Conference to counter extremism and violence in the name of religion opens in Cairo

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Conference to counter extremism and violence in the name of religion opens in Cairo

Vatican Radio and agencies

President of the Pontifical Council For Interreligious Dialogue Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and Deputy Chair Al Azhar Dr. Abbas Shuman opened at Al Azhar University in Cairo on Wednesday, February 22, the sessions of the Joint Commission for Dialogue between Al Azhar and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue titled, "The role of Al Azhar Al Sharif and of the Vatican in countering the phenomena of fanaticism, extremism and violence in the name of religion".

The participants in the conference, which lasts for two days, are President of the Pontifical Council For Interreligious Dialogue Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot and Head of the Office for Islam Msgr. Khaled Akasheh.

The Catholic delegation, led by Cardinal Tauran, also includes Apostolic Nuncio to Egypt Archbishop Bruno Musarò.

In a welcoming address, Dr. Shuman welcomed cooperation with all parties including the Vatican to disseminate true moderate thoughts, to correct the misconceptions about religions, and to confront terrorist ideologies. He added the dispatch of Al Azhar’s peace delegates to various world countries is designed to correct misconceptions.

He also referred to Al Azhar's cooperation with various governments to address poverty, ignorance and to coordinate efforts with the various concerned parted to block young people’s enrolment in extremist groups. He accentuated the need to work hard to correct conceptions of religions among the youth and correct concepts and dealing with religious institutions and to build bridges of understanding and communication of the generations to come.

In the wake of the historic meeting between Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Professor Ahmad Al-Tayyib on May 23, 2016, the Secretary of the Dicastery travelled to Cairo several times, where he participated in several meetings and preliminary preparations for this event.

This meeting will conclude on the vigil of the anniversary of the visit of Pope St. John Paul II to Al Azhar, which took place on February 24, 2000.

Currently Ahmed al Tayyeb, the Imam of Al Azhar is considered by some Muslims to be the highest authority of the 1.5-billion strong Sunni Muslim world and oversees Egypt’s Al Azhar Mosque and the prestigious Al Azhar University attached to it.

Founded in the Fatimid dynasty in the late 10th century together with the adjoining mosque, the university is one of the most renowned study centers for the legal principals of Sunni Islam.

Al Tayyeb paid a visit to the Vatican May 23 for a meeting with Pope Francis, which marked a major step in thawing relations between the Al Azhar institution and the Holy See, which were strained in 2011 with claims that Pope Benedict XVI had “interfered” in Egypt’s internal affairs by condemning a bomb attack on a church in Alexandria during the time of Coptic Christmas.

Since then relations have continued to move forward at a surprisingly fast pace, leading to the October 21 announcement from the Vatican that sometime this spring the Holy See and the Al Azhar Mosque and adjunct University will officially resume dialogue.

After the announcement, the secretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Bishop Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, traveled to Cairo for an October 23 meeting with a delegation from Al-Azhar to discuss the details.

Ayuso made a similar visit to Al-Azhar in July 2016, where he met with Sunni academic and politician Mahmoud Hamdi Zakzouk to discuss the formal resumption of dialogue between the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and Al-Azhar University, which culminated in the October 23 encounter.

The current seminar, which is the work of several “preliminary meetings,” can be seen as the next step in officially restoring ties.

In an interview with Vatican Radio published May 24, the day after his historic visit to the Vatican, Al Tayyeb spoke out harshly against terrorism carried out by extremist Islamic groups such as ISIS, saying that “those who kill Muslims, and who also kill Christians, have misunderstood the texts of Islam either intentionally or by negligence.”

“We must not blame religions because of the deviations of some of their followers,” he said, and issued a global appeal asking that the entire world “close ranks to confront and put an end to terrorism.”

If the growing problem of terrorism is neglected, it’s not just the east that will pay the price, but “both east and west could suffer together, as we have seen,” he added.

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 18:39
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