Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Pope Francis and "Tree of Life" (Shajarat-al-Hayat) of Bahrain

By Fr. Midhun J Francis Kochukallanvila, SJ, New Age Islam 09 November 2022 Pope Francis visited the Kingdom of Bahrain from 3 to 6 November 2022. Pope Francis addressed the Bahrain Forum for Dialogue, a meeting on "East and West for Human Coexistence", as part of his Apostolic Journey to Bahrain. The Holy Father also spoke to local officials, civil society organisations, and diplomats, stressing that "every contact and every event can be a productive opportunity to advance, in the name of God, the cause of fraternity and peace." The Apostolic Journey, said Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, was a sign of hope and dialogue in the midst of a tragic historical time. He described the Pope's visit and actions in Bahrain as "messages of unity, cohesion, and peace" in a "world defined by tensions, oppositions, and conflicts" On 19 May 2014, Pope Francis received the King of Bahrain, His Majesty Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, for an audience at the Vatican; the theme of their common interest was "with particular reference to the commitment to peace and stability in the Middle East, and the promotion of dialogue and peaceful coexistence among all members of society." He also addressed a word of friendship and affection to all who live in this country: to every believer and every individual, and to the members of every family, which is defined in the Bahrain Constitution as "the foundation of society". He used the "symbol of vitality"; the "Tree of Life" (Shajarat-al-Hayat) is a majestic acacia tree that has survived for centuries in a desert area with very little rainfall. According to many people, the secret lies in its roots, which extend dozens of meters underground and draw from underground water sources. The Pope has also brought the land alive, as Bahrain has been called "the land of the living" for millennia by ancient peoples attracted by its beauty and abundant freshwater springs. As we rise from these far-reaching roots, we see how Bahrain's geographical location, talents and commercial prowess, together with historical events, have enabled it to become a hub of mutual enrichment between peoples. "May we never allow the opportunities for encounters between civilisations, religions and cultures to evaporate or the roots of our humanity to wither and become lifeless! Let us work together. These days mark a valuable stage in the journey of friendship that has intensified in recent years with various Islamic religious leaders, a fraternal journey that seeks to promote peace on earth under the gaze of heaven," he said. He acknowledged that the Kingdom of Bahrain has one of the highest rates of immigration in the world: about half of the resident population is made up of foreigners. In this country, it was the contribution of so many people from different peoples that enabled a remarkable increase in productivity. At the same time, we must recognise that unemployment in our world remains far too high and that much of the work is indeed dehumanising. Bahrain's King Hamad of Jordan has called on the Arab world to promote human dignity and respect for all, especially those who feel marginalised, such as immigrants and prisoners. May it be a beacon across the region for promoting equal rights and better conditions for workers, women and young people while ensuring respect and care for all. He warned the world that work is as valuable as bread. Like bread, it is often lacking and often poisoned, as it enslaves. Let us ensure that working conditions everywhere are safe and decent and promote rather than hinder people's cultural and spiritual growth. Moreover, they promote social cohesion for the benefit of the common life and development of each country. The image of the tree of life makes him think of two critical areas that apply to all but challenging, especially those who, as rulers, are responsible for the common good. How many trees are being cut down, how many ecosystems are being destroyed and how many oceans are being polluted by our insatiable human greed, which then falls back on us? Let us work tirelessly to confront this dramatic predicament and make concrete and far-sighted decisions inspired by concern for future generations before it is too late and their future is at risk! The tree of life makes me think of our human vocation, the vocation of every man and woman on earth to make life flourish. I think above all of the monstrous and senseless reality of war, which sows destruction everywhere and destroys hope. War brings out the worst in people: selfishness, violence and dishonesty. Let us reject the logic of weapons and change course by redirecting the enormous military spending into investments to fight hunger and the lack of health care and education. Inviting all people of goodwill, he quoted the Bahrain Declaration: "We commit ourselves to work for a world where people of sincere faith come together to reject what divides us and focus instead on celebrating and living. ... Midhun J Francis Kochukallan SJ is a Jesuit priest from the state of Kerala in India. He is a research scholar specializing in Christian-Muslim interaction at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He has a master's degree in philosophy from Tilk University, Pune, a licentiate in systematic theology from JDV in Pune, a postgraduate diploma in Islamic studies from the Henry Martyn Institute in Hyderabad, as well as diplomas in Arabic and Urdu. He works with the South Asian Jesuit Conference on Christian-Muslim relationships. He also contributes to a number of English and Malayalam magazines and newspapers. --------- URL: New Age Islam, Islam Online, Islamic Website, African Muslim News, Arab World News, South Asia News, Indian Muslim News, World Muslim News, Women in Islam, Islamic Feminism, Arab Women, Women In Arab, Islamophobia in America, Muslim Women in West, Islam Women and Feminism

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