Sacrifice of animals was a picture of the innocent paying for the sins of the guilty. A picture of what Jesus would do as the perfect final sacrifice. Does Islam understand that principle? Does Islam teach it? NO and NO. The article is full of emotion but short on substance. And where is Jesus in the article? No mention of Him. NO ONE comes to the Father but through HIM. Jesus is what makes believers Christians and want make everyone else, lost, depending on your acceptance of Him as your Lord and Savior, or your denial of Him (or belief that he was just a good man). There is no mechanism in Islam for redemption, only the false hope that Allah will be merciful to those who live under Sharia Law or blow themselves up while sending infidels to hell. But they have no assurance whatsoever, just the hope they are right; they don’t know. Even their reward in heaven are carnal, materialistic and fleshly. Virgins? Untold wealth and health or whatever? And the Catholic church wants to entertain Islam and befriend them for what end? To convert them to Catholicism when they deny the deity of Jesus, our ONLY lord and Savior? The bottom line is, what do you do with Jesus because we are worlds apart. Either we as humans pay for our own sins in hell, or we let Jesus pay for them. Is that taught anywhere in the Koran or Hadith?


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