Parish priest of Kabul on witnessing Christmas among Afghan Muslims


Kabul (AsiaNews) - "A reawakening of awareness of our Christian identity and dignity" teaching the Gospel by the way we live: only in this way will we succeed in "bringing the Christmas' hope of salvation to the entire world, including the Islamic world". This is the invitation launched by the religious leader of a "trench community": Fr. Giuseppe Moretti, parish priest of the only church in Afghanistan, the chapel within the compound of the Italian embassy in Kabul. The Barnabite priest who is also in charge of the missio sui iuris afghana reflects on the profound meaning of Christmas with AsiaNews: "If we leave Christ out of Christmas, if we do not tell the world that we are celebrating His birth, then it becomes just another pagan ritual". Father Moretti, how is Christmas perceived in Afghanistan? The embassy's Afghan employees are already exchanging Christmas greetings. They know who Christ is, a noble figure in the Koran, and so there is a great respect for this festivity. They know we celebrate Jesus' birth and the fact that they know this and feel the need to express their best wishes to us is both indicative and meaningful. This for example does not happen at Easter, a festivity that is far harder for them to understand. Sometimes they come into the Church out of curiosity to see the crib. As a Catholic in a country that is 99% Muslim and what's more, still at war, what do you hope for the Christian western world? I think the words of St Leo Magnum are most adept at describing the current season: "Agnosce, o christiane, dignitatem tuam" (be conscientious, oh Christian, of your dignity). Translated it means "be aware, oh Christian of your dignity, of your identity". I hope that this Christmas is an occasion for a greatly needed raising of awareness among Christians of Christian conscience, now that we find ourselves having to face the great challenges of our society: family, life, bioethics, inter-religious dialogue, peace. The call is to those who live in countries which are traditionally Christian as well as those who have immigrated to other nations, above all those which are majority Muslim. Negation of our values leads to the secularization of the contents and form of this festivity and thus tends to ignore, who we are celebrating: Christ. If the decorations, the greetings, the gifts – which are an essential part of the feast – are not the fruit of our joy for the Saviours birth, then we are paganizing Christmas. If we leave Christ out of Christmas than it has no more meaning. This is why Christmas is the perfect time to reawaken our sense of Christian dignity; it must be respectably celebrated and centred on He who is born. This is valid above all for us Catholics of the international community, particularly here in Afghanistan where we are a minority, trench community. How can Christians contribute to peace and hope in a society such as that in Afghanistan which has been at war for decades? Not being able to rely on exterior evangelisation (processions, preaching, and prayer groups) our evangelisation is life, our daily example. We consider ourselves the seed of God sown in this land; a seed which needs to be cultivated, and in our own small way we can prepare the ground where fruit can be born. Our witness is all the more credible when Christ's message is visible in our Christian lives. And here, we are not just faced with the world of Islam, but also that of non believers who are the majority of Westerns present in the country. Those who come to mass here come because they are convinced; thus once they leave, they must transfer their being Christian to their places of work: hotels, diplomatic offices, military bases. We can do no more: there is a Christmas tree in front of the Church and we are preparing the crib. A true Christian is aware of his dignity and thus of he is also a messenger of hope. Wherever he works, he must concretely bring to bear that hope for peace is not an empty promise or an unobtainable wish. Spe salvi, that is it; we must be builders of peace, but above all of hope, Christian hope. Above all in a country such as this, which is in such great need of true hope, of a pre-certainty that all that is wished for, sooner or later, will come to pass. (MA)

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