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Two ways of spreading faith - 2005

Walter Brandmüller


Although there are many similarities between Islam and Christianity, the manner in which the two religions spread were different. In an article posted on this day, 27 December 2005, president Emeritus of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, Walter Brandmüller, drew the important distinction.


“For the Christians, conversion was something that must be voluntary and individual, obtained primarily through preaching and example, and this is how Christianity did in fact spread during its first centuries. Obviously, we must immediately note that this conception of early Christianity underwent changes in later eras, connected with the diffusion of a spirit of religious intolerance in Western culture. John Paul II himself acknowledged that in this regard the Church’s children ‘must return with a spirit of repentance [for] the acquiescence given, especially in certain centuries, to intolerance and even the use of violence in the service of truth.’

“But on the part of the Muslims, from the earliest times, even while Mohammed was still alive, conversion was imposed through the use of force. The expansion and extension of Islam’s sphere of influence came through war with the tribes that did not accept conversion peacefully, and this went hand in hand with submission to Islamic political authority. Islamism, unlike Christianity, expressed a comprehensive religious, cultural, social, and political strategy. While Christianity spread during its first three centuries in spite of persecution and martyrdom, and in many ways in opposition to Roman domination, introducing a clear separation between the spiritual and political spheres, Islam was imposed through the power of political domination.” 


Brandmüller,Walter. “Christianity and Islam in History.”

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