World Religious Leaders Condemn Extremism

Shi'a Muslim leader Sheikh ul-Islam Allahshukur Pashazade (L) and Armenian Church head Catholicos Garegin II at the World Religious Leaders Summit in Baku, Azerbaijan. (Photo: The Armenian Church)

A group of some 250 Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist and Hindu representatives meeting for the World Summit of Religious Leaders this week condemned religious extremism in their final declaration issued on Tuesday.

The leaders, who met in Baku, Azerbaijan from Apr. 25-27, said that their call could be heard "only by people who are open to arguments of faith and common sense."

"People responsible for spreading death and destruction have been trying to use religion to disguise their goals," the statement read. "They have already started to formulate alternative 'theological theories' that justify murders along religious and ethnic lines. Those who finance terrorism or spread its ideology are behaving with greater cynicism."

"Regrettably, hardened criminals understand the language of force much better," they continued. "That is why religious-political doctrines that justify aggressive violence against the peaceful population must be banned all over the world, as many countries have banned Nazism."

"At the same time, we know that one idea can be defeated only by another idea. That is why traditional religious communities are duty bound to prevent any distortions of religious values in favor of extremism and terrorism."

Prominent religious leaders adopting the document included Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Catholicos Garegin II, head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, and Shi'a Muslim leader Sheikh ul-Islam Allahshukur Pashazade among others.

According to Kirill, the summit's declaration reflected the role that religious leaders can play in resolving conflict.

"Religious leaders don't have political power. They cannot move troops. They cannot use state force," Kirill said, according to Radio Free Europe. "But they have a specific opportunity to appeal to those values and to those ideals which are very important for believers."

In a message to the summit participants, U.N. General-Secretary Ban Ki-moon said that religious leaders play a vital part in promoting dialogue between different cultures and societies at a time when globalization has left many people feeling discontented.

"As religious leaders, you have an essential role to play in ensuring that the values of equality, tolerance and mutual respect, which lie at the core of all the world's greatest religions, are defended, promoted and used to truly enrich our societies," Ban said.

"You can encourage dialogue that respects the importance of tradition but also embraces change. You can foster contacts and create conditions that will lead to sustainable peace, social justice and cultural cohesion."

The World Summit of Religious Leaders was organized by the Inter-Religious Council of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

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