(Photo: WCC/Mark Beach)
High-level Christian and Muslim leaders meeting in Geneva to build a “common future” together issued a joint statement Wednesday condemning the deadly attack against the Catholic church in downtown Baghdad.
The leaders attending the consultation on “Transforming Communities: Christians and Muslim Building a Common Future” said they “condemn this inhumane act that contradicts all religious teachings, and Middle Eastern culture that enabled people to coexist peacefully for many centuries.”
While the World Council of Churches, which is hosting the consultation, Pope Benedict XVI, and Muslims in Egypt have separately denounced the attack, the joint statement represents the collective voice of all participants at the consultation, including: His Royal Highness, Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal of Jordan; Dr. Muhammad Ahmed Al-Sharif, general secretary of the World Islamic Call Society; the World Council of Churches; and representatives of the Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Protestant Evangelical and Pentecostal traditions.
The group called on “the United Nations and its Security Council and all groups that call for just peace, and especially Iraqi officials, to intervene to put an end to all terrorist attacks aimed at degrading Iraqi people, irrespective of their religious affiliation, and defiling Christian and Islamic sacred places.”
On Sunday, an insurgent group stormed into Our Lady of Najat church located in al-Karadah neighborhood in Baghdad and killed 58 people. Among those killed were three priests, with one priest succumbing in the hospital. It was the deadliest attack against Iraqi Christians since Islamic extremists began targeting them in 2003 after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
The Islamic State of Iraq, the group that claimed responsibility for the attack, issued a statement Tuesday evening threatening to continue the bloodshed. The ISI includes al-Qaida in Iraq among other Sunni Muslim insurgent groups.
While violence is raging in Iraq between Christians and Muslims, leaders of the two religious groups are meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, at the Ecumenical Center to work on how to live and work harmoniously together.
The consultation on Tuesday focused on the topics “Beyond Minority and Majority” and “From Conflict to Compassionate Justice.” Dr. Aref Ali Nayed, director of the Kalam Research and Media Center in Dubai recommended dialogue to help “keep each other honest” in the quest for justice and peace. He added that through dialogue it is possible to “grow ecologies of peace and forgiveness.”
The Rev. Kjell Magne Bondevik, former prime minister of Norway and now president of the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights, said he agrees that dialogue is a meaningful tool.
“[I]t (dialogue) is perhaps the only tool to build better relations. It is a tool for the building of shared societies,” said Bondevik.
Dr. Farid Esack, professor in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa, suggested that to move towards peace and justice, those involved must admit their guilt in systems of injustice and recognize themselves in others who suffer from that injustice.
“The idea of justice without compassion is somehow a betrayal of justice,” said Esack.
The four-day consultation will end Thursday with a press conference where a joint Christian-Muslim statement will be released. The event was inspired by the historic 2007 letter by 138 Muslim scholars called, “A Common Word.” Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal of Jordan was the initiator of the letter.