Dialogue Not Enough Against Extremism, Say Catholics and Muslims

Vatican and Muslim Leaders Propose Integral Development

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 27, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Dialogue is not enough to combat religious extremism — integral development must also be promoted, says a statement issued by Catholic and Sunni Muslim leaders.

The text, published today by the Vatican Press Office, summarizes the conclusions of a meeting held last Saturday by the Committee for Dialogue of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and the Permanent Committee of Al Azhar for Dialogue with the Monotheistic Religions.

The 1,000-year-old Al Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, is the most prestigious center of studies and research of the Muslim world. John Paul II visited the university in February 2000.

The debate addressed a crucial post-Sept. 11 topic: “Religious Extremism and Its Effect on Humanity.” Each side presented a paper; a debate followed.

Catholics and Muslims agreed that extremism, “from whatever side it may come, is to be condemned as not being in conformity with the teachings of the two religions.” Yet, to “counteract extremism, dialogue can be useful provided that the conditions for a positive outcome can be guaranteed.”

“There is always need for attention to basic aspects of society: family life, education, social development, the influence of the mass media, promotion of justice and solidarity within countries and on an international scale,” the religious leaders emphasized.

The meeting also served to give a description of “religious extremists.” Both sides agreed that such persons “can sometimes be sincere in their intentions, yet they tend to see themselves as the only ones in the right and to show intolerance to those who do not agree with them, not accepting others with their differences, tending to violate the rights of others, and sometimes using or approving violence.”

Cardinal Francis Arinze, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, led the Catholic representation at the meeting. Sheikh Fawzi Fadel Zafzaf, president of the Permanent Committee of Al Azhar for Dialogue with Monotheistic Religions, headed the Muslim delegation.

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