World Summit of Religious Leaders condemns religiously sanctioned abuses
The World Summit of Religious Leaders, the largest interfaith gathering to convene in Russia since the time of the Cold War, has closed by passing a resolution condemning terrorism, economic inequality, environmental abuses and the denigration of moral values in the modern world ñ writes Sophia Kishkovsky for Ecumenical News International.
"We condemn terrorism and extremism in any form, as well as attempts to justify them by religion," reads the statement. "We deplore the activities of pseudo-religious groups and movements destroying freedom and health of people as well as the ethical climate in societies."
More than 200 religious leaders from several dozen countries have been deliberating in Moscow for Summit, whose final resolution is addressed to the leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) countries who are to meet in St Petersburg on 15-17 July 2006.
"Attempts are being made to divide the world along religious or ethnic lines, to drive a wedge first of all between Christianity and the Islamic world," Russian President Vladimir Putin said in his 3 July address to the gathering. "The world is practically being forced into a conflict of civilisations."
Russia holds the presidency of the group of the world's leading industrialised powers this year and has sought to assert itself in a number of spheres from geopolitics to business, and now religion.
Putin promised to inform the G-8 leaders of the results of the religious summit, in his address to the opening ceremony at Moscow's President Hotel, a high-security compound that was used by Communist Party leaders and is still run by the Kremlin.
Patriarch Alexei II of the Russian Orthodox Church, which initiated the summit, emphasised the role of morality in avoiding conflicts. Ayatollah Muhammad Ali Taskhiri of Iran praised Putin's efforts for seeking common ground with Islam and stressed that Islam is a religion of peace.
Israel's Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, who leads mainly Jews of European descent, supported him but also lashed out at those who deny the Holocaust.
The Vatican delegation, led by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, is the largest, the latest indication of a reported thaw in relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church since the election of Pope Benedict XVI.
Many of the world's top religious leaders are participating, including World Council of Churches general secretary Samuel Kobia, Pope Shenouda of Egypt's Coptic Orthodox Church and the Grand Mufti of Syria, Baderddin Hassoun.
Still, several major religious leaders were absent. In an interview with Rossiya, Russia's main state television channel, Metropolitan Kirill, the chairperson of the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate, said the Dalai Lama was not invited so as not to jeopardise Tibetan Buddhists' fragile negotiations with the Chinese government.
At a news conference in June 2006, Kirill said the Pope was not invited so as not to "mix historical events". Benedict's predecessor, Pope John Paul II, had for years publicly expressed his desire to visit Russia, but the Russian Orthodox Church resisted such a visit.
[With acknowledgements to ENI. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches]