2-4 December 2014, Rome, Italy
Call to Action
This Summit represented the third in a series of encounters between Christian (Catholic and Anglican/Episcopal) and Muslim (Sunni and Shia) Religious Leaders and experts coming from five continents. We also were honoured by the presence and contributions of a Jewish Rabbi and a Metropolitan from the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
The Principal Leaders for the Summit included:
His Eminence Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran. President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and Host of the Summit
HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan. Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Royal Institute for Interfaith Studies. Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Foundation for Interreligious and Intercultural Research and Dialogue
The Right Reverend John Bryson Chane. Eighth Bishop of the Diocese of Washington and Senior Advisor on Interreligious Dialogue to Washington National Cathedral
Ayatollah Sayyed Prof. Mostafa Mohaghegh Damad. Director of Islamic Studies, Iran Academy of Sciences
The theme chosen for the Summit was:
“Christians and Muslims: Believers Living in Society”
The following sub-themes were developed by the four Principals and discussed by the participants:
1. What are the strengths in our religious traditions as we strive to prevent conflict in society by respect for “the other”?
2. What challenges do we encounter in our religious traditions as we strive to prevent conflict in society by respect for “the other”?
3. How can our respective religious traditions work effectively with governments and civil society to break down barriers and misunderstandings of “the other” in our efforts to prevent conflict in society?
4. By working together, how can we educate to shape a culture of peace and harmony through our respective religious traditions?
The participants were grateful to have been received in private audience by Pope Francis and for the welcome extended at the Hotel il Cantico, Rome, Italy, a Franciscan-inspired centre for encounter and dialogue. There the Minister General of the Order of Friars Minor explained that the name of this venue originated with a prayer written by St. Francis of Assisi who participated in acts of violence and war during his youth, witnessed how religion could be used to promote violence and hatred, and made a trip to Damietta in Egypt where he encountered leaders and followers of Christianity and Islam who were in conflict and then reclaimed a space for mutual respect, peace and reconciliation.
The main points articulated by the Principals included the following:
• “As believers in society, we can and must reach out to our respective communities to encourage them to talk not at, but to each other; to celebrate the richness of diversity and the benefits and joys of intercultural and interreligious exchange, and to re-establish our sacred spaces not as venues of division, but as places for constructive exchange … enhancing commonalities and respecting differences.” [Prince El Hassan bin Talal]
• “The ‘other’ should be respected not only when he pleases me. He or she should be respected and accepted as long as each respects the just laws of the State and the rules of living together, inspired by wisdom and common sense.” [Cardinal Tauran]
• “We should adhere to the ‘rational principles’, as the core device in understanding of religious values and societal life, and abide by these principles. This does not infer that understanding of religion does not follow any norm nor that religious texts differ according to various precepts. There should be ‘measuring tools’ capable of weighting these perceptions and interpretations.” [Ayatollah Damad]
• “An interesting and shared strength of Christianity and Islam is their engagement with politics and religion … [Thus] Christianity and Islam have at this moment in time a great opportunity to work together effectively with governments and civil societies currently in turmoil.” [Bishop Chane]
The Principals acknowledged that the Summit was convened during a time of grave tension and conflicts. An important sign of hope, however, was found in the journey of Pope Francis to Turkey, where he emphasized that “as religious leaders, we are obliged to denounce all violations against human dignity and human rights. Human life, a gift of God the Creator, possesses a sacred character. As such, any violence which seeks religious justification warrants the strongest condemnation because the Omnipotent is the God of life and peace.”
These significant points were reinforced during the Summit by Ayatollah Damad who said, “In today’s world, due to the behaviour of certain people, religions have become coupled with violence. Sadly, religions that are intended to be messengers of peace, friendship, morality and tranquility, have become, in many parts of the world, the cause for bloody and violent feuds. Therefore, the arch duty of religious leaders, today, is to wipe out these emerging ugly and hideous ‘appearances’ of the religions, to try clarifying and showing the real beauties and righteous facets of all holy faiths, and to return this divinely-given gift to its real status.” In making this point, he cited Pope Francis’ statement in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangeli Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel): “Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalizations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.”
In close collaboration with their respective delegation members, we, the Principals pledge to address the rising tide of violence in society by initiating the following actions on the global, regional, national, and local community levels:
to assist our youth to develop a sense of well-being and fraternity by promoting a network to identify good practice examples of interreligious education, experiential programmes, university studies, textbooks, etc., and to communicate these to the mass media and the wider public;
to organize Joint High Level Christian-Muslim visits to areas affected by severe violence to show our solidarity, learn from those who are suffering, and to follow up with effective action in order to protect those affected and to prevent further suffering;
to build and promote a network of institutional cooperation among Christian and Muslim aid and development organizations already active in these areas, in order to aim toward integral human development, long-term vision and resilience.
We request that the Summit Steering Committee monitor and evaluate progress in implementing the above actions.
In conclusion, the participants called upon the believers from their respective religious traditions and all people of good will living in society:
to call for peace in the world and especially for a just and comprehensive peace for Jerusalem, and the Holy Land in its entirety, which embraces the three Abrahamic religions and witnesses to unity and diversity, and thus embodies the message of dialogue, coexistence and respect;
to recognize the progress that has been made to include women in interreligious dialogues, as well as the strides that still need to be made moving forward, reaffirm that women play a key role in peace-building at all levels of society, and acknowledge that, tragically, women often bear the greatest burden of violence, including the use of sexual violence as a tactic of war, poverty, discrimination, human trafficking;
to condemn the use of religion and/or religious terms to legitimize any unjust action in the name of religion and reaffirm that we worship the one God.
Resolving to continue their engagement in interreligious dialogue “as a way of being open to ‘the other’, sharing their joys and sorrows, learning to accept others and their different ways of living, thinking and speaking, and joining one another in taking up the duty of serving justice and peace,” the Principals and participants of the Third Christian-Muslim Summit look forward to holding the Fourth in this series of Summit meetings in 2016/2017 in Iran.
His Eminence Jean-Louis Cardinal Tauran
HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan
The Right Reverend John Bryson Chane
Ayatollah Professor Sayyed Mostafa Mohaghegh Damad
Date: 4 December 2014
Pope Francis, Visit to the President of the Diyanet at the Department for Religious Affairs,” Ankara, 28 November 2014, www.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2014/november/documents/papa francesco_20141128_turchia-presidenza-diyanet.html
Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), Apostolic Exhortation by Pope Francis, Vatican City, 24 November 2013, #253, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/apost_exhortations/documents/papafrancesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium_en.html
Based on Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), Apostolic Exhortation by Pope Francis, Vatican City, 24 November 2013, #250, http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/francesco/apost_exhortations/documents/papafrancesco_esortazione-ap_20131124_evangelii-gaudium_en.html