2009 COMMON WORD CONFERENCE, GEORGETOWN UNIVERSITY:
RECORD OF DISCUSSIONS 07-09 OCTOBER 2009
1. OPENING DINNER, RIGGS LIBRARY, 6TH OCTOBER
1. The programme for speeches was as follows:
- Welcome by President John J DeGoia. Importance and relevance of words to the creative act. “Be so there it is.” “In the beginning was the word.”Building on previous Common Word Conferences. Building bridges of understanding. Common Words between different faiths.
- Invocation by Imam Yahya Hendi
- Introduction of The Most Reverend Celestino Migliore by Dr John Borelli
- Speech by The Most Reverend Celestino Migliore, Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations. Islamic world sees western society as secularised and adrift. West sees Islamic societies as intolerant. Huntingdon’s book “Clash of Civilisations” made people sensitive to the matter. For years religious dialogue was a taboo subject at the UN. UN Charter does not mention the matter of religion. Marx said religion was the “opium of the people.” The situation has now changed and there is a renewed interest in the matter of religion and its impact on global politics. 1994 saw the publication of: “Religion: Missing Dimension of Statecraft.” This looked at the role of religion as a basis for international peacemaking. Religion is now at the forefront of UN dialogue. “Council of Religions” within the UN. UN Decade of Inter Cultural/Religious Dialogue. Pope Benedict has made the point that we may be neighbours, but we are not brothers. The question being asked is does religion heal or fuel violence. Religious leaders and teachers have an important contribution to make to conflict resolution. The matter of fraternity was a rallying cry of the French Revolution “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.” These principles are at the heart of many current national constitutions. The Open Letter to Pope Benedict illustrated the benefits of Islam. It outlined the possibility of finding common ground in the matter of Love of God and Love of Neighbour. All religions have the matter of love at the core of their ethical understanding. The role of the neighbour is illustrated in the Parable of the Good Samaritan where a Samaritan made himself neighbour to a Jew. Christians and Jews must discover together the fullness of their religious texts on Love of God and Neighbour. A serious and productive dialogue must be linked with a sense of the sacred and dignity, otherwise “loopholes” will emerge. The Catholic Muslim Forum was set up to pursue the aim of dialogue. The person has a dignity and right to religious freedom. We must rejoice in the fact that this process of dialogue is now on the move.
- Introduction of the Grand Mufti of Egypt by Dr Ibrahim Kalin, Chief Foreign Policy Adviser to the Prime Minister of Turkey. He has striven to ensure people are able to read the Qu’ran in the classical manner. As Grand Mufti of Egypt HE has changed the whole process of issuing fatwas. He has led many international initiatives
- Speech by His Excellency Sheikh Ali Gooma, Grand Mufti of Egypt. Asks God to bless the efforts of the conference which marks a good step to the promotion of culture and the consolidation of the values of goodness and peace. Expressed the hope that the conference will lead to good new prospects. Inter religious dialogue has been neglected in previous international issues. He commented on the inability of human thinking to realise the importance of human dialogue. The GM emphasised the importance of human dialogue after extremists had seized the agenda in a so called “clash of civilisations.” The GM stressed that mankind now lives in a global village. Every action, negative or positive, now has a global impact. He said that the foundations of dialogue were required to be for the glory of God. The CW initiative had been the most prominent feature of Muslim Christian dialogue. The GM reiterated the essence of the CW message which was concerned with the commandments to love God and one’s neighbour. The aim of the initiative was to spread peace among Christians and Muslims through their religious leaders. The GM had been very pleased with the practical steps taken by Cambridge University in regard to the initiative. He called for increased cooperation and a search for the role to be played by religious leaders.
CONFERENCE PROGRAMME, GASTON HALL, DAY 1, 7TH OCTOBER
2. Conference Opening and Welcome:
- Welcome from Professor John Esposito. Prof E welcomed everyone. He said the conference had been tremendously successful with a 90-95% acceptance rate to invitations. The intention of the conference was, he said, to explore the “so what” factor of the concepts of Love of God and Love of Neighbour. There was, he said, a need to develop an agenda for change. He then introduced everyone to the President of Georgetown University, Mr John de Goia
- Welcome from President Georgetown University, Mr John deGoia He welcomed everyone to the CW Conference. He spoke of the challenge for Christians, Jews and Muslims to come together in a common word. Such efforts would enable them to know and honour each other better. He said that humanity was interconnected as never before, but in an atmosphere of great mutual mistrust. He said that religion has gained an increasing degree of importance on the global stage. He said that what unites humanity is much greater than what divides it. Pope John Paul II, he said, had asked us to each see the image of God in our neighbour. JdeG felt sure that we would break new common ground. He paid tribute to HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal. He then introduced Mr Ibrahim Kalim who would read a summary of HRH’s speech, in view of the fact that HRH was, sadly, unable to be present in person.
- A Speech from HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal. IK read a summary of P Ghazi’s speech. He said that a full copy of the speech had been printed off, and was available to all. IK then proceeded to give an update on the progress of the CW initiative so far, as detailed in P Ghazi’s speech.
3. Panel 1: Global Leaders Forum: Muslim-Christian Relations in a 21st Century World.
Mr Riz Khan
The Right Honourable Tony Blair,
Former PM UK
His Excellency The Grand Mufti of Egypt
Dr Ali Gooma
His Excellency Kjell Magne Bondevik,
Former Prime Minister Norway
Dr Ibrahim Anwar,
Deputy Prime Minister, Thailand
- Opening Comments by Panel Members:
- The Right Honourable Tony Blair. He said that it was a pleasure to be back in Georgetown University, and that he felt privileged to be in the company of so many holy people. He said that peace in the 21st century would depend on the ability of Muslims and Christians to get on with each other. He stressed how much the two founders of these religions had been regarded by their respective societies as outsiders. He said that Muslims and Christians faced common challenges and were united in being people of faith. TB spoke of the threat to religious values posed by the forces of secularism and religious fundamentalism. He said that the best hope for the twenty first century lay in mankind’s ability to confront these problems. TB stressed how mankind needs to understand each other. He spoke of the need for education to achieve mutual respect among different cultures. TB said that we needed to learn how to apply love. Abraham and Moses both represented a common heritage for Muslims and Christians. Our relationship with each other is based and judged in action. He cracked a couple of jokes and spoke of the need to understand and respect each other.
- HE Kjell Magne Bondevik. He said that being a former Prime Minister was even better than being a Prime Minister. As an ordained Lutheran pastor he called for dialogue between the world’s religious traditions. He spoke of the extraordinary changes that had taken place in western Europe as a result of immigration and secularisation. He spoke of the lack of social engagement across religious boundaries in Western Europe. He said that pluralism was an achievement – it did not come about naturally. He spoke of a sense of alienation and social exclusion among the young who were unable to find a place in society, and how religious fundamentalism exploited such feelings. Dialogue, he said, was the only tool able to deal with such matters. He made reference to the Oslo Centre which is developing new methods of dialogue in consultation with the President of Iran. He spoke of a policy to bridge conflicts, and said that dialogue is the language of pluralism. He emphasised the importance of ideas about peace, justice and respect for the sacred. To sum up, he said that we need religious dialogue which must also seek to integrate political discussion within such dialogue. He made reference to the need for more responsible leadership.
- HE The Grand Mufti of Egypt. The Grand Mufti said he felt privileged to be the only theologian among a group of political leaders. He made reference to MLK’s statement “I have a dream.” How, he asked, would people have reacted if he had said: “I have a complaint.” The GM said he was delighted to be part of the dream started by P Ghazi. The GM then spoke of the difference between the questions “What are we?” and “Who are we?” He spoke of the difference between one question considering man as matter, and the other of man as spirit. He said that something fundamental within us tells us that we are much more than just matter. Adam was made from clay, but was then gifted with the spirit so that the angels prostrated themselves before him. He said that the angels were prostrating themselves before Adam’s spirit, rather than his body. Man, he said, was made in the image of God. It is the existence of this divine spark within man which has brought together this conference. Man, he said, is not made of clay, but rather of spirit. The GM said it was essential that mankind moved beyond conflict in the 21st century. He spoke of the need for a new consensus on human responsibilities in order to address human rights. The GM said that mankind needed to move towards freedom of good choice, rather than bad choice. The ability to make such choices depended on internal, rather than external freedom. The GM said that mankind must go beyond knowledge into Wisdom. Knowledge and information, he said, needed to be integrated within Wisdom. The modern world, said the GM, lacks Wisdom and insight. There is a discrepancy between the needs of the soul and the body. The modern soul, the GM said is confused. Not all human endeavours are legitimate. He quoted Seneca: “An excess of learning makes us suffer as much as an excess of anything else.”
- Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia. He opened by referring to “Love’s Labour’s Lost.” He said that when love speaks the human being is aroused. He expressed his gratitude to Georgetown University for making this meeting possible. He spoke of the atmosphere of mistrust and apprehension existing between different civilisations. He said that Islam was only being used properly when it was used in the name of Truth, Compassion and Mercy. He spoke of the opportunity to advance freedom and justice and said that CW is a remarkable achievement, and that it was essential that its message should permeate down to the popular level. CW needed to engage and encounter people outside the elite academic circles. He said common values must be rooted in traditions of peace and justice. He quoted Einstein who said: “Great ideas receive great opposition from mediocre minds.”
- Professor John Esposito. He said that when he started in academic life Islam was invisible. He said that current interest in Islam had been driven by a political imperative. The Iranian revolution had out Islam on the map politically. He said that research suggested 57% of Americans knew nothing about Islam. He said that Islam and Christianity had many differences, especially in the field of security and civil liberties. He said that the contemporary world had both expanded and contracted. JE also said that Muslims and Christians had much in common. He said all were interested in stable, safe environment, individual freedom, the rule of law and self determination. He said we live in a world of hope and hatred, and that the notion of pluralism and tolerance needed to be increased. He said tolerance is a limited concept, with modern society being based on equal citizenship and freedom of choice. He spoke of Islamaphobic statements in the West and similar statements in the Muslim world. We are, he said, challenged to honour faith, and put it into action. He asked how do we achieve a “trickle down” effect and how do we translate dialogue into successful action? He said we need to emphasise that the struggle is to see how we can come together under CW to make our societies more just and free.
- A Question and Answer Session. One question was related to the incident in which Norwegian and Danish newspapers published cartoons offensive to Muslims. The former PM of Norway said the matter had been dealt with much more effectively in Norway because it had a long existing structure for inter religious dialogue. He said that he had not agreed with the editorial decision to print offensive cartoons. He emphasised that freedom of expression brings with it major responsibilities. Another question came from a Jordanian who said that in Jordan there were no problems with relations between Muslims and Christians. He said that there was a need for a common human spirituality. The GM said that many politicians believe that religion is the cause of conflict, and therefore blame religious leaders for the problem. He said that Muslims see the world as one in which their rights are not being served, and quoted a statistic which said 70% of the world’s refugees are Muslims. The GM said that CW was an attempt to turn a complaint into a dream. He said Muslims are serious about dialogue, and that once Muslim concerns have been addressed then spirituality will permeate into politics. The former Norwegian PM said politicians need to confess their faith publically, and that there needs to be a focus on the problem of materialism which is a great threat to spirituality. A question from Bishop Hanson expressed the hope that dialogue will lead to action. He was concerned that the matter of justice will be forgotten. He said self criticism was essential to effective dialogue. Power and privilege threaten dialogue. The DPM of Malaysia said that the underlying principle of dialogue must be justice. Issues need to be related to that of human rights. Muslims in Malaysia had demanded a move from dictatorship to parliamentary discussions. JE interjected to say much of the solution would come when people began to appreciate the radicalism of the religious message. He said that this would only start to happen when we saw politicians being prepared to resign on issues of principle rather than political expediency. Another question was addressed to TB in regard to the matter of Turkey’s membership of the EU, who said that he would support this application. TB went on to say that the translation of CW into action was of critical importance. He said that the world faced huge challenges from extremism. Some, he said, would argue that the solution to the world’s problem would be to get rid of religion. The GM of Bosnia said that politics is often a world short of principles. He said that Turkey must earn its membership of the EU, and not just be given it. He said that we have to fight against terrorism.
CLOSED PANEL SESSION, COPLEY HALL, DAY 1, 7TH OCTOBER
4. Closed Panel 1. Love of God and Love of Neighbour: A Call to Action.
Dr Chris Seiple
President, Institute for Global Engagement
Dato’ Seri Anwar Ibrahim
Deputy Prime Minister Malayasia
- Dr Chris Seiple. He spoke of the need for religious freedom. He said his NGO was non profit, non proselytising and engaged in work throughout the Muslim world, especially Syria and Pakistan. He said that globalisation had caused “a siege of identity.” The global village is threatening in terms of how we understand the world. People want meaning and authenticity. There is a search for meaning. Truth seeks the face of God. Many want certainty but, he said, the opposite of faith is not doubt but certainty. He spoke of the danger of worshipping God in one’s own image. He contrasted people of faith with the religious rigid. He said he cannot become who he is intended to be, unless he is rooted in the other. He spoke of the difficulty of internalising the message of Christ, especially with regard to love of neighbour. He said secularism leads to ignorance of basic Christian teachings. Only 24% of white evangelicals have a positive view of Muslims. He said that there are many Muslims who do not understand their own religion, and spoke of the need for them to be educated about Islam. CS said that we have to get back to the fundamentals. You should know your own faith and enough about your neighbour’s faith to be able to respect him. CS said that we cannot know the Absolute absolutely, and that we must be in a trusting relationship with God and not worship our own self image. He said that tolerance was not enough. There needed to be a determined programme of reach out. CS said he believed that religious freedom is the ultimate counter terrorist weapon. He pointed to the illegality of burning down churches in Pakistan, and the reconciling spirit of his NGO. He posed the question, how do we talk about faith when in polite company? We have to be able to talk about God and politics. We must be prepared to go to difficult places.
- Dr Anwar Ibrahim. He spoke of the need to tolerate our differences. He referred to what he called an “Ethics of Disagreement.” He said that CW is not going to lead to complete agreement. Differences will remain He spoke of his concern about whether we continue to engage with people we assume share our views. We cannot dictate the language of discourse or who we speak to. He spoke about his concern over whether the US continues to engage with the liberal, urban crowd at the expense of everyone else. The Muslim impression is that they are not part of the liberal elite the US likes to engage with. AI spoke about the issue of freedom of conscience. In Malaysia the coalition is multi religious, and includes both Islamic and secular groupings. He spoke of the need for justice for all, and how we are able to persuade imans to understand programmes.
- Question and Answer Session. The Evangelical bishop of Jordan said that education is the next step after CW. He said that education is not just about schools. We need to look at what we are teaching about each other, and start to become more practical. He said we need to have an inter faith glossary. Religious leaders have a prophetic role. We have to speak out about Justice. He said he had been disappointed by Tony Blair’s comments about Muslims and Christians. He said the issue was one of justice. He said it was essential to understand the issue of Justice. He spoke of the injustice of the situation in which Christians are not allowed to use the word Allah in their prayers. By way of response Anwar Ibrahim said that justice is a key feature of CW. He said that the use of the word Allah is contentious in Malaysia. However, Muslims there are now saying that Christians can call God Allah. Chris Seiple said that there was a need to be both hard headed and soft hearted. The USA is a Muslim country, but rabid secular fundamentalists get in the way! The country’s institutions have been secularised. The Reverend Trond Barkvig said that attitudes between state and religion were very different in Europe from the USA. He said solutions to political issues are political not religious. He said that we have to find different forms of religious dialogue. Dr Ibrahim Kalim spoke of how CW had, from the start, been based on the matter of law. He said some Muslims believed that CW was too Christian, with its emphasis on love. He said practical steps were linked into questions of legitimacy. He posed the question: How are we to deal with local contexts? Chris Seiple said that it is the theologically orthodox that build bridges, and spoke of the internal consequences of what we believe. Anwar Ibrahim said that we needed to look at education and the matter of curriculum. Aref Ali Nayed spoke of increasing engagement between Muslims and evangelicals which he said was a new development. He said that the wealth and power of the evangelicals was a source of difficulty for local Christians. He said that what Chris Seiple had said was beautiful, but was he representative of the views of evangelicals? Chris Seiple acknowledged that an evangelical who was a former US marine was indeed a scary concept. He said that American power need not always be considered a negative when it is applied with a sense of stewardship. He said that there was a movement afoot among younger evangelicals for a change of direction, and that there was a new respect for the sheer complexity of life. In terms of the authority on which he had based his words, he said that authority was biblically based and no evangelical can fight that. Heba Raouf asked that a website should contain references to the experiences of people. Mahmou Ayoub spoke of the importance of submitting to the Will of God. He stressed the importance of there being a call to Christians, Jews and Muslims to worship God and not religion. He said that there had been a lack of attention to this commandment in Islam. He spoke of current dialogue between Muslims and Evangelicals, which had now led to a website called: “Bridges of Faith.
5. Closed Panel 2: From the Frontlines: Practical Theology in Action.
Ms Amina Rasul Bernardo
Lead Convenor Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy and Managing Trustee Magbassa Kita Foundation Inc
Dr M Dim Syamsuddin
Professor, Islamic Thoughy,
State University, Jakarta
His Royal Eminence Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar,
20th Sultan of Sokoto
The Right Reverend Josiah Idowu-Fearon
Bishop of Kaduna, Nigeria and Chairman Programme for Muslim Christian Relations, Northern Nigeria
- Amina Rasul Bernardo. She opened the meeting with the statement that the origins of Islam in the Philippines lay in the 14th and 15th century. However, Christianity is now dominant in the Philippines. She said that the social landscape of the Philippines had been shaped by diversity. The region was shared by three groups, Christians in the North as well as two distinct Muslim groupings. She said there had been a search for common ground and that Muslims were struggling for independence. Centuries of conflict had exerted a heavy toll on Muslim Christian relations, with Christians regarding the Muslims as heathen. 700,000 civilians had been displaced in fighting with hundreds killed and injured. Muslims had recently been unable to celebrate Eid due to conflict with Christians. She asked the question, how does one build up a common peace in such a situation? She said that inter faith dialogue was a vital means of developing effective relations. In the 1970s there had been a conscious effort to develop relations between the two religions. She said there was a need to move people from hatred and distrust to a sense of greater understanding and tolerance. To effect this a Philippine council for Democracy and Inter Faith Dialogue and Cooperation had been established. She said that CW was a vital tool in the building of bridges between Islam and Christianity. The CW initiative had the potential to filter down to grass roots level. She said that there was a lack of trust between Muslims and Christians and a sense of injustice about the loss of ancestral land by the Muslims. Furthermore, there was great poverty and neglect in Muslim areas. Social injustice was illustrated in the fact that only 40% of Muslims will graduate to Grade 6, and only 20% will then graduate from High School. She said that many of the poorest provinces were Muslim. She said the bishops had been key to getting politicians to the negotiating table. War had resulted in 700,000 IDPs. Muslims and Christians throughout the Philippines would continue to debate their differences and how they might transcend those differences. She said that the situation in the Philippines was complicated, and that the fighting in the south had been driven by many non religious factors. There was an ongoing attempt to empower the moderates.
- Sultan of Sokoto/Bishop of Kaduna. They delivered a joint presentation, to demonstrate their commitment to working with each other. The CW initiative could not have come for them at a better time. They gave sincere thanks to HRH Prince Ghazi, for his leadership and vision. Nigeria faces a major challenge in the matter of relations between Christians and Muslims. Although the ethno religious crisis was not as severe as it once was, there could be no complacency. The causes of the religious crisis lie in the complex history of Nigeria. Nigeria has a population of 150m people, living in a complicated environment. Of the 150m people in Nigeria, 80m are Muslim. Inter faith dialogue is overseen by the Nigerian Intelligence Council which is split 50/50 between Christians and Muslims. The Council had a shared belief in the inherent dignity and sacredness of the human being. +Kaduna said that the Northern and Southern Protectorates had come together in 1914, when they were united by the British who then gave Nigeria independence in the 1960s. A census taken in 1958 had revealed that there were 11m Muslims and 540,000 Christians in the country at the time, and 4m Animists. At the time Christians were afraid of being a minority in an independent Nigeria, and so went to great lengths to ensure that with independence they were able to be guaranteed freedom of religion. They wanted there to be the opportunity for people to change their religion. Nigeria is a plural society in which people of different religions are able to practice their faith. The newly independent Nigeria began with sharia, and sharia is not therefore something that has been impelled on Nigeria. Nigeria is a country of both Muslims and Christians, and this will always be the case. Why is the situation so turbulent in the North? Well, perhaps it is because Nigerians take their religious life very seriously. There is also a lot of ignorance within the country about each other’s faith. +Kaduna is heavily involved in the work of NGOs in the area. Reference was made to Christians who had helped Muslims build a mosque. One of the challenges is the question of how Muslims and Christians live together. Education was seen as a key to future successes. Nigeria’s religious council was seen as an essential part of Muslim Christian dialogue. A common enemy for Muslims and Christians was discrimination, poverty corruption and environmental corruption.
6. Closed Panel 3: Loving our Neighbour: Practical Dimensions of Inter Faith Collaboration in Muslim – Christian Global Communities.
Dr John Borrelli
Special Assistant for Inter Religious Initiatives
Ms Dalia Mogahed
Senior Analyst, Executive Director Gallup Centre for Muslim Studies
Dr Bob Roberts, Jr
Senior Pastor, North Wood Church
Dr Qamar –ul Huda
US Institute for Peace
- Dr John Borrelli. He said that the exercise of authority was a “bedrock” issue. This is an area in which there are big differences. A CW represents a consensus view within the Muslim world. It is grounded in the Qu’ran and hadiths. It has authority because it is based on consensus. Borrelli said that the success of Vatican 2 lay in the degree of consensus on which it was based, a process which had started in the 1940s. A particular feature of Vatican 2 was its interest in the matter of relations with Muslims and Jews. CW has carved out a voice and gained momentum. An initiative taken by the Muslim world. We have seen wonderful efforts in the Philippines and Nigeria. CW asked to do things in partnership based on the commandments of Love of God, and Love of Neighbour. It has the potential to develop a powerful hermeneutic of non violence. It could well result in growth and increased understanding. Dialogue develops true mutuality. In the last two years there have been a number of meetings which have involved Muslims and Christians. Imans have greatly enjoyed these meetings. We need to think of further ways on which to educate ministers and chaplains. Dialogue for the sake of mutuality.
- Ms Dalia Mogahed. Author of “Who Speaks for Islam: What a Million Muslims really Think.” She was speaking in her capacity as a researcher and a scientist. She had also served as a member of the President’s Advisory Council. The President had made a call to religions to engage in community service. This had engendered an extremely positive response from Muslims, in particular because of their emphasis on the life of the community. The response to this call was a success in itself. A huge number of projects had taken off – in the region of over a thousand service projects. Through the mobilisation of networks there were, by the end of that summer more than 35 projects ongoing. 90% of projects had been done in cooperation with interfaith communities. “Islamic Relief” had clothed the poor, and fed the homeless. A particularly successful project had been one in which Muslims had renovated native American schools on reservations in three states. Why was the President’s call so successful? It had been a call to action, explained in terms of religious faith. It was a call to exercise a key tenet of one’s religious devotion: Love of Neighbour. It proved the inaccuracy of the perception that Muslims are insular. Secondly, the enterprise was not at all apologetic. It represented an assertion of identity in a most positive manner. Third, the campaign had engaged leaders. It did not circumvent local leaders and institutions which had been responsible for the direct mobilisation of people. In the context of international work religious leaders are often ignored when it comes to discussions about development work. Multi faith conditions are strengthened when there is unanimous support. The event had represented a paradigm shift for American Muslims. They were no longer victims, but rather people who were confronting.
- Dr Bob Roberts. He acknowledged that Muslims were growing fact in the USA, but said that Christians were also growing fast in the Middle East. He said national and religious boundaries were not synonymous. We live in a globalised world. He said the young want to be part of something and it was important for us all to engage and strive to make a difference. He said he was an Evangelical from Texas and he did not need a telephone. He said people from his Church go and help people abroad. After 9/11 he went to the Governor’s Office to offer his services. He went to Afghanistan and while he was there he attended a dinner with young imans in white turbans. He said he was now friends with them all. In the course of that meeting he agreed to help build a school, on condition that they educated their girls.
- Dr Qamar –ul Huda. He said that his mandate applies to conflict zones. Religious leaders lack many skills when it comes to the prevention of conflict. He said most religious leaders are interested in dialogue. Many however believe that although inter faith dialogue is interesting, it is not a top priority. However, they do express a desire to find out more about conflict prevention. He referred to the concept of “Change Theory.” He said that there is a culture of conflict and mistrust among religious leaders.
7. Wrap Up Discussion: Where do we go from here? The following points were made by Dr Ibrahim Kalim:
- The world is more interdependent
- The world is enriched by faith. Faith can address the world’s problems.
- Diversity is recognised. The difference between diversity and pluralism was noted.
- The problem of double standards.
- Initiatives to address problems exist on the ground.
- The role of the media in the incitement of violence was noted.
- Freedom of expression/censorship.
- A reverence for Andulusian culture in which Muslims and Christians were able to live together.
- The need for Muslims societies to address their problems.
- The fact that Muslims and Christians have negative perceptions of one another, due to a lack of knowledge.
- Interest in Islam has been driven by politics.
- Love of God cannot happen without Love of Neighbour.
- Tolerance is not enough.
- Education important for the achievement of mutual respect.
- Education is key to peaceful co existence.
- New lines of communication are required.
- Nigeria and the Philippines examples of good practice to achieve harmony
- CW has already had good practical results.
- Hermeneutics of non violence needs to be developed.
- Work with youth is important, but needs to be practical.
- Importance of creating a sound context for inter faith conversations based on sincerity, trust and devotion.
- Leaders need conflict resolution/crisis management skills.
- Follow up on dialogue is necessary.
- Religious leaders need to have media skills.
- Cross national nature of CW noted
8. Dinner at the US State Department, The Benjamin Franklin Room.
- Welcome. The Hon Melanne Verveer, Ambassador at Large for Global Women’s Issues.
