Home /

‘A Common Word’ in the News

Faith leaders plan teams to defuse religious tensions

(Reuters) –
Christian and Muslim leaders agreed on Thursday to set up “rapid
deployment teams” to try to defuse tensions when their faiths are
invoked by conflicting parties in flashpoints such as Nigeria, Iraq,
Egypt or the Philippines.

Meeting this week in
Geneva, they agreed the world’s two biggest religions must take concrete
steps to foster interfaith peace rather than let themselves be dragged
into conflicts caused by political rivalries, oppression or injustice.

Among the organisations backing the plan were the World Council of
Churches (WCC), which groups 349 different Christian churches around the
world, and the World Islamic Call Society (WICS), a network with about
600 affiliated Muslim bodies.

They would send Christian and Muslim experts to intervene on both sides
in a religious conflict to calm tensions and clear up misunderstandings
about the role of faith in the dispute.

“We call for the formation of a joint working group which can be
mobilised whenever a crisis threatens to arise in which Christians and
Muslims find themselves in conflict,” the leaders said in a statement
after their four-day meeting.

“We must find ways to disengage religion from such roles and reengage it
towards conflict resolution and compassionate justice,” said the
statement issued in Geneva.

Jordan’s Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute and the Common Word group of Muslim
scholars promoting interfaith dialogue also backed the plan, which the
scholars have been discussing with several Christian churches for the
past two years.



“Rapid deployment peace teams are clearly needed today in light of
the tragic recent conflicts in Nigeria, Iraq, Egypt and the Philippines,
to name only a few countries,” said Aref Ali Nayed, director of the
Kalam Media and Research centre in Dubai.

Religious clashes are frequent where Nigeria’s Christian south and
Muslim north meet. Sunday’s Baghdad church bloodbath that killed 52
worshippers and police was the worst Islamist attack on Christians in
Iraq’s seven-year sectarian war.

Egypt’s Coptic Christians say they face growing intolerance from the
Muslim majority. In the southern Philippines, Muslim guerrillas have
been fighting for four decades for a homeland separate from the majority
Catholic country.

Nayed, who
participated in the Geneva meeting, said small teams of Muslim and
Christian experts would be chosen to fly into a conflict region based on
the influence they could have on their coreligionists among the rival

“If the Anglicans are
strong in one country, we would send in Anglicans. If Catholics are
strong in another country, we’ll send in Catholics,” he said. Muslims
would also be chosen for the links they might have with the local
Islamic community.

Nayed said
on-the-ground support for these missions would come from the WCC, which
groups most non-Catholic Christian churches around the world, and the
WICS, which has extensive contacts in Africa and Asia.

The meeting condemned Sunday’s attack on the Baghdad church, saying
it “contradicts all religious teachings” and “aimed at degrading Iraqi
people, regardless of their religious affiliation, and defiling
Christian and Islamic sacred places.”