Amid continued violence by ISIS and other militant Islamist groups, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue issued a declaration stressing that dialogue with Islam must be sought “now more than ever.” The council emphasized that “killing in the name of a religion offends God, but it is also a defeat for humanity.” The declaration was released April 22, and is the second of its kind issued by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. On Aug. 12, 2014, as the violence of ISIS was spreading through Iraq, the Pontifical Council delivered a strongly worded communique to condemn the self-proclaimed caliphate’s actions and to call all religious leaders, especially Muslims, to take a strong stance against violence. Eight months later, the Pontifical Council is once again underscoring that “believers are a formidable potential of peace,” and so continuing dialogue, “even when we experience persecution, may become a sign of hope.” In the current scenario, “we are called to strengthen fraternity and dialogue,” the council said. The declaration comes shortly after the latest killings of Ethiopian Christians in Libya by militants of the self-proclaimed Islamic State. “After the recent events, many people ask us whether ‘there is still space to dialogue with Muslims?’ The answer is: yes, more than ever,” the declaration begins. Dialogue may be first of all fostered, it says, because “the great majority of Muslims themselves” do not identify with “the barbarity put into action.” “Unfortunately, the word ‘religion’ is nowadays often associated with the word ‘violence’, while believers must prove that religions are called to be bearers of peace and not of violence.” The declaration quotes Benedict XVI’s Jan. 9, 2006 speech to the diplomatic corps. Speaking about clashes of civilization and terrorism, the Pope emeritus affirmed that “no situation can justify such criminal activity, which covers the perpetrators with infamy, and it is all the more deplorable when it hides behind religion, thereby bringing the pure truth of God down to the level of the terrorists’ own blindness and moral perversion.” According to the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, religious discourse in the public arena is being increasingly radicalized and bears the risk of an “increase in hate, violence, terrorism” as well as of the increasing “stigmatization of Muslims and their religion.” The declaration maintains that “believers do not want to impose their vision of the human being and of history,” but they rather want to “propose the respect of differences, the freedom of thought and religion, the safeguarding of human dignity and the love for truth.” For this reason, the Pontifical Council is calling for a courageous review of “family life quality, the way religion and history are taught, (and) the content of preaching in our places of worship.” Family and school “are the keys” that may help “the world of tomorrow to be based on reciprocal respect and on fraternity,” the group says. The declaration ends with a quote by Pope Francis, who said in Ankara Nov. 28, 2014 that “any violence which seeks religious justification warrants the strongest condemnation because the Omnipotent is the God of life and peace.”
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