Written by: Michael Kravshik.
February 17th, 2028
The New York Time(s)
A Call to Prayer for Human Rights
After months of controversy, the College of Cardinals has finally decided upon a new Pope. With the all too recognizable signal of white smoke emanating from the Sistine Chapel, the masses standing outside St. Peters Basilica cheered the decision being made.
Many of those cheering, however, were not the usual crowd one expects in front of the greatest symbol of Catholicism in the world. Although ordinarily packed with media representatives and thousands of devout Catholics, this time around a quite numerous contingent of Muslims, along with their pro-equality political allies were also in the audience awaiting this important decision. This unusual demographic is due to the months-long controversy building up to today. For the first time in its two thousand-year history, an eligible candidate for St. Peters throne was not Catholic, and in fact not even a Christian.
After months of controversy and political negotiation, a Turkish born and western educated Muslim cleric, Muhammad Abd Al-Aziz Raboud Celik, was finally allowed to enter his name into the running for the top job in the Roman Catholic Church. Thanks to the unwavering support for nondiscrimination and equality in the International Human Rights Court, the decision was handed down to the Church only days before the beloved, but very ill Pope John Paul III was finally laid to rest. The landmark treaty signed six months ago, UNITED (United Nations International Treaty on Equality and Discrimination), has finally strengthened the UN’s ability to enforce its rulings thus, forcing the Church into compliance or else face massive punitive fines along with complete de-legitimization in the eyes of the international community and even a potential boycott.
Celik’s credentials as a candidate are undeniably impressive, regardless of having served no official time as a member of the Catholic clergy. Born the son of a wealthy construction magnate, Celik began his religious education early by attending some of the most reputable madrassahs in Turkey. At the age of 18 he became one of the youngest and most influential clerics in Turkey due to his fiery, passionate sermons, and piously modest lifestyle. After two years as Imam of his Istanbul-based mosque, Celik was accepted into Yale for their eminent religious studies program eventually earning his Ph.D in Catholicism. His thesis, entitled “The Overstated Differences, and Understated Similarities of Catholicism and Islam”, is undisputed globally as the pre-eminent work on strengthening inter-faith relations. It was during these years that his love and compassion for the Catholic faith and its adherents became apparent. In his own words “had I not been exposed to the beauty and history of the Catholic bible in those years, I would never be able to act appropriately as a neutral and knowledgeable supporter and mediator of inter-faith dialogue.” Celik then proceeded to earn his masters in European history with a focus on Catholicism from Oxford. It was during his time in the United Kingdom that he married and started raising a family.
Upon returning to Turkey in 2016 with his family, he became one of the leading voices of dissention against the growing de-secularization of the Turkish state. During this time he became one of moderate Islam’s leading thinkers and its de facto poster child. Many of his writings were very controversial in Turkey’s more conservative communities, which led to opposition from more than just the government. After months of death threats and unjustified state-initiated legal proceedings, he was forced into exile when his home was stormed and torched by angry rioters. Since his return to London, he has spent the past decade as an activist, author, academic, and public speaker pushing the cause of interfaith dialogue farther than any of his contemporaries. It is thanks to Celik’s hard work and indomitable spirit that Christmas vacation in the United Kingdom was finally replaced in 2021 by Decemberis, a non-denominational, national holiday from December 24th to January 1st each year. This was a watershed event for the human rights movement, and is being replicated by progressive nations worldwide. Mr. Celik was also the primary British peace negotiator during the break-up of Pakistan into the various states of the Pakistani Union. Many people close to the negotiations credit him with single-handedly avoiding a complete breakdown of talks between the Pashtun, Baluchi, and Sindh ethnic groups after the 2022 bombing of the Shah Jahan Mosque in Thatta, Sindh Provence. His steady hand and unanimous respect from all parties has prevented the disintegration of that unstable peace right to the present day.
