Interfaith dialogue vital to face today's challenges, Christian-Muslim gathering hears

(Photo: REUTERS / Tony Gentile)Pope Francis listens to Rahmi Yaran, Mufti of Istanbul (R) during a visit to Sultan Ahmet mosque, popularly known as the Blue Mosque in Istanbul November 29, 2014. Pope Francis began his visit to Turkey with the delicate mission of strengthening ties with Muslim leaders while condemning violence against Christians and other minorities in the Middle East.

Interreligious dialogue and opening hearts and minds to others are needed to face today's troubled times, participants in the Third Catholic-Muslim Summit held in Rome last week said.

"Our meeting here, I would think, is a sign of hope for our troubled world.

"It is a message to all humanity, especially to us, the members of the great family of Abraham - the Jews, the Christians, and the Muslims," said Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

He spoke following the December 2-4 meeting, which was entitled "Christians and Muslims: Believers living in Society."

Along with Tauran, summit leaders included Prince Hassan bin Talal of Jordan; Mostafa Mohaghegh Damad, an ayatollah and director of Islamic Studies at Iran's Academy of Sciences; and John Bryson Chane, a bishop in the U.S. Episcopal Church.

Also attending was Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, and Rabbi Abraham Skorka, from Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Rabbi Abraham Skorka, a friend of Pope Francis, said at the summit, saying, "In the 20th century were consummated horrible crimes in the name of new anthropomorphic religions. Nazism and Stalinism killed millions of human beings on the altar of their fanatic and insane beliefs."

Bishop Chane stressed that "Christianity and Islam have at this moment in time a great opportunity to work together effectively with governments and civil societies currently in turmoil," the Catholic News Agency reported

"They can begin to re-shape a culture of peace in a world too much torn apart by sectarian violence and political pilfering. Christianity and Islam can and must be the bridge builders of the 21st century," he concluded.

Prince Hassan bin Talal said "the schisms in the world today have become so numerous, the inequities and inequalities so stark, that a universal respect for human dignity must once again be brought back to the consciousness of the international community.

"Now, more than at any other time, an ethic of human solidarity and a new international order are required."

Participants agreed a renewed Christian and Muslim dialogue is needed now, starting from mutual acceptance so as to find a common path.

Cardinal Tauran noted that "the legitimate differences - ethnicity, religion, culture, political choices - should not be a reason for refusing the other, ignoring him or her, marginalizing, persecuting, or even eliminating him or her, as is unfortunately the case in our days, especially in Iraq and in Syria, and in particular towards the Christians and Yazidis."

The Christian-Muslim Summit is a gathering of Christian and Muslim leaders from around the world.

At it, experts from both religious traditions come together for interreligious and intercultural relationship building and to address issues of conflict that exist between religions and nations.

Pope Francis met the summit participants on December 3, reminding them that dialogue is "the path to peace."

The fourth summit is expected to be held in Iran, CNA reported.

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