Islamic-Catholic Statement on Terrorism and Peace

«The Two Religions Reject Oppression and Aggression»

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 2, 2003 ( The Joint Committee of the Permanent Committee of Al-Azhar for Dialogue with the Monotheistic Religions and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue held its annual meeting in Cairo from Feb. 24-25.

Here is the final statement from the event published by the committee.

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The Joint Committee of the Permanent Committee of Al-Azhar for Dialogue with the Monotheistic Religions and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue held its annual meeting, hosted this year by Al Azhar al-Sharîf, in Cairo 24-25th February 2003 / 23-24 Dhu-l-Hijja, 1423. Those present were Sheikh Fawzi al-Zafzaf, Dr Ali Elsamman, Dr Mustafa al-Shak`a, H.E. Nabil Badr, H.E. Fathi Marie, H.E. Mons. Michael Fitzgerald, H.E. Mons. Marco Dino Brogi, Mons. Khaled Akasheh, Mons. Jean-Marie Speich and the Rev Daniel Madigan.

1. The main topic for discussion was the phenomenon of terrorism and the responsibility of religions to confront it. The following points were stressed:

— The two religions, Islam and Christianity, reject oppression and aggression against the human person, as also the violation every person’s legitimate right to life and the right to lead that life in security and in peace.

— The sacred texts in both religions must be understood in their proper context. Isolating passages from their context and using them to legitimize violence is contrary to the spirit of our religions.

— Care must be taken to distinguish between the sacred texts and teachings of our religions on the one hand, and the behavior and actions of some of their followers on the other hand. It is the duty of religious authorities to provide an authentic explanation of the sacred texts and in so doing to safeguard the true image of each religion.

— Given the importance of the correct understanding of each other’s religions, it is proposed that meetings be arranged for lecturers in comparative religion, to provide contextualized experience of the other religion and to enable common reflection on the teaching of a religion that is not one’s own. Such meetings could also be occasions for public conferences.

2. The current situation made it necessary for the Joint Committee to reflect on the likely consequences of the war threatening Iraq. The Committee condemned recourse to war as a means of resolving conflicts between nations. War is a proof that humanity has failed. It brings about enormous loss of human life, great damage to the basic structures of human livelihood and the environment, displacement of large populations, and further political instability.

In the present circumstances there is the added factor of increased tension between Muslims and Christians on account of the mistaken identification of some Western powers with Christianity, and of Iraq with Islam.

We strongly affirm that double standards are to be avoided. Peace, which is inseparable from justice, requires the fulfillment of all international obligations. This principle applies generally and is therefore applicable to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The resolution of this conflict would contribute to resolving many of the outstanding problems of the Middle East.

The Muslim members of the Committee welcomed the clear policy and strenuous efforts of His Holiness Pope John Paul II in favor of peace. The Catholic members of the Committee expressed their appreciation for Muslim religious leaders, including the Grand Imam, Sheikh al-Azhar M. Sayyid Tantawi, who have raised their authoritative voices in defense of peace.

3. The Joint Committee was informed of the conference that was held in Vienna on the 3rd of July 2002, in which the Permanent Committee for Dialogue of al-Azhar suggested the preparation of a charter for interreligious dialogue. In this charter two points of fundamental importance for dialogue will be i) the rejection of generalizations when speaking of each other’s religions and communities, and ii) the ability to be self-critical. This proposal was welcomed by the Joint Committee.

[Original language: English]

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