Vatican, Muslims Want Ethical Economy

CAIRO — Concluding a landmark inter-faith talks at the Vatican, Catholic and Muslim scholars called on Thursday, November 6, for an ethical financial system, religious freedom and a violence-free world.

“We call upon believers to work for an ethical financial system in which the regulatory mechanisms consider the situation of the poor and disadvantaged, both as individuals and as indebted nations,” they said in a joint 15-point statement.

Global stock markets plunged Thursday on growing fears the world economy faces a deep and long lasting recession as the financial crisis saps growth and dangerously weakens the banking system.

A financial crisis swept the US in September after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the fourth-largest investment bank, and the financial woes of a number of Wall Street giants.

Its shockwaves have triggered a domino effect across the world, forcing many countries to pumped billions of dollars into their troubled banks to keep credit flowing and prevent a complete financial meltdown.

Wrapping up a three-day forum, more than 50 Catholic and Muslim scholars said the equitable financial system should take into account debts-ridden nations and ways to end the economic woes triggered by the crisis.

“We call on the privileged of the world to consider the plight of those afflicted most severely by the current crisis in food production and distribution,” they added.

“Religious believers of all denominations and all people of good will to work together to alleviate the suffering of the hungry, and to eliminate its causes.”

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates 923 million people are suffering from hunger around the world.

FAO Director General Jacques Diouf said Tuesday about 100 million more people will be living in hunger in a year if unfair global agriculture practices are not changed.

Religious Freedom

The three-day meeting called for showing respect to religious minorities and symbols.

“Religious minorities are entitled to be respected in their own religious convictions and practices,” read the joint statement.

“They are also entitled to their own places of worship, and their founding figures and symbols they consider sacred should not be subject to any form of mockery or ridicule.”

In his closing remarks, Pope Benedict XVI called for boosting freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

“My hope…is that these fundamental human rights will be protected for all people everywhere.”

He described the forum as “one more step along the way towards greater understanding between Muslims and Christians.”

Last year Pope Benedict XVI angered Muslims by citing a medieval text that characterized some of the teachings of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) as “evil and inhuman.”

Benedict, who met the 58 participants in the sumptuous Clementine Hall, used for grand occasions at the Vatican, said the differing concepts of God should not prevent the two faiths from showing mutual respect.

The meeting is the first since Vatican and Muslims leaders agreed in March to establish a Catholic-Muslim forum to meet regularly to bridge their gap.

The move followed an open letter by 138 Muslim scholars and intellectuals to Christian spiritual leaders for dialogue between the two Abrahimic faiths.