- Further Welcome: President John deGoia
- Blessing: His Beatitude Patriarch Theofilos III, Patriarch of Jerusalem
- Speech: “Religious Pluralism and the Future of the CW Initiative.” HE Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington. He said that Georgetown University is leading the way in inter religious dialogue. John Espositio was a pioneer. The ability to love one’s neighbour was at the heart of authentic civilisation. He paid tribute to Seyyed Hosein Nasr and the inspiring address he had given HH The Pope Benedict. He spoke of the history of Catholic Muslim Dialogue. He said that at Vatican 2 Pope John XXIII had introduced the context of modern, globalised religious pluralism. He had wanted Vatican 2 to address the ecumenical/inter religious dialogue movement. He had called Catholics to enter into dialogue. The text of Vatican 2 had focussed on Muslim relations and the themes of social justice and moral welfare. He called on the Church to become more aware of the world around it. He paid tribute to the work of Pope John Paul II, and his ability to speak out to the whole human race. At the Assisi Conference in Jan 2002 Pope John Paul II had said: “To pray is not to escape from history. It is to face Reality with strength from high personal responsibility.”In 2001 the Pope had spoken about inter religious dialogue, and its relevance to preventing a war of religion. Pope Benedict XVI continues to talk about the need for this dialogue. Dialogue is not an optional extra. He said God must have a place in decision making. Taking to one another is an acknowledgement of each other’s presence and leads to understanding. Understanding then leads to appreciation, which now involved the heart. From appreciation comes affection and from affection comes the ability to work together. This is the basis on which love of neighbour can be built.
- Speech: “Religious Pluralism and the Future of the CW Initiative.” Dr Seyyed Hossein Nasr, University Professor, The George Washington University. A copy of this immensely thought provoking speech will be distributed separately.
OPEN PANEL DISCUSSION, GASTON HALL, DAY 2, 8TH OCTOBER
9. Panel 1: Religious Pluralism in the Twenty First Century.
What are the sources and limits of pluralism and Islam in Christianity? How do these impact Muslim-Christian relations? How do we bring the two communities together to fight the prejudices, to counter Islamaphobia and the demonization of Christians? What are good practices?
Mrs Sarah Joseph OBE
Dr Ingrid Mattson,
President Islamic Society of North America
Dr Joel Hunter,
Senior Pastor, Northland, A Church Distributed
Fr Thomas Michel SJ,
Former Vatican Pontifical Council for Religious Dialogue
Sheikh Hamza Yusuf
Co Founder, Zaytuna Institute
Bishop Dr Munab Younan
Bishop, Lutheran Evangelical Church, Jordan and the Holy Land
- Father Thomas Michel SJ. His encounters with Islam had enabled him to become a better Christian. Chapter 3 of CW needs to see Muslims and Christians working together to serve the world, rather than being the cause of division and hatred. He felt that the role of reconciliation was one that could be played by Christian and Muslim educational establishments. The basic obstacle that needs to be overcome is the lack of trust. He pointed out that joint projects entail a loss of control, and a lack of trust between Christians and Muslims undermines the effectiveness of the whole world. The question is how do we build trust? There is a loss of trust due to the burden of history. The question is how do we move beyond painful memories. Honesty, sincerity, patience, forgiveness and straight forwardness are all essential qualities in such a process. The CW initiative had arisen out of a creative and generous response to the Pope’s speech at Regensberg. There is an erosion of trust within our own societies.
- Bishop Younan. He made three points. First, CW calls on religious leaders to be prophetic. If the present injustice faced by Palestinians in the holy Land is resolved then there will be world peace. Secondly, as an Arab Christian he said he has equal rights and responsibilities. Arabs Christians are an integral part of the Arab world, who enjoyed full religious freedom in Jordan. He had a responsibility to help proclaim the Muslim voice to the West. Pluralism was, he said, an evolutionary process. Thirdly, religious leaders must work for prophecy. He said that his Church does not seek to convert Muslims in his schools, where all that he wanted was for them to learn how to become Muslims. Justice is wanted for the poor, not charity. Injustice grows where there is poverty. The neighbour is loved through deed and not word. All must work for justice.
- Dr Ingrid Matteson. She wondered what the 21st century world will look like. There are enormous pressures on Christian Muslim dialogue. She said the younger members of the audience will understand the significance of the year 2012, when the world will be transformed into the Age of Aquarius! She considered the enormous pressures faced by those engaged in the work of bio ethics. Governments will have increased power to control us, and more effective, impersonal weapons. These weapons will render traditional War Ethics meaningless. Increased gaps between rich and poor, will mean that many new medical advances will not be available to the poor. There will be greater religious diversity with Muslims and Christians in places where they have not traditionally existed. She wondered what these structural challenges say to us. She felt that our faith traditions will become different. She loves the trans national, global nature of CW. She said we need to push back against political manipulation of religion. She said co education was needed at a younger level to deal with the impact of radical Islam. She lamented the lack of sacred space in contemporary public life. She said churches and synagogues should be sacred space for Muslims as well. Essential for proper remembrance of God. This needs to be built into how we educate people, as a reminder of God’s presence. She said we must be prepared to face a backlash against inter religious work. Many children are multi religious and we do not want syncretisation. Syncretism will create a back lash.
