A diverse group of forty religious and political leaders, scholars and government officials, from a range of Muslim and Western countries met in Oslo May 15-16 in a dialogue aimed at generating mutual respect and understanding.
A diverse group of forty religious and political leaders, scholars and government officials, from a range of Muslim and Western countries met in Oslo May 15-16 in a dialogue aimed at generating mutual respect and understanding. The group met under the theme “Religion, Democracy and Extremism,” with a view to build bridges and transcend hostile images and stereotypes that are polarizing the Islamic world and the West and contributing to violence and extremism. Bishop Younan spoke on Christian-Muslim relations and how the long history of good relations between Palestinian Muslims and Christians can help be a model for others. See www.clubhmadrid.org for more information on the conference.
The Conference was convened by The Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights (OC) and The Foundation for Dialogue among Civilizations (FDC) in collaboration with the Club de Madrid (CdM) and sponsored by the Royal Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway. Among the issues listed in the Conference statement:
- Dialogue is not negotiation nor is it evangelizing or preaching. Dialogue is opening the window of one’s heart to other human beings and to create and share empathy for their circumstances and suffering.
- A main cause of suffering and violence is the existence of a variety of identities that hold rigid views, while seeking to prove themselves by way of negating others. Such rigidity makes the holder of that identity suffer from self-importance and egotism.
- There is no culture, religion or civilization that can dictate to others certain values as if they were the only valid ones. Religion should not be allowed to be abused for political, economic or other power purposes.
- We must retake public opinion from the extremists. Religion is inherently not an element to encourage violence, but rather to create the finest munificence and promote the most ethical relations among people, and can be a part of the solution.
- We underline the importance of education and training that promotes tolerance and understanding, mutual respect and acceptance, for all, including the media and public opinion leaders.
- Tolerance means to respect diversity and differences of opinion. Those who have strong convictions themselves, including religious ones, should be the first to understand others who have theirs.
- The common ground between religions, such as Christianity and Islam, should be built upon to enhance freedom, equality, human dignity, tolerance and peace, including for the benefit of religious minorities.
- Universal human rights should be respected by all civilizations and states. There will be no conflict in the relationship between state and religion if the state is genuinely democratic and religion is committed to universal human rights and a pluralistic society.
Among their specific objectives:
- To raise awareness in the West of humiliating practices towards the Islamic world, and in the Islamic world of incitements against the West;
- To devise more productive and constructive ways of dealing with extremism and terrorism;
- To deny letting extremists define the relationship between the West and the Islamic world;
- To focus on disparity of resources between the rich and the poor;
- To ensure equal participation by Women;
To encourage and equip youth to participate and exercise leadership in political processes and institutions.