Heads and delegates of the Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, and Shinto religions met in Moscow, July 3-5, for the World Summit of Religious Leaders. At the conclusion of the meeting, they directed a message to the Group of Eight Summit, which will begin in St. Petersburg, July 15th.
In their message, the religious leaders called for the protection of religious freedom and human rights. “Individuals and groups must be immune from coercion. No one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his or her own beliefs in religious matters,” they wrote.
“We condemn terrorism and extremism of any form, as well as attempts to justify them by religion,” they continued. “We consider it our duty to oppose enmity on political, ethnic or religious grounds. We deplore the activities of pseudo-religious groups and movements destroying freedom and health of people as well as the ethical climate in societies.”
The world’s wealth must also be distributed in a just fashion, they said. “The concentration of the majority of the world’s wealth in the hands of a few, while an enormous number of people, especially children, live in abject poverty, is a global tragedy.”
“We call upon all nations to return to a life of moderation, self-restraint and active justice. This will secure a hopeful future for upcoming generations and effectively function to cut the ground out from under the feet of extremists and terrorists,” they wrote.
In his remarks, Cardinal Walter Kasper said the Holy See is critical “of a collectivistic view, just as we are critical of a one-sided individualistic approach to human rights.” The cardinal, who heads the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, participated at the summit of religious leaders.
“Individuality and solidarity are the two sides of the same coin,” he continued. “This leads us to conclude that alongside the sense of the dignity of each human person we have to promote the sense of solidarity among people, among ethnic groups, among nations and among religions.”
“Religions,” he said, “inspire openness to transcendence and … they call for respect for what is holy and stand in opposition to today's widespread attitude of cynicism and disrespect towards nature and human beings.”
He warned that where there is a loss of religion and, “respect for the transcendent is lost, respect for the human person is in danger as well.”
“There cannot be peace in the world without peace among religions,” he added.
Cardinal Kasper also encouraged dialogue among peoples and civilizations. Dialogue does not mean “a mixture or confusion of religions or an agreement on the lowest common denominator,” he clarified. “Dialogue means to share common values and to transmit them to a world which so urgently needs them.”
.- Religious leaders from around the globe have called on G8 countries to implement national and international laws that will assure good stewardship of the world’s resources, give more assistance to families and assert the value of all human life, from conception to natural death.