Interreligious Cooperation Seen as a Necessity, Not an Option

Conclusions of a Symposium Organized by the Vatican

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 11, 2003 ( A symposium condemned attempts to turn religion into a force of division and violence, and instead encouraged the need for interreligious dialogue.

These were among the conclusions reflected in the final declaration of the symposium held in Rome from Jan. 16-18 and organized by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

The symposium on «Spiritual Resources of the Religions for Peace» included 38 participants from 15 countries, who represented Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism.

In the final document, issued today by the Vatican Press Office, the participants state that «talk of war has intensified in recent months, but there has not been much increase in the talk of peace.»

«Opting for peace does not mean a passive acquiescence in evil or a compromising of principles,» the participants emphasize. «It demands an active struggle against hatred, oppression and disunity, but not by using methods of violence. Building peace requires creative and courageous action.»

The document expresses the need for dedicated efforts to «examine how, in a world that is increasingly interconnected, we can find new ways to respect our religious differences while forging peaceful bonds based on our common humanity.»

According to the symposium’s final declaration, the spiritual resources for peace include the scriptures and traditions of each religion, the example of those who taught peace — and even gave their life in their nonviolent commitment to truth — and interreligious meetings.

«A commitment to peace is a labor of patience and perseverance,» the document continues. «It involves as well a readiness to examine self-critically the relationship of our traditions to those social, economic and political structures that are frequently agents of violence and injustice.»

«Our scriptures and traditions are the most important spiritual resources which each of us possesses,» the participants stress. «We hold that the scriptures of each religion teach the path of peace, but we acknowledge that our various sacred writings have often been and continue to be used to justify violence, war and exclusion of others.»

In this connection, the participants acknowledged the need «for new, contextual studies and a deeper understanding of our various scriptures that clearly enunciate the message and value of peace for all humanity.»

As a spiritual resource for peace, the document mentions the example of «countless persons of every religion» who «have acted valiantly to prevent conflict and war, who have assisted victims of violence, without regard to religion or nation, and who have worked for justice and reconciliation as the basis for establishing peace.»

«By their actions, they have borne concrete witness to the mission of each religious community to be agents of peace amid the harsh realities of injustice, aggression, terrorism and war,» they add.

For their part, interreligious meetings seek «to instill a spirit of mutual respect and genuine understanding of one another» while, at the same time, helping people see «religions as a force of good.»

In the context of contemporary life, «interreligious cooperation is no longer an option but a necessity,» the declaration states categorically.

«Religion will prosper in this century only to the extent that we can maintain a sense of community among people of different religious beliefs who work together as a human family to achieve a world peace,» they conclude.

The symposium was a follow-up to an October 1999 interreligious assembly held at the Vatican; the January 2002 Day of Prayer for Peace, in Assisi; and the Forum for Peace that preceded it.

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