04/30/2009, 00.00
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"Unity in diversity": imams and Christian leaders condemn extremist violence

by William Gomes
In a meeting yesterday in Dhaka, dozens of Islamic imams and Christian pastors and bishops reaffirmed dialogue as the only means for living together. The remarks of participants, in a country that has been the theater of many extremist attacks.

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - At the University of Dhaka yesterday, organized by the university department of world religions, an ecumenical meeting was held on "Imams and pastors dialogue on unity in diversity," with the participation of about 30 Christian pastors and as many Islamic imams, in addition to experts from both faiths. The speakers included Vatican nuncio Msgr. Joseph Morino, archbishop of Dhaka Paulinus Costa, Bishop Linus Normal Gomes, and Italian ambassador Itala Occhi.

The speakers emphasized the importance of dialogue, and condemned any form of unilateral isolation, like a militant Islamic extremism.

Kazi Nurul Islam, founder of the department that organized the meeting, insisted on the importance of interreligious dialogue for reaching peace. He emphasized that many Christians are unaware of the fact that the Qur'an considers Mary the greatest woman in the world, and that Christ is highly respected in the Qur'an.

Professor Eva Sadia Sad agreed that dialogue among the different faithful can also resolve situations of widespread violence.

Maulana Khalilur Rhaman, imam of the central mosque of the university, stressed that "Christians are the best friend of Muslims, quoting the holy Qur'an," and that the positions of the two religions are often very close.

Archbishop Costa agreed that "we are called to be an instrument of peace." Pope Benedict XVI, receiving the bishops of Bangladesh for their ad limina visit, urged them to "persevere with patient dedication" in interreligious dialogue, which is "an essential part of the Church's mission."

Ambassador Occhi also said that dialogue is a process that "fosters intercultural harmony in the country," and observed that religious leaders can promote this among their faithful, in order to construct a more just, dignified, and peaceful society.

Msgr. Marino tells AsiaNews that "today’s dialogue is a new beginning towards justice and peace and common good and it can be a model before the nations."

Fr. Francesco Rapacioli, the regional superior of the PIME, emphasizes that "if Muslims and Christians are not at peace, the world cannot be at peace," in part because together they make up 55% of humanity.

For some time, Bangladesh has been witnessing a rise in Islamic extremist militancy, with bomb attacks in 63 of its 64 districts, including against the Catholic Church. Christmas and Easter were celebrated under police protection, out of fear of attacks.

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