Cardinal Keeler Tells of Need for Cooperation Among Religions

Says It Can Help Wipe Out Racism and Nationalism

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WASHINGTON, D.C., SEPT. 15, 2004 ( Collaboration among religious communities can contribute to the eradication of racism, xenophobia and nationalism in civil society, a U.S. cardinal told a conference of European and North American officials.

«Not content with tolerance and respect for each others’ differences, interreligious understanding and dialogue offer the hope of genuine mutual enrichment that can provide us with the resources necessary to overcome the darkness of violence and division,» said Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore.

Cardinal Keeler made his remarks Monday during a Conference on Tolerance and the Fight Against Racism, Xenophobia, and Discrimination organized by the Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

He was named by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to be a member of the U.S. delegation, which was led by Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson.

In his address, Cardinal Keeler raised two themes in particular with the delegates representing all the nations of Europe, as well as several Central Asian countries and the United States and Canada: the positive role religion can play in public life, and a renewed spirit of interreligious encounter.

«While the state and religion clearly differ in their roles, they share a goal of building up the common good for the benefit of the entire society,» he said. «Though religion may be misused — even tragically at times — or distorted, it can offer positive values to society and be a major force for healing the infection of racism and xenophobia.»

Consequently, he said, governments should value and safeguard religion. «Societies in which faith is marginalized and impoverished are diminished societies,» the archbishop of Baltimore said.

Cardinal Keeler also said that the persuasiveness of religions’ call to overcome racism and bigotry requires greater dialogue and understanding among religions themselves.

He acknowledged that Christians have «failed to extend the tolerance and understanding that we ourselves expect.»

He said Christians cannot expect discrimination and bigotry against them to cease until Christians seek an end to discrimination against Jews and Muslims and «brothers and sisters of other faiths and no faiths.»

The OSCE is a multilateral forum involving all European states and several Central Asian countries, as well as the United States and Canada. The conference was held Monday and Tuesday in Brussels, Belgium.

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