- Dr Joel Hunter. He said freedom of religion is difficult when power is misused. A huge difference between the situation in USA from Europe. European countries are named after particular ethnic groupings. This was an issue that had to be figured out by Europeans. He wondered whether or not it was God’s plan for there to be pluralism. He said that honesty was important in relations with God. Honesty means that growth happens as circumstances change. Loving other people means valuing the struggles faced by other people. We need realistic humility towards our understanding about God. Remember that God’s ways are higher than our thoughts. “All things work to good for those who love Him.” He valued everything that the other panellists had said, enabling him to learn more about God. He quoted Al Rumi and his comment about “searching for the Light.”
10. Panel 2: Religion, Violence and Peace Building
If religion has been part of the problem, it stands to reason that it must be part of the solution. How do we better understand both religion and violence, and religion and peacebuilding? What are the major issues and best practices to counteracting religious extremism? How can religious authorities and community leaders de legitimise extremism and acts of violence and terrorism?
Dr John Voll
Interim Chair of Arabic and Islamic Studies, Georgetown University
His Excellency Sheikh Maulana Mahmood A Madani
Member of Parliament of India
His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III
Patriarch of Jerusalem
His Excellency Sheikh Ali Gooma
Grand Mufti of Egypt
His Excellency Sheikh Mustafa Efendi Ceric
Grand Mufti of Bosnia Herzegovina
The Right Reverend and Right Honourable Richard Chartres
Lord Bishop of London
The Reverend J Bryan Hehir
Professor of Religion and Public Life, Harvard University
Professor Heba Rauof
Professor of Political Theory and Islamic Thought and Politics, American University in Cairo
- John Voll. Why is religion so often the cause of violence. People had thought religion would just die off. Many people say religion and violence are inter connected. If religion is the cause of violence then it stands to reason that it will be the solution to the problem. Where are the moderates? Everyone on the panel is an advocate for peace, active within their respective traditions.
- Mahmood Madani. He said he was speaking as an Indian Muslim, a country with the second largest Muslim population in the world. India is the largest democracy in the world. India is a pluralistic society. In India Muslims had given the title Mahatma to Ghandi and his campaign of non violence. He was very proud of such activity and pointed out that Islam has never accepted violence. The two cannot meet. He said that the objective of this conference was a great one for humanity. In the name of Islam it is our duty and responsibility to oppose Islamists. We need to oppose those who engage in violence in the name of Islam. He said millions of Muslims in different cities are opposed to terrorism, and yet Muslims all over the world are associated with violence. People are using the name of Islam for ulterior motives He was proud of his own Islamic community which had been founded by a great Sufi leader. He said that Muslims and Christians are not in conflict in India. The conflict instead is between Hindu fundamentalists and Muslims or Christians. He said Christians have supported Muslims who have been oppressed by such extremist and vice versa. He said we remove doubt and fear with words and action. Muslims and Christians need to find a common objective. We all need to work for the good of the environment.
- Patriarch Theophilos III. Religion is what defines a person’s identity, and it can be the problem or it can be the solution. Acts of violence have been committed in the name of religion. Such acts are a perversion of Sacred Tradition. He said violence must be condemned. The faithful must understand the role of religion in building justice. The role of the clergy is crucial. Clergy must not behave like politicians. Religious leaders must form communities of faithful people with education in the principle of co existence. Strong positions must be adopted i the denunciation of violence. We must support institutions and initiatives which encourage non violence. He stressed the relevance of “Symbiosis;” the living together in society based on respect and forebearance. He made reference to Patriarch Sophronius’s agreement with the Caliph of Oman in 638. He said this formed the basis of the relations between the religious communities of the Holy Land. He quoted Matthew: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” He also quoted St Ignatius of Antioch: “Nothing is better than peace.” He said we must be encouraged by the voice of Holy Scripture. He stressed the destructive nature of violence.
- HE The Grand Mufti of Egypt. He said his speech would take 15 minutes to read and therefore he was not going to use it. He said the Quran was written In the Name of Allah the All Merciful. Anyone who calls himself a Muslim cannot there be merciless. Any Muslim polluted by violence is not a Muslim. The word Islam comes from a word which means “peace.” It is a word which is on the lips of Muslims at all times. Peace is a name of God. It is a word for Paradise. Peace is a form of address. Any Muslim who does not act peacefully is not a Muslim. The Quran sought to teach all people gentleness. The Prophet forbade Muslims from acting with violence. Do we listen to the Prophets, or the criminals who act with violence? Muslims have taken into themselves other civilisations. Turkey still speaks Turkish, and Indians speak Urdu.
- HE The Grand Mufti of Bosnia. He spoke as a survivor of the genocide perpetrated in Muslims in 1995. He said two erroneous perceptions must be removed. First, that Muslims are violent terrorists. Secondly, that Christians and western civilisation are synonymous. There are Christians in the east, and Muslims have shaped the west. The task of CW must not just be about nice speeches. It must also be about education. Christians and Muslims have to do more to learn to live with their similarities. Both religions have similar ethical principles about life.
- The Bishop of London. He said that he had recently visited one of his faith schools where over 70 different languages are spoken. He said the jury was still out on whether this can continue. He stressed the relational basis of any effective reconciliation. He asked how do we move from theoria to praxis. He said reconciliation requires new space. He said social spaces were necessary for Truth and Mercy to emerge. He quoted T S Eliot on the subject of Wisdom, “Where is the Wisdom that we have lost in knowledge, the knowledge lost in information.” He spoke of the power of Sacred Space, referring to the reconciliation centre he had established at St Ethelberga’s after it was destroyed by the IRA in 1993. He spoke of the capacity for violence in the modern world. He said world dialogue had been fuelled and energised by CW. He ended by quoting St Ignatius of Antioch once again: “A bishop never more resembles Jesus Christ than when he has his mouth shut.”
