Views on the launching of the first network of religious educational institutes

Views on the launching of the first network of religious educational institutes

By Fr. Rif'at Bader

In the past weeks, I had the honor to participate in wide-ranging meeting focusing on developing and promoting the values of citizenship and equality, namely at the dialogue conference between Al-Azhar and the Vatican which focused on the resumption of dialogue after an estrangement which lasted several years. It was about extremism, fanaticism and violence, the role of religion in eliminating them, as well as citizenship, diversity and integration. Al-Azhar declaration for citizenship and common living was well drafted. It included the following:

"We are in the same vessel and we belong to the same society. We face common dangers that jeopardize our lives, societies, states and religions. We want--through our common will, affiliation and fate--to jointly contribute through serious work to salvage our societies and countries as well as to correct our relations with the world so as to provide for our sons and daughters a promising future and a better life."

A few days ago, Pope Francis was concluding with Sheikh Al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayeb an international conference on peace. By the way, I was sitting at the time next to His Excellency Mr. Faisal Bin Muammar, the secretary general of the King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Center, at Al Azhar hall, and we listened to "Pope of Peace in Egypt of Peace''. He said:

''God, the lover of life, never ceases to love man, and so he exhorts us to reject the way of violence as the necessary condition for every earthly 'covenant'. Above all and especially in our day, the religions are called to respect this imperative, since, for all our need of the Absolute, it is essential that we reject any 'absolutizing' that would justify violence. For violence is the negation of every authentic religious expression.''

The voices of mercy do reverberate amidst the waves of violence. In spite of the fires and bloodshed, the voice of the Coptic deacons resonates at the church which was the scene of violence and terrorism, singing a hymn which says: "Ye are definitely blessed, ye are shining planets with the sweet name full of glory, ye are the martyred saints of the church". Another hymn says:"Seek the Lord on our behalf, ye struggling martyrs, so that the Lord would forgive our sins."

How great are your good efforts which are designed to promote dialogue through launching a network of cooperation among institutes that deal with enhancing and conveying the message of dialogue to the new generations through modern educational methods.

Let me make the following points:

Firstly: Despite the fact that dialogue is beautiful, dear brothers, it is merely one stage amongst numerous stations which our common train will pass through, or rather our common ship, according to the statement of Al-Azhar. We have ahead of us a major station which marks the final or main destination, namely citizenship and full equality among the different shades, colors and stones of mosaics.

Secondly: We need a new dictionary for terms that define the followers of religions. There are terms that lack fairness such as minorities, coexistence and even tolerance. No one wants to be viewed by others as being different or inferior. We are all children of God. We are all created in the image of God. It is incumbent on your noble gathering, which you are holding today, to monitor this new dictionary.

Thirdly: Religion and violence cannot go hand-in-hand, for religion and faith inevitably lead to the love of God in the first place and love for every human being in the second place. We cannot claim that we love God without loving our brothers in humanity.

Fourthly: We are aware of the importance to have religions present hope for the future generations. Factors leading to frustration and desperation are numerous. Yet, we have to give room for consolation and hope in the midst of the fires, the bloody situations, and the deteriorating developments.

Fifthly: The King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Center is a cultural vessel that will bring together all of our dialogue institutions, which are concerned with respect for diversity, equality, and citizenship as well as ways to enhance them in our societies. Our Catholic Center for Studies and Media in our beloved Kingdom is ready to cooperate in this field, which is a necessity rather than a luxury.

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