Bush, other leaders to promote interfaith dialogue at UN
The gathering follows a successful Muslim-Catholic forum at the Vatican.
The global effort to build a "culture of peace" among Christians and Muslims and other faiths is gaining some momentum this month, both symbolically and substantively.Skip to next paragraph
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After a groundbreaking meeting between Roman Catholic and Muslim religious leaders last week, world political leaders this week are meeting to heighten the visibility and broaden the commitment to interfaith dialogue. On Nov. 12 and 13 at the United Nations, President Bush gathers with a dozen heads of state and other leaders to lend political backing to interfaith initiatives. The prime minister of Britain, leaders of several Muslim nations, and the presidents of Israel, Lebanon, and Palestine are among those participating.
"The idea is to send a unified clear message that the world community is in consensus in promoting interfaith dialogue and speaking against extremism, intolerance, and terrorism," says Rayed Krimly, special envoy of Saudi Arabia, whose king, Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz, was the driving force behind this week's meeting. Heading a nation that has restricted other religions, King Abdullah "felt very strongly he needs to put his moral and political authority on the line." The king began calling for interfaith dialogue at a Muslim summit in Mecca in June and organized a multifaith conference in Madrid in July.
Human Rights Watch called Tuesday for world leaders to press Saudi Arabia to end religious discrimination at home.
The meeting follows a separate interfaith initiative – the first Catholic-Muslim forum at the Vatican – hosted by Pope Benedict XVI. The talks on Nov. 4-6 led to a 15-point declaration that leaders of both faiths say exceeded their expectations (see www.acommonword.com).
"We've turned an important page in the whole history of Christian-Muslim relations," says Fr. James Massa, head of interreligious affairs for the US Conference of Catholic Bishops. "What this conference has done is make the connection so clearly between core commitments of faith and respect for religious freedom and other human rights, and this is a remarkable achievement."