Christians and Muslims encouraged towards 'compassionate justice'

By staff writers
November 5, 2010

A gathering of Muslims and Christians looking at cooperation in a world of confrontation has said we must learn to move from conflict to compassionate justice.

One speaker at the top-level gathering in Geneva, Switzerland, the Lebanese minister of information Dr Tarek Mitri, said that discussion of religious “minorities and majorities” has become “a sterile duality” in political discourse.

It is more important, Mitri declared, to recognize that all are citizens with a shared responsibility for national life and a mutual obligation in securing justice for all.

A similar call was made by the General Secretary of the World Council of Churches during the opening consultation session, where the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit asked for a proper use of the word "we" in our societies.

Professor Mahmoud Ayoub of the Hartford Seminary Foundation in the USA, a member of the world Islamic council of the World Islamic Call Society, also called for followers of different faiths to “deal with our conflicts through compassionate justice.”

In the case of Muslim communities in the West, he described the “dilemma” of raising children in such a way as to maintain their traditional religious and cultural identity while also encouraging them “to live meaningfully” in their new homeland.

The panel examining the journey “From Conflict to Compassionate Justice” featured three speakers: Dr Aref Ali Nayed, director of the Kalam Research and Media Centre in Dubai; the Rev Kjell Magne Bondevik, former prime minister of Norway, president of the Oslo Centre for Peace and Human Rights and moderator of the WCC commission on international affairs; and Dr Farid Esack, a professor in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa.

Nayed recommended dialogue as a means of helping “to keep each other honest” in the quest for justice and peace. Through dialogue, he added, it is possible to “grow ecologies of peace and forgiveness.”

Bondevik agreed: “I would argue that dialogue is not only a meaningful tool; it is perhaps the only tool to build better relations. It is a tool for the building of shared societies.”

Esack, acknowledging that “ultimate answers do not belong to humankind,” suggested that one moves in the right direction if one admits one’s own culpability in systems of injustice and recognises oneself in others who suffer from that injustice: “The idea of justice without compassion is somehow a betrayal of justice.”

The morning panel discussions on 2 November 2010 were moderated by Dr Mohammed al-Sammak, General Secretary of Lebanon’s National Committee for Dialogue and of the Islamic Summit, and by the Rev Dr Bernice Powell-Jackson, the World Council of Churches president for North America and a minister of the United Church of Christ in the USA.

Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, president of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) delivered greetings to the participants on behalf of CEC and of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. He said that the conference contributed to the constitution of a set of values that could strengthen the exercise of religious freedom and human rights.


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