An appeal issued jointly Wednesday by Vatican and Jordanian officials marks the nations’ friendship and common commitment to foster peace and dialogue in the Middle East. Following a May 13-14 meeting in Amman on “Meeting Current Challenges through Education,” the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and Jordan’s Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies issued an appeal for solidarity on the eve of Pope Francis’ May 24-26 pilgrimage, which they called “a source of hope for all peoples of the Holy Land and the region.” The statement began by strongly condemning violence, in particular the April kidnapping of nearly 300 schoolgirls in Nigeria, “call(ing) or their immediate release, so that they can return to their families and their schools.” The participants agreed on families and schools as the “fundamental institutions” of education; the importance of religious education in transmitting religious and moral values; the necessity of considering the human person’s dignity; and the trouble of international agreements which disregard religious freedom and other human rights. It was also stated that “integral education” is necessary, because “religion is not the cause of conflicts, but rather inhumanity and ignorance,” and that “religions, properly understood and practiced, are not causes of division and conflicts but rather a necessary factor for reconciliation and peace.” The joint statement proposed a “cultural decalogue” for those involved in education, which highlighted the importance of humility; of not being closed-minded; perseverance; trust in reason; and of intellectual curiosity, courage, integrity, autonomy, fairness, and humility. The “decalogue” also exhorted educators to “consider pluralism as richness, not a threat.” The joint statement is the latest in Jordan’s steps to affirm its strategic role for peace and dialogue in the Middle East, which has been reinforced over the years by a series of initiatives, many of them involving Ghazi bin Muhammad, one of the nation’s princes. bin Muhammad helped to organize a 2007 letter to Benedict XVI from 138 Muslim scholars, relaunching a dialogue following his Regensburg address of the previous year. Since then, bin Muhammad has helped coordinate a series of dialogues between Catholic and Muslim thinkers, including Benedict’s 2009 visit to the Holy Land. In September, bin Muhammad sponsored a summit of Christian leaders in the Middle East convoked by King Abdullah II to address the widespread emergencies facing Christians in the region; Jordan is widely seen as a protector of Christians in the area. Abdullah and bin Muhammad met with Pope Francis April 7, to indicate Jordan’s full support for his upcoming visit to the Holy Land.
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