International conference on peaceful coexistence

05-06-2012 11:41 AM

Nader Shukry

A recent conference held in Paris by the Organisation Franco-Egyptienne pour les Droits de L’Homme (Franco Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights) discussed the peaceful

A recent conference held in Paris by the Organisation Franco-Egyptienne pour les Droits de L’Homme (Franco Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights) discussed the peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims in the Middle East.
Under the title theme “Chrétiens et Musilmans—Quel Avenir?” (Christians and Muslims—what future?), representatives of the Muslim and Christian faiths gathered to discuss the timely issue. Participating were Anba Athanasius, the Coptic Orthodox Bishop of France; Samir Sadeq on behalf of the Egyptian ambassador to Paris; Hassan Chalghoumi, Imam of Drancy mosque in Paris; Mohammed al-Shahat who represented al-Azhar; as well as representatives from Algeria, Iran, Lebanon and Tunisia.

Coexistence possible
The lawyer Naguib Gabrail who heads the Egyptian Union for Human Rights, said he believes the elements common between Islam and Christianity outnumber the differences between the two religions, a fact which should make which peaceful coexistence possible. “To realise this,” Dr Gibrail said, “we should found centres or associations for dialogue in the countries and communities we belong to. There is a need for a council or committee to be affiliated to the United Nations—after the model of the International Council for Human Rights—to be assigned with the role of fostering dialogue and connecting the various national associations for dialogue.
Dr Gibrail stressed the importance of spreading the culture of the civil State, while bearing in mind the individuality of each religion or faith. There is a need also, he added, to enact a law against the disdain of religions whether by State, organisations or individuals.

Moderate Islam
Mohammed al-Shahhat, member of al-Azhar’s Islamic Research Academy in Cairo, stressed that Islam endorses freedom of belief. Al-Azhar, he explained, is representative of moderate Islam, and is a scholarly institution that has no executive or judicial authority. As such, he said, the institution is well-poised to issue well-informed recommendations for the position of Islam on various issues; an excellent example, he reminded, was the bill of rights issued by al-Azhar last year, which confirmed the freedoms of belief, expression, and creativity.
In his part, Imam Shalgoumi maintained the importance of introducing Islam to the world within its real perspective, not the Islam presented by the Muslim Brotherhood or the Salafis which, he insisted, distorts the image of Islam.    
The conference closed with several resolutions that were read by John Maher, head of the Franco-Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights. Major among them was the importance of introducing a correct, straightforward interpretation of religion in an attractive way that fosters hope, and at the same time to adopt a religious address that refrains from attacking ‘other’ religions, and to combat the disdain of religions.
The conference invited all men of religion: preachers, scholars, priests sheikhs, and rabbis, to stress on the common features among the religions instead of focusing on the differences. 


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