|(Saint Francis with Sultan al-Kamil)|
Mutual respect is difficult enough between any two individuals. Mutual respect between two historically-opposed religions can be even more challenging.
That is why Pope Francis' recent Ramadan message titled "To Muslims throughout the world" (concerning the theme "Promoting
Mutual Respect through Education") is especially important. It not only offers "sincere and friendly greetings," but also explains what mutual interfaith respect can actually consist of.
According to the Huffington Post transcript of this message, Pope Francis defines respect as "an attitude of kindness towards people for whom we have consideration and esteem" – and mutual as "not a one-way process, but something shared by both sides."
And just what is it that we are each called to mutually respect? Francis stated that respect entails a person's "life, his physical integrity, his dignity and the rights deriving from that dignity, his reputation, his property, his ethnic and cultural identity, his ideas and his political choices." He added that "unfair criticism or defamation" should not only be avoided face-to-face, but also "always and everywhere."
The Pope's definition of mutual respect extends heartily (and courageously) into the sphere of "interreligious relations." Francis specifically states that this includes respecting another religion's "teachings, its symbols, its values."
He also explains that mutual respect during a religious holiday would involve a sharing of joy - "without making reference to the content of… religious convictions."