Pursuing interreligious dialogue and opening hearts and minds to others are the way to face troubled times, stressed participants in the Third Catholic-Muslim Summit held this week in Rome. “Our meeting here, I would think, is a sign of hope for our troubled world. It is a message to all humanity, especially to us, the members of the great family of Abraham — the Jews, the Christians, and the Muslims,” said Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, following the conclusion of the Dec. 2-4 meeting, which was themed “Christians and Muslims: Believers living in Society.” In addition to Cardinal Tauran, the principal leaders of the summit included Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan; Mostafa Mohaghegh Damad, an ayatollah and director of Islamic Studies at Iran's Academy of Sciences; and John Bryson Chane, an Episcopalian bishop. Chane stressed that “Christianity and Islam have at this moment in time a great opportunity to work together effectively with governments and civil societies currently in turmoil.” “They can begin to re-shape a culture of peace in a world too much torn apart by sectarian violence and political pilfering. Christianity and Islam can and must be the bridge builders of the 21st century,” he concluded. Prince Hassan bin Talal said “the schisms in the world today have become so numerous, the inequities and inequalities so stark, that a universal respect for human dignity must once again be brought back to the consciousness of the international community. Now, more than at any other time, an ethic of human solidarity and a new international order are required.” All of the participants agree that now it is the time for a renewed Christian and Muslim dialogue, starting from mutual acceptance and in order to find a common path. Cardinal Tauran underscored that “one of the important bases for the acceptance of the other and therefore for social peace is to be aware of the unity of the human family. It is one in its origin: God; one in its end: God; one in its fundamental needs: air, water, food, dress, shelter, etc. The human aspects of our life are one: joy, sorrow, hope, despair, fear, etc.” “Having all this in common, the legitimate differences — ethnicity, religion, culture, political choices — should not be a reason for refusing the other, ignoring him or her, marginalizing, persecuting, or even eliminating him or her, as is unfortunately the case in our days, especially in Iraq and in Syria, and in particular towards the Christians and Yazidis,” Cardinal Tauran maintained. Abraham Skorka, a rabbi and a friend of Pope Francis, took part in the summit, saying that “in the 20th century were consummated horrible crimes in the name of new anthropomorphic religions. Nazism and Stalinism killed millions of human beings on the altar of their fanatic and insane beliefs.” From the 1970s on, he then stressed, “many went back to the old religions,” but “their returning was not to the pureness and spiritual depth, but to their extreme and aggressive aspects.” “As tolerance and acceptance of the other was not in the vocabulary of the anthropocentric religions, some new expressions of the renewed traditional religions do not know about the other, in his right to be different,” he concluded. The Christian-Muslim Summit is a gathering of Christian and Muslim leaders from around the world and experts from both religious traditions who come together for purposes of interreligious and intercultural relationship building and to address issues of conflict that exist between religions and nations. Pope Francis met the summit participants Dec. 3, reminding them that dialogue is “the path to peace. Pope Francis also thanked the summit for their work on the path to dialogue, since “this helps us to strengthen our fraternity.” The fourth summit is expected to be held in Iran.
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