Friday, 28 April 2017

'Religion best way to promote peace, coexistence'

Religious leaders talk about humanity, hope and peace on the first day of the Al-Azhar International Peace Conference in Egypt

In the past 3,500-years, people have managed to live in peace for only 268 years. It is the responsibility of religious leaders to promote and work harder for peace and coexistence.

This message was underlined on the first day of the Al-Azhar International Peace Conference, which kicked off in Egypt's Cairo city on Thursday and concluded on Friday.

"Islam is the religion of peace as is the case with Christianity and Judaism," said Prof. Ahmed Al Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of Al Azhar and Chairman of the Muslim Council of Elders.

The Holy Quran has affirmed that people are different, he said, "they are all free to decide what to believe in, and the only way to engage followers of other religions is through polite dialogue and understanding," Al Tayyeb elaborated.

"War in Islam is not only an exception, but also a defensive measure," Prof. Al Tayyeb underscored.

"Islam has even instructed Muslims to defend churches and temples as they defend their mosques."

Commenting on terrorism, he said that terrorism kills innocent people not for religious reasons, but for political purposes.

"Such double-standards policies, injustice and aggression is the real reason for terrorism."

Dr. Amal Al-Qubaisi, UAE FNC speaker, said that Islam's message is of peace and valuing human life. He added that peace can only be attained through cooperation, finding common ground and being tolerant of differences.

"The UAE is home to over 200 nationalities and has long adopted and promoted world peace initiatives against terrorism and fanaticism," she said.

"My country's prudent leadership has established two new ministries for tolerance and happiness - to create a positive, optimistic and happy national identity and to live in peace."

The UAE has further enacted an anti-discrimination law, criminalising all forms of discrimination on the grounds of religion, caste, creed, doctrine, race, colour or ethnic origin and even hate speech, she pointed out.

Rev. Dr. Jim Winkler, Secretary General of the National Council of Churches of Christ, USA, said there is no peace without Muslims, Christians and Jews living together peacefully.

"I have opposed President Trump's plans to increase military expenses, and his recent executive orders to prevent Muslim refugees from entering the USA."

Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse, Secretary General of the World Council of Churches, said religion has been abused to justify violence.

"We should respect and care for one another as violence in the name of religion is violence against God."

Religious leaders are united against hatred, he added. "We should stand for our humanity; let's give hope."

Bishop Bola, representing Pope Tawadros II, Pope of Alexandria and Patriarch of St. Mark, said that the world should dry the theological sources of terrorism.

"We are well aware that some countries secure money and weapons for terrorists."

The world's collective consciousness needs to end the colonist hotspots in the world, he underlined.

"On top of these is the colonialism of Palestine," he said.

"It is a rich environment for terrorism as there is injustice. Poverty is also another reason for terrorism."

Dr. Mohammed Al-Issa, Secretary General of the Muslim World League, said that fanaticism does not belong to a specific school of thought or country.

"Terrorists are coming from over 100 countries," he said. "More than 1,500 of those terrorists even come from one European country," he added.

Blaming politics for stirring up terrorism, he said fanaticism has been adopted by followers of almost all religions and beliefs. "It is, therefore, our responsibility as religious leaders to promote love and peaceful coexistence in the world."

Bartholomew I, Archbishop of Constantinople New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, said despite all the peace conferences, declarations, and dialogues, terrorism is still on the rise.

"I would like to make a statement here: Islam does not equal terrorism, and religion is the only way to bridge gaps between people, ensure and promote freedom, justice, solidarity, and human rights."


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