Pope reminds us of age-old problems

Pope Benedict XVI enraged many people in the Muslim world when he spoke recently in Germany. By quoting a 14th-century Byzantine emperor, he sparked controversy around the globe, including protests in Iraq and Pakistan, and condemnations from Mideast governments and newspapers.

Considering the protests over the cartoons of the Muslim Prophet Muhammad just earlier this year, this was not the time for Pope Benedict to make statements that could set off another crisis. He truly set a bad example – the pope should be someone who eases the tensions between religions.

Instead, he has not even properly apologized for his remarks. He called it a “misunderstanding,” which is another way of saying “I’m not wrong, and you just didn’t get it.”

But how many times does a situation like this have to come about before people of different faiths take notice and attempt to change their ways? The Muhammad cartoons should have been enough for the Western world to learn that certain Muslim groups are passionate, and sometimes violent, when confronted with images and statements they believe are negative about their religion.

But here we are, less than a year later, dealing with similar backlash. Many Christians don’t understand the Muslim religion, yet they still make no effort to learn about it.

On Sunday, the BBC quoted Pope Benedict as saying, “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”

Nice going, Pope. Let’s just hope that these sorts of sayings do not take root with the general public. Many issues Pope Benedict has talked about have created ingrained opinions in faithful followers. However, this is not the type of message the pope should be peddling.

Although the pope is a trusted symbol in the Catholic faith, his statements were unnecessary and pose a very interesting problem that is becoming more and more frequent. At a time in the world where the perception of Muslims is not necessarily positive, the pontiff’s statements prove that most people do not take into consideration the reaction of Muslim people.

In general, Muslims are portrayed as being more serious about their beliefs. But we need to keep in mind that with every type of religious belief, there are people who follow beliefs more strictly than others. There are always going to be extremes in both directions – but we can’t let that dictate our assessments.

Historically, relations between different religions have been problematic. Wars have long been fought over just religion alone. It’s a shame that the current pope, who should be preaching peace and understanding, had to set this current mess into motion.

Hopefully, this will click with the Western world soon so that we can stop inadvertently insulting others, by simply understanding them. The pope should know better, but it’s our job to take note of his, and all public leaders’, mistakes.

His next step is to make a real apology.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.