VATICAN CITY, Dec 17 (Reuters) – Roman Catholic and Muslim leaders vowed on Wednesday to jointly combat religious extremism that can push younger followers to violence.
“Religious leaders have a special responsibility toward youth, who require particular attention so that they do not fall victim to religious fanaticism and radicalism,” said a joint statement, issued after three days of talks at the Vatican .
The theme of the talks, involving the Catholic church and the Libya-based World Islamic Call Society, was “Responsibilities of Religious Leaders in Times of Crisis”. They stressed the need for building confidence and trust to prevent inter-religious tension from turning violent.
“Religious leaders should learn to prevent, cope and remedy these particular situations, avoiding their degeneration into confessional violence,” the statement said.
“This requires a mutual respect and reciprocal knowledge … so as to be able to confront together crises when they occur.”
The Sept. 11 attacks of 2001, and sharpened tensions between western and Muslim states, have given dialogue between Christians and Muslims a new urgency. The pope, who travels to the Middle East in the spring, sparked angry protests by Muslims around the world two years ago when he gave a speech that Muslims saw as painting their religion as violent and irrational.
Vatican and Muslim delegates have spoken of the need to establish a sort of “hot line” among various religious leaders in order to deal with crises as they come up, but it was not clear if the subject was raised during the talks.
Last month, the Vatican held a pioneering conference with a delegation from the “Common Word” group of Muslim scholars who invited Christian churches to a new dialogue.
They vowed to defend religious freedom and combat violence committed in God’s name.
Pope Benedict received the delegations earlier on Wednesday, and both sides agreed to meet next in Tripoli. (Writing by Phil Stewart, editing by Mark Trevelyan)
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