Madrid conference links interreligious dialogue with building peace

By agency reporter
July 22, 2008

Dialogue is “the best way for mutual understanding and cooperation in human relations as well as in peaceful coexistence among nations,” said the final communiqué issued by the conveners of the World Conference on Dialogue and broadly affirmed by the conference which ended on Friday 18 July in Madrid, Spain.

“Dialogue is one of the essentials of life. It is also one of the most important means of knowing each other, cooperation, exchange of interests and realizing the truth, which contributes to the happiness of humankind.” The communiqué urges continuing dialogue between religions, civilizations and cultures, calls upon the UN General Assembly to support the recommendations of this assembly, and looks forward to follow-up events.

Metropolitan Emmanuel (Adamakis) of France, speaking on behalf of the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, affirmed that inter-religious dialogue has been on top of the pastoral concern and agenda of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and of the WCC for a long time.

“Communities of faith can balance secular humanism and nationalism with spiritual humanism and ecumenism”, H.E. Emmanuel said in a speech to the Madrid gathering which was convened by King Abdullah Ibn Abdul Aziz Al-Saud of Saudi Arabia in Madrid, Spain. He continued, “Although we cannot deny our differences, neither can we deny the need for alliance and teamwork to help lead our world away from the bloody abyss of extreme nationalism and intolerance.”

Opening the conference last Wednesday, the Saudi king said, “We must tell the world that differences don’t need to lead to disputes. The tragedies we have experienced throughout history were not the fault of religion but because of the extremism that has been adopted by some followers of all the religions, and of all political systems.”

“This event is historic not only because it was convened by the king or by Muslims, but because among the dialogue partners were Hindus, Buddhists, and Sikhs traditionally not regarded as religions by conservative Muslims,” said the Rev Dr Shanta Premawardhana, who is director of the WCC programme on Inter-religious Dialogue and Cooperation and also attended the conference.

Among the many Christians present was Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue. The conference also was attended by Jewish leaders.

“It is a good beginning and quite an achievement that this many religious leaders responded to the king’s invitation,” said Premawardhana.

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