[FOUNTAIN]The time for religious tolerance“As we passed the gate of the Temple of Solomon, the horses waded in blood up to their knees, nay, up to the bridle. The temple has long been insulted by blasphemous heretics, and filling the temple with the blood of the heretics was a just and wonderful judgment of God.”
In this manner a Crusader recorded the massacre of 70,000 Muslims when the Christians conquered Jerusalem on July 15, 1099. The Temple of Solomon is the heart of Jerusalem, considered a sacred place both by Christians and Muslims. The holy ground where Abraham was to sacrifice his son Isaac holds the temple of King Solomon.
For Muslims, the site is where the Prophet Mohammad ascended to Heaven, guided by the angel Gabriel. Emperor Justinian of the Eastern Roman Empire built a church there in 543, and Muslims replaced the Christian church with a mosque in 715 when they took over Jerusalem.
Three centuries later, the Crusaders recovered the Holy Land and literally washed the altar of the temple with the blood of the heretics. The cruelty of the Crusaders stemmed from the self-righteous view that Christianity is the only just religion. Other religions and cultures were the subject of ridicule and destruction.
A thousand years later, Pope John Paul II issued a penance entitled “Memory and Reconciliation: the Church and the Faults of the Past” in March 2000. Celebrating the Jubilee Year, the pope confessed and apologized for the regrettable wrongdoings of the church for the past 2,000 years, and called the Crusades one of the biggest faults. He wrote, “The Crusaders’ campaigns plunged humanity into the depths of blood, and behind the sacred purpose of retrieving the Holy Land was an arrogant intent. The pain of Europeans cannot be greater than that of Islam.”
The history of religious vandalism goes back to the days of tribal religions. In premodern society, tribesmen believed in a god that protected their own tribe only, and their exclusive religious outlook lacked tolerance and remained closed.
Recently, an increasing number of cases of the destruction of statues of the Virgin Mary at Catholic churches have been reported in the Seoul metropolitan area.
Has society declined to the point that religious vandalism is prevalent? Christmas is right around the corner, and it is the time for blessing and mercy.
by Oh Byung-sang
The writer is London correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.