Some 60 Muslim and Christian leaders and scholars from around the world participated in a 4-day international consultation in Geneva on the subject of “Transforming Communities: Christians and Muslims Building a Common Future” convened by the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Royal Aal Al-Bayt Institute, and the Consortium of A Common Word. In a joint statement presented to the media on 4th November, the participants stated that “Religion is often invoked in conflict creation, even when other factors, such as unfair resource allocation, oppression, occupation and injustice, are the real roots of conflict. We must find ways to ‘disengage’ religion from such roles and ‘reengage’ it towards conflict resolution and compassionate justice.”
The statement also affirmed the “importance of relevant and balanced education about the religion of ‘the other’ at all levels” of religious education. The group recommended that the organizers of the consultation should establish a joint project in order to promote the sharing of experiences and best practices “of living together constructively in plural societies” and building a “culture of dialogue and inter-religious cooperation”, and work together on social and environmental issues.
The consultation opened with keynote addresses by HRH Prince Ghazi Bin Muhammad, Personal Envoy and Special Advisor to HM King Abdullah II of Jordan, and Archbishop Anders Wejryd of the Church of Sweden. Speeches were also given by the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches, Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit and others. Rev. Thomas Wipf, President of the Federation of the Swiss Protestant Churches and the Swiss Council of Religions, and Sheikh Yousef Ibram, Imam of the Geneva mosque, also attended the conference.
The consultation, which builds on the solid basis of past initiatives and achievements by a variety of organizations and networks, was a joint Christian-Muslim initiative in planning, funding and participation. The organisers stated that “Christians and Muslims have a joint responsibility to contribute the very best of their theological, spiritual, and ethical resources for the common good of humanity”. The group aimed to “develop concrete ways of building a common future, in order to achieve more compassionate and just societies, based on equality, co-citizenship and mutual respect”.
The participants addressed three key issues in the present context of Muslim-Christian relations:
- Beyond Majority and Minority
- From Conflict to Compassionate Justice: Building ecologies of peace
- Learning to Overcome; formulating educational tools to resolve issues
Dr Aref Nayed, Director of Kalam Research and Media in Dubai, was among the speakers at the conference and his presentation was focussed on growing ecologies of peace and forgiveness, citing teachings in both faith traditions which require compassion towards our neighbors. He remarked that there is an urgent need to repair, rehabilitate and maintain the scholarly and spiritual institutions that preserve and grow compassion in the hearts of young people. Furthermore, he said we are called upon to retrieve, rehabilitate and re-articulate the true compassionate teachings of our traditions regarding the divinely ordained value of human personhood and its rights, duties and freedoms.