The promotion of peace among religions was discussed earlier this week by a joint Catholic-Islamic commission at its annual meeting in Rome. The commission agreed that achieving peace requires that the “dignity of the human person and his or her rights, especially regarding freedom of conscience and of religion” be respected, a belief Pope Benedict has argued Islam must arrive at.
The joint Catholic-Islamic commission for dialogue was founded after Pope John Paul II visited the University of al-Azhar in February 2000. Although the commission was briefly suspended after Pope Benedict’s Regensburg address, dialogue resumed in 2007.
Participants for this year’s discussion came from the Vatican’s Joint Committee for Dialogue and the Permanent Committee of al-Azhar for Dialogue among the Monotheistic Religions.
The theme of the meeting, "The Promotion of a Pedagogy and Culture of Peace with Particular Reference to the Role of Religions," was presented from the Catholic point of view by Bernard Sabella, associate professor emeritus of sociology at Bethlehem University, and from the Islamic standpoint by Sheikh Ali Shahata.
At the conclusion of the meeting, participants agreed upon the following:
1. “Peace and security are much needed in our present world marked by many conflicts and a feeling of insecurity.
2. “No true and lasting peace can be achieved without justice and equality among persons and communities.
3. “Religious leaders, especially Muslims and Christians, have the duty to promote a culture of peace, each within his respective community, especially through teaching and preaching.
4. “A culture of peace should permeate all aspects of life: religious formation, education, interpersonal relations and the arts in their diverse forms. To this end, scholastic books should be revised in order not to contain material which may offend the religious sentiments of other believers, at times through the erroneous presentation of dogmas, morals or history of other religions.
5. “The media have a major role and responsibility in the promotion of positive and respectful relations among the faithful of various religions.
6. “Recognizing the strong link between peace and human rights, special attention was given to the defense of the dignity of the human person and his or her rights, especially regarding freedom of conscience and of religion.
7. “Youth, the future of all religions and of humanity itself, need special care in order to be protected from fanaticism and violence, and to become peace builders for a better world.
8. “Mindful of the suffering endured by the peoples of the Middle East due to unresolved conflicts, the participants, in respect of the competence of political leaders, ask to make use, through dialogue, of the resources of international law to solve the problems at stake in truth and justice.”
The next meeting of the joint committee is scheduled to be held in Cairo on February 23 and 24, 2010.