03/02/2017, 14.09
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Al-Azhar condemns attacks on Christians, focuses on citizenship and equality to fight extremism

A two-day conference sponsored by the Cairo Sunni institution ends. More than 600 Christian and Muslim leaders from more than 50 countries attended. For Grand Imam Al Tayeb, associating religion and terrorism is a pretext by "ultra-modernists" to rid society of religion. Patriarch Sako stressed "shared values" for "all citizens, religions, and cultures."

Cairo (AsiaNews) – Christian and Muslim religious leaders, politicians and intellectuals ended the conference on ‘Freedom and Citizenship: Diversity and Integration’ sponsored by Al-Azhar University, in Cairo (Egypt) by firmly condemning the use of "violence in the name of religion" and renewing the call for "harmony" and "mutual respect" between different faiths in a State that guarantees for everyone the right of citizenship and equal treatment.

The two-day symposium (28 February-1 March) organised by the most important Sunni institution in the world brought together more than 600 people from more than 50 Arab and non-Arab countries in the world.

At the end of the two-day event, with speeches by Islamic and Christian religious leaders on Tuesday and by politicians and intellectuals on Wednesday, Al-Azhar issued an informal joint declaration on “mutual co-existence”.

Leaders from the two great monotheistic religions condemned the use of religion to perpetrate acts of violence or foment wars, stressing the principle of living together.

In the final address, Al-Azhar Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmad Al Tayeb firmly condemned "all crimes committed in the name of religion", which is something alien to all religions and the rules of civilisation.

In this sense, he noted, it is important to reform the concept of citizenship around the "principle of equality" of people in the same State.

The grand imam demanded Islam not be associated with terrorism because the “criminal actions” of some Muslims does not justify the use of violence by the religion itself.

This, according to Al Tayeb, “opens the door to describing all religions as terrorism, which justifies extremist modernists’ argument that societies must be rid of religion” since it is a source of violence.

Finally, the Grand Imam of al-Azhar strongly condemned the recent attacks against Copts in Egypt, calling them victims of violence "in their own land".

"Regardless of (the efforts) of terrorists, they will never undermine our determination to secure a common livelihood,” he added. Citizenship, equality, and rule of law “will create a better life for forthcoming generations" based on solidarity and mutual cooperation.

Chaldean Patriarch Mar Raphael Louis Sako also spoke at the conference, stressing the need to rethink educational programmes through stronger elements of "convergence and tolerance".

"We need to promote fraternal relations between Christians and Muslims,” he added, “through media culture” and create a common "home" to "unite all citizens, religions, and cultures" through "shared values".

Maronite Patriarch Card Beshara al-Rahi said that freedom of religion is the basis of all fundamental human rights. Touching it means undermining "all the rights and freedoms of living together."

Finally, the head of the Coptic Church Pope Tawadros II urged those present to fight “extremist thought with enlightened thought”.

"Egypt and the region have suffered from extremist thought,” he added. A “mistaken understanding of religion [. . .] has led to terrorism” on a local and world scale.

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