03/28/2006, 00.00
MIDDLE EAST
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Inter-faith meeting upholds religious freedom

by Jihad Issa
Representatives from various Christian Churches and denominations meet in Cairo with Muslim scholars and clerics. They agree to a nine-point programme that includes a demand to the United Nations for a declaration on respecting religions and their symbols.

Cairo (AsiaNews) – Al-Azhar University, Sunni Islam's most important place of learning, hosted a meeting that drew representatives from Christian Churches and communities as well as Muslim religious experts and imams. Participants discussed religious freedom, a demand that the UN intervene to protect religions and their symbols, defence of human life, support for peace and peace of mind in life.

The meeting on the "relationship between religion and fundamental human rights and everyone's obligations" was presided by al-Azhar's Grand Imam Sheikh Muhammad Sayyid el-Tantawi. Some 15 delegations from various Middle East religious denominations took part, including Copts, Maronites, Protestants, Anglicans, Greek-Melkites, Syriacs and Armenians.

The secretary-general of the event, Syrian Gerges Saleh, told AsiaNews, that "all participants agreed to back any initiative intended to protect the presence of all religious communities in the Middle East without discrimination and pressure". He confirmed recent reports about the willingness of Christians and Muslims to fight all forms of "religious and ethnic racism". The nine-point final communiqué released today said:

1.      Participants reiterate their total faith in human life as a "gift from God";

2.      they assert their support for all initiatives by individuals or groups in favour of life based on dignity and ethical profit;

3.      they proclaim the right to peace and peace of mind in life;

4.      they support everyone's right to be protected and educated in his/her rights and duties;

5.      they make a passionate plea to governments to promote a culture based on faith and moderation;

6.      they reiterate the right to religious freedom;

7.      they call on the United Nations to protect and defend the rights of ethnic and religious minorities;

8.      they assert the right of people to resist military and ideological occupation;

9.      they demand the United Nations approve a declaration in support of peoples' right to religious pluralism and a ban on all acts of aggression and violence against places of worship, churches, monasteries and on religious symbols.

Participants agreed on the need to contact civilian and religious leaders in the Middle East so as to implement these essential points which can guarantee everyone a dignified presence in this land blessed by God, a land of religions. 

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