Christian, Muslim leaders agree to stand against religious extremism

Religious leadership, both Christian and Muslim, needs to be more courageous than it has been, said Abuom. She noted: "Without directly supporting attacks on the other religion, there have been some occasions when religious leaders have given a sort of silent approval to what their followers are saying and doing".

It is said starkly in the book of Genesis that murder and the shedding of human blood are prohibited because of the fact that human beings are created in the image of God, Tveit said. "Placing of these words in the early chapters of our Holy Scriptures is an essential heart of our belief that religion should never be used to justify violence", he said. There have been many times when adherents of both our faiths have tried to use religious motives to justify violent actions. "But if religious people can be honest with each other about the ways in which religion has been used to underpin violence - we can also find the ways together for religion to be part of the solution", he said.

The role of religions in promoting peace and countering violence was discussed during a two-day dialogue between the Muslim Council of Elders and the World Council of Churches (WCC) in Geneva, Switzerland. Two sessions of talks, hosted by the WCC, involved presentations and discussions on key aspects of peacebuilding and interreligious dialogue, paying special attention to combating religious extremism leading to violence in many parts of the world.

The dialogue commenced with presentations by Dr Agnes Abuom, moderator of the WCC Central Committee, and WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit.

Representatives from the WCC and Al-Azhar University, including Grand Imam Prof. Dr Ahmad al-Tayyeb, have been working cooperatively since 2015, when ECHOS, a commission on youth engagement in the ecumenical movement, met in Cairo, Egypt from 8-13 May.

It is no longer sufficient by the clergy to issue condemnations and statements against acts of violence, terrorism and hate speech, said Al-Tayyeb. "That is like working on separate islands, which results in weak targets, with no concrete and influential impact on the ground. However, a joint action must be coordinated to confront the phenomenon of violence, scrutinizing the causes of the phenomenon and working on the proposed solutions to intellectually, scientifically, socially and educationally confront that phenomenon."

There must be a collaborative attempt to fix what has become a communal problem, said Bishop Angaelos, general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom. "Developments over the last years are greater than any individual, church, religion or even state can fix alone," he said. "There must be a new form of dialogue that changes the narrative from helplessness and conflict to the one of hope and promise. This new dialogue cannot have tolerance as its baseline. Acceptance is what we must be aiming for."

We may think that these existing conflicts of today hardly affect us because we live far away - but they do, said Metropolitan Prof. Dr Gennadios of Sassima, vice moderator of the WCC Central Committee. "However, in spite of these polarizing trends, God wants us to stand in the gap and be peacemakers. In fact, this situation grants us an opportunity to share the good news of peace, as it is written in Prophet Isaiah: How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings..." (Isaiah 52:7).

World Council of Churches website

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