Inter-faith attendance at Mediterranean shrines
According to a widespread view there is a fault line running through the Mediterranean, splitting it and confronting the “West” against “Islam” in a belligerent “clash of civilizations” – which in many minds means “clash of religions”. Today more than ever, the “liquid continent” is criss-crossed by conflict, and the religious crux of that is often taken to be the main obstacle to “living together”.
The present stalemate is said to spring from some deep strata from the distant past. It seems that in the Mediterranean, religious identity is particularly intractable over the long term, a far cry from the cross- fertilisation and hybridisation which happens when peoples cross whole oceans. In that vast, sometimes tragic undertaking – in the Caribbean, in Brazil or in Mexico – meeting native peoples who had previously lived in completely different worlds often resulted in new religious amalgams. The Inland Sea,on the other hand, seems to be a place of separation and arms' length proximity. As several historical and anthropological works remind us, the three monotheistic religions which began their existence in the Mediterranean seem more resistant to a “fundamental” meeting at the level of ordinary practices. The exclusive and eternal allegiance to one god seems to prevent any spilling over, usual in other contexts. Only contact with a polytheistic environment would allow the implacable closed nature of monotheisms to soften. Although it's true these monotheisms intermingled with other influences when they spread across the world, producing an inter-mingling of cultures, in the region where they were created their confrontation seems particularly hard, where difference and dispute appear to be basic ingredients of the religious landscape.
However, this view is partial. Certainly it would be absurd to deny the strongly exclusive tendencies that have marked the history of monotheism in the Mediterranean and still heavily condition them today. But we can also see the effect of saturation and overload produced by these three monotheistic faiths with their many persuasions crowded together in the same space. Indeed, although the crusades and other holy wars have often taken centre stage in the Mediterranean, it is undeniable that there has been interchange, union and shared influences in the field of ideas and religious practices. In other words, the inter-face between the religions, which we tend to consider completely sealed, have in fact often been porous. Traces of a time when Muslims, Jews and Christians intermingled have survived the shocks of history and still are there today. Thus, sharing places of worship, an aberration in the mind of any fundamentalist, was actually a traditional occurrence, especially in the eastern regions of Byzantine and Ottoman tradition. The process of ethnic and religious homogenization brought about by aggressive nationalism during the 20th century, substantially altered the breeding ground for these exchanges. Then the rise of rigorous, doctrinal religious fundamentalism in turn contributed to make the socio-political environment even more unfavourable to any form of permeability between faiths. Yet, even in this difficult context, any impartial observation of everyday religious practice shows significant examples of permeability. Still today, far from being immovable closed units, religions are “intersected” by cross-border practices. In some European post-communist countries, where the religious sentiment was silenced during the second half of the 20th century, the phenomenon of shared shrines is even growing.
Diversity and sharing: a long l...
Shared holy places
Holy figures who attract shared...
Forms of shared faith
Notes at the bottom of the page
According to a widespread view there is a fault line running through the Mediterranean, splitting it and confronting the “West” against “Islam” in a belligerent “clash of civilizations” – which in many minds means “clash of religions”. Today more than ever, the “liquid continent” is criss-crossed by conflict, and the religious crux of that is often taken to be the main obstacle to “living together” ...
Director of research, CNRS, IDEMEC, MMSH.