- g. The Reverend Bryan Hehir. He said that CW was a creative and faithful intervention in history. He said that human nature does not change. We must always be open to the possibility that religion does cause violence. We must also be open to the possibility that religion can transform violence. The legacy of the past is a mixed one, as we strive to confront the present. The present world is one marked by the opposing tendencies of fragmentation and integration. It is necessary to construct a framework for the transformation of humanity. The world is marked by poverty, pluralism and proliferation. Our future is dependent on how we use our resources. He spoke of the primacy of a common religious tradition, and the importance of the use of reason to overcome our problems. Religion and morality have to be a harmonising force. He quoted Albert Camus who had said that it was not possible to guarantee the protection of every innocent, but it was possible to build a world in which many an innocent could be saved.
- h. Professor Heba Raouf. She said she was speaking as a political scientist and not as a theologian. She said that the search for knowledge is a spiritual vocation, and should not be exploited by the forces of capitalism and their search for profit. She spoke about the key words Civility, Power and Welfare. Her experience of the WEF had not been a very positive one, seeming like a very materialistic place. She had had a much more spiritual experience in the company of a group of anarchists and feminists.
12. Panel 3: The Role of International NGOs in a Pluralistic World
How are traditional theological foundations for love of neighbour interpreted and applied in response to neighbours in today’s global community? In what ways has this understanding informed Muslim-Christian relations in the work of international NGOs?
Professor Abdallah Schlieffer
Distinguished Professor Emeritus
American University in Cairo
Sheikh Amr Khaled
Founder, Right Start Foundation International
Mr Ken Hackett
President, Catholic Relief Services
Mr Shamil Idriss
Executive Director, UN Alliance of Civilisations
Mr David Robinson
Senior Advisor for Islamic Contexts
World Vision International
- Professor Schleiffer. He spoke of the growing number of NGOs and “think tanks” at the crossing point between Christianity and Islam. He said there was a need for “self criticism” for dialogue to be effective. He cited the C1 World Dialogue Executive Committee as an example of such an NGO.
- Mr Shamil Idriss. He expressed his thanks to HRH Prince Ghazi. He spoke of the role of international NGOs and their connections with theology. He said that international NGOs offer a structure for communities. He referred to the telling gaps created by an increasing marginalisation of central governments. In terms of what the future world would like he identified certain trends. Rapid urbanisation was taking place, with the advent of mega cities and rise in crime. He also noted the importance of faith based organisations in terms of their global reach. He said that such organisations bring a humility and compassion that is sorely needed in the world, especially when dealing with ethical problems. He said that secular organisations had been founded to be overly legalistic, and not very good at dealing with issues related to values. He said that NGOs needed to be integrated into the work of religious leaders, who can sometimes be disconnected from their respective communities.
- Sheikh Amr Khaled. He said he worked to ensure all sections of the community were able to contribute to his work. He spoke of the importance of listening to the voice of the youth. He wanted to give them a chance to express and do their projects. He said Muslim youth has the ability to enable “change for the better.”
- Mr Ken Hackett. He said CRS has a robust programme around the world, including Gaza. He said CRS had engaged with Muslim communities around the world. He said that religious NGOs are very different because their commitment to a transcendent principle gave them a different flavour from secular organisations. Faith was both inspirational and global in its impact; an expression of “caritas.” He said faith was a powerful force for reconciliation. Adept at balancing cultural arenas. He said faith based NGOs had to be clear about their religious foundation. His organisation was rooted in catholic social teaching, and work to the common good. He said it was important for NGOs not to be aggressive in flaunting their religious identify. He also said it was important for NGOS to be clear about their intentions.
- Mr David Robinson. He asked the question how can Christians and Muslims work together for the common good? He spoke of the biblical command to love one’s neighbour, and the need to serve the oppressed regardless of race and agenda. He spoke of seeking justice to protect the vulnerable especially children. He said that World Vision has worked closely with imans and Islamic Relief in South Africa. He said that later this month he would be in Jakarta. He spoke of parallel manuals for Christians and Muslims, and the need to translate the spiritual imperative into action. He said Christian organisations are regarded with suspicion in Islamic countries.
13. Panel 4: Wrap Up Discussion: Where do we go from here? The following points were made by Mr Ibrahim Kalim:
- Freedom of expression entails responsibility
- Nigeria and Philippines examples of good works to deal with Christian/Muslim tensions
- We live in a world of diversity, one which is far from pluralism
- CW needs to be taken to a larger audience
- Love of God incomplete without Love of Neighbour
- Pluralism a lived reality
- Joint projects needed to deal with issues related to peace and justice
- The significance of human interaction and social/sacred space. Lack of first hand experience of other religions
- Tolerance is not enough
- Networking key to hope, peace and harmony. Potential for networks here to bring about change for the better
- Education of youth to sensitivity as regards diversity
- Jordan and Palestine textbook projects to see what is being said about other religions
- Youth likes to do things, and participate
- Need for engagement with those who disagree with us
- How do we bring these ideas into action?
MARK B D JENKINS BD (London)
Director, Inter Faith Affairs, Royal Islamic Institute for Strategic Studies
PA to HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad
Office of HRH Prince Ghazi Bin Muhummad
Personal Envoy, and Special Advisor to HM The King of Jordan