The Catholic Church in Germany must help Muslim migrants integrate into society, but the Church also can learn from these recent newcomers, said the general secretary of the German bishops’ working group on relations with Muslims. “We can learn a lot from the Muslims: about piety, about hospitality or about the education of children within the family,” said the bishops’ official, Peter Hunseler, during the German Catholic Church assembly last week. The assembly’s Christian-Muslim dialogue program sponsored more than 30 events about understanding Islam and relations between Catholics and Muslims. The Christian-Muslim events often took up the main theme of the Katholikentag, “Justice in the Sight of God,” and included a series on common approaches to justice for women and homosexuals. The center also offered early morning mysticism, joint Christian-Muslim Bible study, midday services, study sessions in the afternoon and cultural events in the early evening.
Muslims could face a child abuse scandal on a par with the Catholic Church, a report has warned. A group of Muslim leaders says the community is in denial about child abuse in religious schools, known as madrasas. The UK has about 700. They want ministers to regulate the schools, saying 100,000 children do not have appropriate legal protection. The government said recent changes on the vetting of those teaching children automatically included madrasas. Most of the madrasas in the UK are attached to local mosques or Islamic institutions. Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, co-author of the report and head of lobby group the Muslim Parliament of Great Britain, said that child abuse existed in all societies – and that it would be na_ve of Muslim communities to think it did not affect them. Failing to protect the children in madrasas because of ‘cultural sensitivities’ is nonsense – it is racist to differentiate between children and to fail to offer that protection? He said despite anecdotal reports of abuse, it was a taboo subject with little discussion within the community. This, he said, meant victims had no-one to turn to. “Sweeping the issue of child abuse in madrasas under the carpet is not a solution,” said Dr Siddiqui. “If nothing is done now we may face an avalanche of child sex-abuse scandals, decades afterwards, similar to those that rocked the Roman Catholic Church. “To protect the integrity of these valued institutions, it is important that all madrasas put in place transparent and accountable polices and procedures.” Traditional schools Madrasas are similar to Christian Sunday schools. Children of school age attend to learn the Koran and ethics of the faith. While many madrasas are small community organisations associated with local mosques, the largest educate hundreds of pupils. The schools play a central role in many Muslim communities – but Dr Siddiqui said very few had policies in place that meet the requirements of the Children Act 1989, a key law. The report praised two councils which had taken steps on child protection in madrasas – Kirklees and Blackburn – but accused most of being reluctant to engage with the Muslim community. Ann Cryer, MP for Keighley, said she commended the authors for speaking out and attacked local authorities for not acting. “I have had reports of physical abuse in madrasas in my own constituency,” said Mrs Cryer. “Failing to protect the children in madrasas because of ‘cultural sensitivities’ is nonsense. “Are we saying that British Asian children are not entitled to the protection of the law? It is racist to differentiate between children and to fail to offer that protection.” ‘Vetting and barring’ A spokesman for the Department for Education and Skills, which has responsibility for child safety, said that recent changes to improve child safety automatically included madrasas – and that the schools had to act within the same law as others. “Under the new vetting and barring system, there will be requirements on employers to check all those who frequently teach, care for or supervise children – including all those in madrasas,” said the spokesman. “Employers should carry out criminal record checks on anyone working closely with children, including in madrasas. Any allegations of abuse should be immediately reported to the police.” Children’s charity the NSPCC said it welcomed the report and called for robust research into incidents of child abuse within Muslim communities. “We are concerned that madrasas are not required to follow the same child protection procedures as schools and other statutory bodies,” said Diana Sutton of the charity. “The government must require them and other faith groups to put safeguarding policies in place and ensure that these are rigorously enforced.”
ITALIAN bishops gave warning yesterday against Catholics marrying Muslims, citing cultural differences and fears that children born to mixed marriages would shun Christianity. Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the president of the Italian Bishops Conference, said: In addition to the problems that any couple encounters when forming a family, Catholics and Muslims have to reckon with the difficulties that inevitably arise from deep cultural differences. Cardinal Ruini, one of the right-hand men of Pope Benedict XVI, said that it was often the woman who married a Muslim man and it was she who converted to Islam. In a statement, the bishops said that if an Italian woman married a Muslim immigrant and then settled in his country of origin, her rights were not guaranteed in the way they are in Italy or in other Western nations. In addition the children of mixed marriages tended to be brought up as Muslims and not as Catholics. Such marriages should, therefore, be discouraged. Church officials said that there were 200,000 mixed marriages in Italy, with 20,000 this year alone, an increase of 10 per cent on the previous year. The statement enraged liberal groups, which accused the Roman Catholic Church of interfering in Italian affairs. Emma Bonino, a leader of the Transnational Radical Party, accused the Vatican of seeking to affect the general election, due in April, as politicians from the Right and Left courted the Vatican to gain Catholic votes. She said that the Vatican had taken strong stances on issues such as abortion, same-sex unions, and euthanasia in violation of the 1929 Lateran Treaty between the Vatican and the Italian State. Mara Tognetti Borgogna, a sociologist at Bicocca University, Milan, said of mixed marriages: Each case is different. It depends on the circumstances.The most critical moment usually comes when the children reach adolescence and come into conflict with one parent or both over their life choices. Signora Borgogna said that they could work, but you need a high level of mutual tolerance between two languages, two religions, two ways of looking at the world. On the other hand, the mixed marriages we have now are a kind of social laboratory, because that is the way our society is going.
By Alessandra Rizzo ROME – A new book by controversial journalist Oriana Fallaci that hit bookstores here Monday accuses Europe of having sold its soul to what she describes as an Islamic invasion. Entitled “The Strength of Reason,” (“La Forza della Ragione” in Italian), the book also accuses the Roman Catholic Church of being too weak before the Muslim world.