Christian, Muslim leaders sign declaration agreeing to stand against religious extremism

(Photo: © Peter Williams / WCC)The Grand Imam of Cairo's Al-Azhar mosque and university, Dr. Ahmad al-Tayyeb, greets Dr. Agnes Abuom, moderator of the World Council of Churches main governing body on Sept. 30, 2016 during historic meetings at the headquarters of the World Council of Churches in Geneva with the WCC general secretary, Rev. Olav Fykse Tveit looking on.

Religious leadership, both Christian and Muslim, needs to be more courageous than it has been, says Dr. Agnes Abuom, moderator of the World Council of Churches main governing body.

"Without directly supporting attacks on the other religion, there have been some occasions when religious leaders have given a sort of silent approval to what their followers are saying and doing," Abuom said .

She spoke during two-day discussions between the Muslim Council of Elders and the World Council of Churches in Geneva, Switzerland from Sept. 30 to Oct. 1 after which they issues a joint declaration.

Two historic sessions of talks, hosted by the WCC, involved discussions on key aspects of peacebuilding and interreligious dialogue, paying special attention to combating religious extremism leading to violence in many parts of the world.

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"The WCC is to be commended for inviting us to this important meeting," said Ahmed al-Tayyeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar in a speech Oct. 1 at the Ecumenical Institute in Bossey near Geneva.

ASSUMING RESPONSIBILITIES

He said the meetings had taken place "with the presence of eminent scholars and religious leaders representing the monotheistic religions, meeting in the heart of Europe, in the beautiful and peaceful city of Geneva, so that we may assume our responsibilities both to our conscience and to the message of Allah the Almighty.

"In this way, may we contribute to the revival of hope in the hearts of millions of people living in fear and distress and restore happiness to the faces of those in despair, orphans and widows, who regrettably become victims of armed conflicts imposed on them."

On Oct. 1 the WCC and the Muslim Council of Elders issued a joint statement rejecting all forms of extremism and discrimination based on religion, race, gender and ethnic origin in which they committed to working on the presentations of religions.

In his keynote speech the Grand Imam said, "Please do not let your minds and thoughts accept those false messages that link Islam with terrorism; you are best at understanding that religion and violence are inconsistent.

"I do not have any doubt that you all admit that all religious messages have one unique aim, which is the happiness of humankind and to avoid falling into tragedy and disbelief.

"I am underlining the fact that religious armed groups advocating religious messages are in reality betraying their religions and their souls; that using religious messages in order to perpetrate crimes, slaughter, destruction is to be seen as unacceptable and reprehensible.

"All of you know that the horrible and abject deeds perpetrated in the past in the name of Christianity, using a false interpretation of the holy books, and causing the killing of many Muslims can never be linked to Christianity, and no Muslim has ever accused this religion of all that happened," he said in an apparent reference to the Crusader era.

The Muslim reiterated, "that all these forms of terrorism with their different names and slogans are rejected by Islam and we have to find the real roots of terrorism outside the context of the holy Qur'an and the precepts of Islam; otherwise the approach will be an aberration of sound logical reasoning.

"The parties that are promoting these false accusations need to find the real causes of terrorism that are linked, as mentioned before, in biased policies and double standards as well as the greed of a minority defending its international and regional interests through the arms race and flourishing arms markets, forgetting the divine message of all religions and instead using mockery against God's prophets, books and messengers."

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