11/06/2008, 00.00
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Building harmony between Christians and Muslims till religious freedom is achieved, says Pope

Benedict XVI stresses the urgency for dialogue to strengthen religions’ credibility. He calls on political and religious leaders to ensure religious freedom for everyone and slams violence perpetrated in “the name of God.” Christians and Muslims must be open to working together on the value of life and help people in need to build peace and destroy “the devastating power of ideologies”.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – “We are challenged to demonstrate, by our words and above all by our deeds, that the message of our religions is unfailingly a message of harmony and mutual understanding. It is essential that we do so, lest we weaken the credibility and the effectiveness not only of our dialogue, but also of our religions themselves,” said Benedict XVI in his address to the group of Christian and Muslim experts attending the concluding session of the Forum promoted by the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue.

The Pontiff also stressed the “discrimination and violence which [. . .] today religious people experience throughout the world”. In his view such persecutions “represent unacceptable and unjustifiable acts, all the more grave and deplorable when they are carried out in the name of God.

For this reason “[p]olitical and religious leaders have the duty of ensuring the free exercise of these rights in full respect for each individual’s freedom of conscience and freedom of religion”.

In meeting Forum participants in the Clementina Hall in the Apostolic Palace the Pontiff thanked Card Jean-Louis Tauran as well as Shaykh Mustafa Cerić (grand mufti of Bosnia Herzegovina) and Seyyed Hossein Nasr (Iranian philosopher), who briefly greeted him.

Benedict XVI assured them that he “prayerfully followed the progress of your meeting,” conscious that it represented an important step along the path towards greater mutual understanding between Muslims and Christians.

The meeting was inspired by the Letter 138 Muslim scholars wrote to Benedict XVI and other Christian religious leaders on 13 October 2007 and the response signed by the cardinal secretary of state on behalf of the Pope. The theme of the Forum that ended today was “Love of God, Love of Neighbour: The Dignity of the Human Person and Mutual Respect.

The Pontiff is well aware that there are “different approaches” in matters regarding God. He illustrated this by pointing out that the incarnation—God-becoming-man, a central tenet in the Christian faith that is not accepted by Muslims—is a sign of God’s “infinite and eternal love” for us and is what drives Christians to love others as brothers and sisters. 

Yet despite differences “we can and must be worshippers of the one God who created us and is concerned about each person in every corner of the world. Together we must show, by our mutual respect and solidarity, that we consider ourselves members of one family”.

The Forum ended with an appeal on the “need to worship God totally and to love our fellow men and women disinterestedly, especially those in distress and need. God calls us to work together on behalf of the victims of disease, hunger, poverty, injustice and violence.

Equally the Holy Father called for a greater commitment “in promoting genuine respect for the dignity of the human person and fundamental human rights [. . .].  Only by starting with the recognition of the centrality of the person and the dignity of each human being, respecting and defending life which is the gift of God, and is thus sacred for Christians and for Muslims alike [. . .] can we find a common ground for building a more fraternal world, a world in which confrontations and differences are peacefully settled, and the devastating power of ideologies is neutralized.”

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