The Embassy of the Islamic Republic of Iran has put up signs welcoming Pope Francis’ visit to the Philippines and called on Filipino Muslims to help forge better relations between Islam and Christianity.

Dr. Hossein Faiyaz, executive director for religions at the embassy’s cultural section, said that while Iran is not “in charge” of Filipino Muslims, it reminds them of the Pope’s call for “better cooperation.”

“The Pope has already expressed his gratitude for the Muslims and Christians in working together for the young generation… For the Muslims in the Philippines, we are not in charge of them, but I think they have the same feeling because the Pope is asking Muslims,” Faiyaz said in an interview.

“We in Iran are not the only Muslims, he (Pope) is asking Muslims all over the world,” he stressed.

Faiyaz made the remarks when asked if the embassy’s welcome sign for the Pope was also an appeal to Filipino Muslims to heed the pontiff’s call.

“Of course, that is. Actually, on our part, we are saying this,” he said.

The welcome sign – a tarpaulin standing about 6 feet tall and perched prominently at the iron gate of the cultural office’s facade -features the picture of a waving Pope Francis addressed as “Your Holiness.”

It reads: “Pope Francis has urged Muslims and Christians to work together to promote mutual respect, particularly by educating new generations of believers.”

The sign, which can be seen along Epifanio delos Santos ave. (EDSA) in Makati City, shows that Iran “recognizes” the Pope’s visit, Faiyaz said.

“We are welcoming the arrival of the Pope because he has very good feelings about Muslims,” he said.

“We congratulate the people of the Philippines for this very good job that they have done, in order that the Pope, his holiness, is visiting the country,” Faiyaz added.

Iran, one of the countries with the largest number of Muslims, is known for strict policies against “outside influences,” especially from the West.

Most Iranians belong to the Shia branch of Islam while there are also others who are Sunni, the branch practiced by most Filipino Muslims.

The country also has a Christian minority and officially recognizes their religion. (John Roson)

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