Muslim and Catholic preachers yesterday discussed the role of the family in a globalised society, uniting against same-sex marriages and the "negative" media but disagreeing on divorce and polygamy.
Journalists were only allowed to sit in for the seminar's opening speeches by Archbishop Paul Cremona and the head of the Islamic Centres and Propagation Bureau, Ammar Hreba, who both chastised the press for its promulgation of negative ideas.
In a paper prepared and presented by Imam Muhammed el Sadi, homosexuality was lambasted as "unnatural, immoral, unhealthy and fruitless" while divorce was described as something Islam "does not like" and therefore allows "only" twice.
"For divorce to be valid it should be based on true intention. A forced divorce is not valid nor that of an intoxicated or an enraged person. The divorce should not take place during the woman's monthly period or her period of purity if the husband has sexual relations with her," the Muslim leader's paper read.
Mgr Cremona said: "Most countries in the West are secularised, if not secularist. This means the Church has to convince society of the importance of family."
He said the destruction of a family affected the state negatively, even in economic terms, while stable relationships gave a great contribution, especially through the upbringing of children.
Mgr Cremona called on the state to help prepare couples for marriage, particularly because so many were choosing to get married civilly.
"We also need to use the media to promote messages in favour of stability of marriages and family. Many aspects of the media give negative ideas of what true love is."
He stressed that marriage was between a man and a woman where each was a gift from God to the other. In marriage, a couple promised to honour, love and respect each other "till death do them part".
Mr Hreba was even more critical of the media and homosexuality.
"If we neglect our religion based on the negative direction of the media, this will lead to violence. If we let the family collapse, there will be catastrophe and destruction. Same-sex marriage destroys the entity of the family which began with Adam and Eve," he said, emphasising the importance of tolerance and dialogue between religions and cultures.
Mario Farrugia Borg, a member of the World Islamic Call Society Malta branch, which organised the seminar, pointed out that Muslims and Catholics had "so much in common" regarding their views on the family.
Despite the "new challenges which did not exist 30 and 40 years ago", the fact that the Catholic and Muslim communities were meeting to discuss this issue was a positive sign, he noted.
A number of theologians from both faiths were present for the rest of the discussion which was held behind closed doors and focused on four papers, including the one written by the Imam. Sources said their concluding statement described the family as a natural institution between man and woman but did not say it was a permanent bond.
Excerpts from paper by Imam Muhammed El Sadi.
No human society can ever manage without the family system, which organises the relations between men and women for posterity.
In Islamic law, there is absolutely no room for same-sex marriages... they contradict the family values and endanger the family system.
Adultery leads to the birth of illegitimate children, causes fatal diseases and abortion.
Islam's attitude towards the family and the legislation of divorce and polygamy may seem contradictory but in fact these support the family system if carried out properly and justly. Polygamy means forming a new family and providing care for another woman. Divorce means forming a new, stable family instead of the former broken one.
Islam does not like divorce and tries to prevent it in different ways and considers it only when there are no chances to avoid it as a necessity, not as a privilege.
Islam permits polygamy to solve some social problems like the presence of many widows and orphans after war and cases of barren women and those who fail to satisfy the sexual need of their husbands.
Men must provide for their families... he uses his reason more than emotion and has more experience in life affairs due to his various wide connections with people and businesses. This leadership of the family in no way means that man is the master and the woman his slave; rather, it means more responsibility, care and service towards the family.
Islam obliges the husband to maintain his wife and children completely. The wife is not obliged to work or share financial burdens of the family.
The main job of the wife is to care for her home, husband and children. The husband should consult his wife, advise her to be a better Muslim and satisfy her sexual needs.
Globalisation imposes pressure on all religions to change certain teachings in order to satisfy certain international charters and groups. (But) we cannot change the teachings of God or update them... We believe the laws of God are perfect.
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