Pope Francis Meets Shiite Ayatollah at Ur, Iraq

Pope Francis Meets Shiite Ayatollah at Ur, Iraq March 6, 2021

Pope Francis is doing an honorable thing by making his papacy a hallmark of good will by promoting peace between Roman Catholic Christianity and other religions. So, today he met with the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the preeminent leader of the Shiite branch of Islam in Iraq. As a symbolic act, they met at the ancient birthplace and hometown of Abraham–Ur in southern Iraq. Abraham is claimed as the father of all three major monotheistic religions in the world: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

They met standing in the desert sand at the restored ruins of a 4,000-year old ziggurat at Ur. Pope Francis was well received. He said of Islam and Christianity, “we need one another.”

The Ayatollah Sistani’s office had put out a previous public statement in which he wished the pope and Roman Catholics “happiness and peace.” It also said leaders of the “great religions” should try to overcome oppression, persecution, and violence in the world.

The pope gave a brief message in which he said, “We believers cannot be silent when terrorism abuses religion. Dark clouds of terrorism, war and violence have gathered over this country,” referring to Iraq. “All its ethnic and religious communities have suffered.” He referred to their meeting place, Ur, as that where “faith was born.” Indeed, Iraq is recovering from the destruction that the Islamic State, also referred to as ISIS, had brought to this country. But now, neighboring Iran is gaining a foothold in Iraq.

The new Secretary of State in the U.S., Antony Blinken, tweeted that he hoped Pope Francis’s presence in Iraq will “help promote religious harmony and understanding among members of the different religions in Iraq and around the world.”

We read in the Bible’s first book, Genesis, “Terah took his son and his grandson Lot son of Haran, and his daughter-in-law Sarai, his son Abram’s wife, and they went out together from Ur of the Chaldeans to go into the land of Canaan” (Genesis 11.31 NRSV).

God later changed Abram’s name to Abraham by saying to him, “No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give you, and to your offspring after you, the land where you are now an alien, all the land of Canaan, for a perpetual holding; and I will be their God” (17.5-8).

If I am ever asked why I am a Christian who believes in the Jewish-Christian Bible, I say, “The Jews.” What I mean is that the history of the Hebrew-Jewish people has been amazing in it fulfillment of much of what God predicted in the Bible, starting with above scripture text. I am convinced that anyone who does not understand this, and therefore does not genuinely believe in the God of Abraham, the God of the Bible, has not opened their eyes, spiritually speaking, in order to see this.

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