Wednesday, April 29, 2009

In Nazareth: mixed feelings about the papal visit; some smouldering with the fires of two year old resentment over Regensburg

Diaa Hadid (Associated Press) warns that "The pontiff may have to tread carefully with his visit to Nazareth" -- lest he risk adding fuel to the fires of Muslim rage. (As noted last week, bruised egos are still smoldering with resentment from the Pope's remarks at Regensburg two years ago):
A banner across the main square in Jesus' boyhood town condemns those who insult Islam's Prophet Muhammad — a message by Muslim hard-liners for Pope Benedict XVI during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land next month. ...

Even some Christians are nervous that Benedict could stir up trouble for them. They worry that if he says anything contentious about Islam again, Muslims might lash out.

"He must know that every word he will utter will have an impact on Christian Palestinians and religious relations," said Naim Ateek, an Anglican reverend and director of Sabeel, an ecumenical Palestinian Christian group that includes Catholics.

The banner was put up by followers of Nazem Abu Salim, a radical Muslim preacher, right next to the Church of the Annunciation, where tradition says the Angel Gabriel told Mary she would give birth to Jesus.

It is there for the pope, Abu Salim said. "He is not welcome here."

Noting that the residents of Nazareth are "split over the Pope's visit", the Jerusalem Post gives time to those with a more positive outlook:
"I accept all religions," said Tawfik Awad, a parking attendant who is Muslim. "All of us are born in nine months. God created us all... When a man of religion comes and brings peace, we welcome him with our hearts."

Yolanda Tabri, a Christian, said the Benedict's visit would help create a positive atmosphere and even "increase the holiness of Nazareth," where the pope will lead the largest of three masses on May 14.

And even the Mayor appears willing to put the past behind him:
Mayor Ramiz Jaraisy, a Christian who is serving his third term in the city, told the Post earlier this month that the pope had said "the wrong thing," but noted that he later explained that he didn't himself agree with what he quoted. The mistake should not be held against him forever, Jaraisy said. "He's a human being and in the end, mistakes can be corrected."

The pope aimed to create an atmosphere of coexistence between religions and his message here would be one of dialogue, Jaraisy said.

"He will be calling for a better life for human beings who were created in God's image," he said.

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