(Photo: WCC / Mark Beach)
After four days of meeting at the Ecumenical Center, Christian and Muslim leaders issued a statement Thursday announcing their intention to form a joint anti-crisis response working group.
The working group will be mobilized “whenever a crisis threatens to arise in which Christians and Muslims find themselves in conflict,” reads the statement that came out of the international consultation on “Transforming Communities: Christian and Muslims Building a Common Future” that was held in Geneva, Switzerland.
“Religion is often invoked in conflict creation, even when other factors, such as unfair resource allocation, oppression, occupation and injustice, are the real roots of conflict,” they say in the statement. “We must find ways to ‘disengage’ religion from such roles and ‘reengage’ it towards conflict resolution and compassionate justice.”
Notably, participants of the consultation were already called upon earlier this week to issue a joint Christian-Muslim statement in response to an attack on a Catholic church in downtown Baghdad. The Christian and Muslim participants said they “condemn” the “inhumane act” that left 58 people dead after Our Lady of Najat church was attacked during mass on Sunday. The Islamic State of Iraq, which includes al-Qaida in Iraq, has claimed responsibility for the assault.
Besides calling for the formation of an anti-crisis working group, the joint statement also calls on Christians and Muslims to work together to counter discrimination based on religious identity, affirms the importance of relevant and balanced education about religion of "the other" at all levels and in appropriate formats, and calls on those who fund and manage universities and colleges of religious training to support programs in major religions that encourage positive interreligious relations, among other recommendations.
It also encourages organizers of the consultation – the World Council of Churches, the World Islamic Call Society, the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute and the Consortium of A Common Word – to establish a joint project to promote and share experiences and best practices “of living together constructively in plural societies,” build a “culture of dialogue and inter-religious cooperation,” and work together on social and environmental issues.
In total, 64 Christian and Muslim leaders, scholars and activists from around the world gathered in Geneva for the Nov. 1-4 consultation to develop ways to build a common future together that is based on equality, co-citizenship, and mutual respect. The three main areas of focus were: beyond majority and minority, from conflict to compassionate justice, and education for understanding and shared citizenship.
The consultation was unique in that it was jointly prepared and sponsored by Christians and Muslims.