The Malta Independent 2 March 2021, Tuesday

Petition calls for ‘removal’ of Archbishop over his views on teaching Islam

Joanna Demarco Tuesday, 28 March 2017, 07:56 Last update: about 5 years ago

Archbishop Charles Scicluna’s recent comments on the issue of Islamic lessons at Church schools have not gone down well at all with some individuals, and the issue has escalated to the point of a petition calling for his removal.

The petition had only gathered some 2,000 signatures by yesterday evening, and it seems that the Archbishop’s comments are backed by the clergy.

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The ‘Petition to remove Charles Scicluna from our bishop’ was created in response to a statement the Archbishop made last week, when he spoke about being open to the idea of non-catholic students receiving education in their own religion. Mgr Scicluna said Church schools cannot deny religious freedom and stressed that the Church is not afraid of inclusivity. That being said, he also insisted that even if lessons in Islam and other religions are introduced, Church schools in Malta will remain Catholic, where students will still be exposed to “Catholic devotions” and the “crucifix will still be hanging on the wall”.

(Photo Jonathan Borg)

Despite this assurance, the petition still calls for the removal of Archbishop Scicluna “ASAP (as soon as possible) – for the good of our children and grandchildren.”  The wording of the petition also calls Mgr. Scicluna a “black sheep.” The petition webpage also invited a variety of harsh comments and name-calling from the petitioners who backed up the online cause.

It seems, however, that the Archbishop’s views are backed up by the clergy. The Malta Independent yesterday spoke to Father Joe Abela and Reverend Dr John Berry, who both hold similar stances on inclusivity to that of Archbishop Scicluna.

Reverend Berry stated that he is in favour of teaching about other religions in the form of a more generic ‘religious knowledge’ lesson.  “Ignorance about other religions means intolerance, and I think it is only a good thing to have (more) religious knowledge [..] it creates a solid common ground for all. It is good to know who your neighbors are, basically, and respect them”. 

However, he feels that teachers who are teaching the subject should be more knowledgeable in the subjects. “To my knowledge there are more teachers prepared to teach about Christianity, whilst other religions are (only) mentioned in references”. He continued that, “at present it is being asked to give reference to Islam too, and we should go that way,” putting emphasis on the need for good, qualified teachers to teach the religions. He also pointed out that “religious knowledge should not be blended with one’s personal faith,” therefore should not be a point of debate.

On the same line of thought as Archbishop Scicluna, Father Joe Abela said that teaching other religions such as Islam in Church schools should only come about if the families appreciate the school as it is. “If they think our Church schools are excellent, then yes, they should be accepted,” he said. “If Muslim families pay what they need to pay to the school, and giving their contribution, then yes, they should be provided with Muslim teaching”.

However, he continues that “we must be careful”, explaining that it cannot be a case where the schools end up changing their Christian values, such as removing the crucifix from classroom walls, due to what he describes as ‘pressure.’ “Christianity and Malta are interwoven,” he said.

Expanding on the topic of the quality of the teaching, Father Abela questioned the type of teaching being offered, stating that “you cannot ask a religion teacher to teach religion if he or she does not believe. They will just give information, and information without example is not healthy at all.” So, if the teaching of Islam is provided by the school in question, Father Abela believes it should be not only led by knowledge, but also by example, “not only instruction, but education”.

 

 

 

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