Inter-faith congress urges dialogue to fight terrorism

Politics Materials 18 July 2008 22:05 (UTC +04:00)
Inter-faith congress urges dialogue to fight terrorism

A ground-breaking inter-faith conference Friday called for a top-level global dialogue between religions as a means of fighting terrorism, dpa reported.

"We want to take the dialogue onto the world level," including the United Nations, Muslim World League Secretary-General Abdullah al-Turki stressed on closing the World Conference on Dialogue.

The three-day meeting sponsored by Saudi Arabia brought together some 250 Muslim, Christian and Jewish clergy and other experts on inter-religious understanding in the Spanish capital Madrid.

"Heavenly messages" of all faiths rejected extremism and terrorism, the final declaration said, calling for "an international agreement on defining terrorism" and addressing its root causes.

The conference urged a "culture of tolerance," ranging from a special UN session on inter-faith dialogue to governmental and non- governmental cooperation and the use of the media.

The final declaration condemned any denigration of religious symbols and urged religions to cooperate in the fight against crime, corruption, drugs, sexual promiscuity and disintegration of the family.

The Madrid conference was to be followed by the establishment of a working team to study obstacles to inter-faith understanding, al-Turki and United Arab Emirates presidential advisor Izaddin Ibrahim Moustapha said at a press briefing.

There would also be meetings at different levels in several parts of the world, they explained. Moustapha said there were plans for the Madrid conference to be followed by a similar one in Japan.

The dialogue would be open to all major religions, including the eastern ones, which had "philosophies of very high value," al-Turki said at the meeting where Buddhists and Hindus were among the participants.

The conference was criticized for not listing any of the Jewish participants as Israelis, but al-Turki stressed its apolitical nature, saying the delegates had been invited as personalities and not as country representatives.

The Muslim World League secretary-general also rejected criticism over the fact that there were only about 15 women among the delegates, saying the league "welcomes any participation of women" in inter-religious dialogue.

The conference had shown that "it is possible to respect our respective faiths" and that "dialogue is the best way to contribute to harmony and peace," Vatican inter-faith specialist Cardinal Jean- Louis Tauran said at the closing session.

The Madrid conference broke new ground in that it was sponsored by Saudi Arabia, hitherto known for its highly conservative brand of Sunni Islam and distrust of other religious influences.

Organized by the Muslim World League, the conference was inspired by Saudi King Abdullah's unprecedented meeting with Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican in November 2007, and by the International Islamic Conference for Dialogue in Mecca last month.

Saudi representatives at the conference rejected allegations that it was a public relations operation aimed at improving the kingdoms ultra-conservative image.

Domestic opposition would have made it difficult to stage the meeting in Saudi Arabia, observers said.

That difficulty was believed to have prompted the organizers to choose Spain, where Muslims, Christians and Jews lived relatively peacefully when large parts of the country were under Moorish rule more than 500 years ago.