No One Would Win in Clash of Civilizations, Conferees Told

American and Lebanese Address Palermo Meeting

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PALERMO, Sicily, SEPT. 4, 2002 ( A «clash of civilizations» would end in the ruin of all civilizations, world religious leaders were told.

An American and a Lebanese speaker made that point at the meeting on «Peoples and Religions» organized by the Community of Sant’Egidio, a Rome-based lay movement.

«In no time in the recent past has the scene been so ready as today for what could be a disastrous clash between civilizations,» contended David Smock of the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Because of this, he said, «in no time in the recent past has there been a more urgent need and a more propitious opportunity for faith groups to commit themselves to a significant dialogue to promote reconciliation.»

The American speaker emphasized that «with deplorable frequency, religion is an element of international conflict,» although it is not the principal cause.

In this connection, the Sept. 11 attacks «made painfully clear the need to improve understanding among Christians, Muslims and Jews,» Smock said. «There are numerous mistaken ideas and misunderstandings, and there is little effective communication.»

The cultural contact between Islam and the West, for example, has also been ruined by «relations of power that are historically unequal, which have made the Western world arrogant and insensitive and the Muslim world frequently defensive and insecure,» the American speaker continued.

Lebanese Ghassan Theni, president of the Dar An-Nahar Publishing Group, responded, by trying to explain to «our American friends especially,» that the present civilizations are the result of the legacies of cultures that forged humanity.

Therefore, if there is «a clash of civilizations, the only way out will be the destruction of the whole of civilization on both sides,» Theni warned.

«There will be no liberty, nor will any form of peace be foreseen in a situation where the whole imposition of peace becomes a new source of conflict,» the Lebanese continued.

The solution may be found in a globalization that respects «diversity and multiplicity,» he added. «A common search for governance, which respects fundamental human rights, cannot be carried out with violence but with coexistence, which comes from peace, justice and respect for the other.»

The Palermo meeting, which drew more than 400 representatives of the monotheist religions, ended Tuesday.

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