A One-World Religion?
I noticed a small article from the Catholic News Agency last week that Pope Francis met with the Muslim Council of Elders in the Gulf kingdom of Bahrain on the first Friday in November (November 5, 2022). As a Christian, I am familiar with the Biblical chapter of Revelations about the end times. There was something about the Pontiff's meeting with Muslims that made me think of the one-world religion forecast in Revelations.
Revelations 17 speaks of a "great prostitute" (or "great harlot") that is generally understood as a metaphor for a false religion that will exist during the tribulation period. Many have debated the identity of this religion, with some arguing the Roman Catholic Church, Islam, or another sizeable religious movement will be the end-times, one-world religion. (Many ancient coins depict ancient cities as a wealthy goddess enthroned beside a river. The Bible mentions Babylon as besides "many waters" per Rev. 17:1. Because most significant cities were initially located beside harbors or rivers, governments or religions based in cities such as New York or Rome could be the next Babylon.)
However, it is more likely that the false religion of the last days will consist of an inclusive religion that allows for a pluralistic view of God. This theism would include even liberal monotheistic groups that see all religions as one. Whatever this religion is, it will undoubtedly exclude any faith that refuses to worship the Antichrist or his image. This false religion will permit and even encourage the death of those who follow Jesus during the tribulation.
Even though I doubt the news agency or Catholic or Muslim leaders will notify us of any nefarious agreements made at these meetings, we can certainly look back and see when such meetings occurred, who was involved and what happened that was significant. As it turns out, the research yielded some exciting outcomes; although they do not point directly to a one-world religion, they do point to some agreements of tolerance, a point of view that all sides need to accept.
The First Meeting
Eight centuries ago, St Francis of Assisi took a risk when he crossed the battlefield between Crusader and Muslim forces near Damietta, Egypt. His intent was to meet Sultan al-Malik al-Kamil and preach his faith in Jesus Christ. In 1219, Christian forces were amid the fifth Crusade, which was eventually repelled by the sultan's superior army. The future saint readily put his life on the line so he could witness his faith to the famed Muslim chief. In doing so, both men came away with a new respect for the religion of the other. While there are no detailed notes of the meeting, early anecdotal tales describe al-Kamil willingly listening to Father Francis as he preached.
Damietta was an important port in Egyptian commerce. Traders from Africa, Asia, and Europe passed through continuously. Catholics from Europe were frequent merchants among the majority of Muslims. Al-Kamil's court likely encountered people of various backgrounds, and when Francis crossed the battlefield, it was an opportunity for both men to learn from each other.
While I am not in the habit of pushing films (see "The Lady of Heaven," June 19, 2022), one film made of this true story was The Sultan and the Saint back in 2016. Several organizations used the film to promote positive Christian-Muslim relations. Counselors can emphasize religious acceptance by using situations and scenarios from the film to demonstrate tolerance.
A New Era in the 1960s.
Pope Paul VI (1963-1978) was the first pope to leave Italy in 150 years when he made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1964. It was his foresight that started the ball rolling.
Dialogue with non-Christians became a significant policy under this Pope. The Pope took two actions that would affect all Popes after him. First, the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), at his bidding, encouraged friendship with other non-Christian faiths. This recognization was the first overt effort to establish ties with other religions. Second, the Pope founded the Secretariat for non-Christians, later renamed the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID). The PCID's purpose was outreach and dialogue with other religions. Under the PCID, there is the Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims. The Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims is a committee directed to seek out and maintain positive theological ties with Muslims. While not to bore you with the different departments and what they do, the PCID would be the group to look at if you were a conspiracy theorist.
John Paul II (1978-2005)
The most high-profile event in that Pope John Paul II was involved was calling the world's religions together in Assisi to pray for peace in 1986. Assisi, located approximately 100 miles north of Rome, Italy, attracted 50 representatives from Christian organizations and 60 representatives from other religions. The following year, PCID expanded to include contacts with Buddhists, Hindus, and Sikhs.
An interesting side note about one of JPII's trips to the Middle East: He became the first Pope to enter a mosque in 2001. The purpose of the occasion was to follow in the footsteps of Saint Paul the Apostle. During Paul the Apostle's lifetime, the Omayyad Mosque in Damascus was a Roman temple to Jupiter. The temple became a Christian church in AD 379 and then was converted into a mosque in AD 634. This conversion mirrors the stories in an earlier article on this blog (see "What's the Story Behind Churches Converted into Mosques?, Oct 22, 22).
Benedict XVI (2005-2013)
Pope Benedict celebrated the 25th anniversary of the first Prayer Meeting in Assisi to honor his predecessor. About 180 representatives of various religions participated. During his tenure as Pope, Benedict initiated dialogue with boutique religions in India, Japan, Korea, and Indonesia.
Francis (2013 – to the present)
In 2016, Pope Francis held a historic meeting with Muslim counterparts in the UAE. His main counterpart was Ahmed al Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's most prestigious University and educational system in the Middle East. The document, interpreted by some as the beginning of the "One-World Religion," promoted human fraternity, cooperation, and a commitment to seek justice and freedom for all. The signing of the document is seen by Catholic leadership as a breakthrough for the Church in the Middle East. They received acknowledgment and a commitment from a significant Muslim leader.
Some will argue that the trend is conclusive, that we are moving towards a One-World Religion. It may be so, but a passage in the Bible in Matthew 5:9 reads, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God." James 3:18 reads, "Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness." Since it is hard to know when the end times will be upon us, I will opt for this positive outcome: we are moving towards peaceful tolerance and co-existence.
Credit to Wikipedia Commons for Symbols representing different religions in the world.