Christian and Muslim Leaders Address Challenge of Coexistence

Religion Can´t Justify Violence, Representatives Say

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SARAJEVO, Bosnia and Herzegovina, SEPT. 18, 2001 ( Christianity and Islam are religions of peace, not war, religious leaders said at the close of an interfaith congress.

The final statement from the conference, in fact, is an appeal not to «justify violence in the name of religion.»

The congress, entitled «Christians and Muslims in Europe: Responsibility and Commitment in the Pluralist Society,» was organized in the Bosnian capital on Saturday by the Joint Committee «Islam in Europe.»

The panel was created by the Council of Episcopal Conferences of Europe — which brings Catholic bishops together — and by the Council of the Churches of Europe — which includes Orthodox, Anglicans, evangelicals and Lutherans.

The grand mufti of Moscow and Sarajevo, as well as other Muslim religious leaders and intellectuals, also supported the event.

«We maintain a religious spirit that will lead us to courageous actions in favor of human life, liberty, religion, property, dignity and justice,» the final message explained.

The statement also severely condemns the recent attacks on the United States.

The representatives of both monotheist religions called for the promotion of «a clear awareness of our common humanity, making us brothers and sisters, beyond our social and religious commitment.»

To accomplish the above, the religious leaders proposed the formation of youth «in knowledge and respect of other creeds and communities, through educational programs; and the promotion of religious education in public schools including interreligious courses.»

The participants encouraged priests, pastors, theologians and Muslim representatives, as well as the laity, to promote «dialogue and interreligious meetings through exchanges between faculties and Christian and Muslim seminaries.»

The document ends with the determination «to continue our efforts in the development of an awareness of our common values.»

During the final hours of the congress, the debate was intense. The plenary assemblies touched upon sensitive issues, such as the justification of violence by the Scriptures of both religions.

Anastasios, primate of the Albanian Orthodox Church, told the conferees that their common task is to oppose the secularist tendency. Harmony between religions and believers is necessary, which can be based «on a sincere acceptance and respect of the declarations of human rights,» he said.

Muslim Mehmet Aydin, professor of the University of Smyrna, pointed out that the lack of witness given at times by men of faith «causes distrust toward the religious experience.»

«Every time there is a threat of war,» he added, «those who should teach coexistence and peace are eager to rekindle the fire of conflict in God´s houses. They even go so far as to justify it with religion.»

Monsignor Aldo Giordano, secretary-general of the Council of European Episcopal Conferences, explained that dialogue between religions should preserve «our identity.»

«It is not relativism, but a dialogue that enriches us and enables us to coexist,» he said.

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