The decision of the courts to force the church’s hand on this matter was based on the conclusions of multiple United Nations’ reports released recently. These reports maintain that the Roman Catholic Church has the international influence and geographical outreach to constitute a ‘Genuine International Organization’ (GIO) as defined by UN resolution S-227 (March, 2024). As per the resolution, GIOs’ are obligated to maintain, among other things, an equal opportunity environment for all positions or memberships, paid or otherwise. If these conditions are not met, the organization will risk international condemnation and potential boycott. An umbrella group of activists named ‘Racism out of Religion’ (ROOR) is credited with creating the political pressure to force this issue at the United Nations.
Many world leaders and influential organizations such as Amnesty International, the Organization of Islamic Co-operation, and the 15th Dalai Lama have praised the court’s decision. In addition, the majority of progressively minded individuals worldwide have showed their elation through tweets, messages, meme’s, and YouTube videos lighting up the blogosphere. Some groups have been calling for the creation of “Human Equality Day”, the first internationally recognized holiday, marking the day of the decision.
The church has argued that regardless of its official designation as a GIO, the majority of the Pope’s responsibilities pertain to ecclesiastical duties and theological decision-making. However, ROOR and other pro-equality activist groups have stressed that the Pope’s most important and influential role as a figurehead trumps those duties, which can be easily delegated down. As expected, fundamentalists of all stripes have taken up the cause of the church. Predictable rabble rousing by influential right wing media outlets have led to street protests in multiple US cities, especially in the southern states, and all over the world. Popular TV personality and conservative pundit Geoffrey Kaye has been at the centre of this most recent attempt to disrupt the progression of human rights. His shamefully laughable campaign to ‘Fight Species-ism’ has garnered worldwide criticism due to its catch phrase “Give The Horny Toad The Vote!” which has become the rallying call of right wing protestors. Referring to one of many types of horned lizards native to the United States, the implied association with Muslims has resulted in domestic Muslim groups taking Mr. Kaye himself to the Human Rights Court for hate speech. In response to the decision, fundamentalist Islamic groups such as AQAP (Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) have issued a fatwa on Lars Hoewuerten, the head of the International Human Rights Court, calling for his death, to add to their 15 year old fatwa on Celik himself. Mr. Kaye has yet to comment on the moral support he is receiving from these groups, but its safe to say that few people would be pleased with such an endorsement.
The debate has come to a natural conclusion with the passing down of the ruling from the court. Before the ruling was made, in an extraordinary act of courage and responsibility, Church leaders (including the late Pope John Paul III) decided that they would comply with international law regardless of the outcome. After the ruling, a ROOR spokesperson released a statement that the group was optimistic given the decision, but also claimed that regardless of who is in the running, Mr. Celik will not be given a fair chance. They suggest that Canon Law be amended to “bring the Church into the 21st Century” by modifying the ancient decision making process into a more open and democratic one. This suggestion has served to fuel even more controversy, but is a necessary next step in the ongoing struggle for true equality and human rights.
Mr. Celik has thanked his supporters for their passionate defense of his position, but has continually stressed the deep admiration and respect he has for Catholic institutions, traditions, and values, and his desire not to see those trampled on as a result of his bid for the Pope’s hat. Last week, Mr. Celik had announced that if he is chosen as Bishop of Rome, he would continue the tradition of choosing a Papal name for himself. He has decided, if he is given that honor to choose the name Pope Rahman I, after the great Emir and Caliph of Cordoba Adb-ar-Rahman III. Rahman’s reign, as well as that of his son Al-Hakam II, was legendary for its tolerant attitude towards Jews and Christians. This freedom not only resulted in cultural and economic prosperity for non-Muslims, but also set in motion one of the most extensive cultural exchanges in human history prior to the invention of the Internet.
As the white smoke floats to the heavens, anxious onlookers can only wait patiently for the announcement to be made….
This is my satirical look at a future trajectory of political correctness gone mad. What do you think is in our future?