Prominent Muslims Criticize Attacks on Iraqi Christians

A group of high-level Muslim leaders condemned the recent flare in violence against Iraqi Christians and said that there was no justification in Islam for the attacks.

The 17 prominent Muslims, joined by 19 Christian leaders, denounced the persecution of Iraqi Christians in their communiqué, released Wednesday at an interfaith conference hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, according to Episcopal News Service.

It was deeply troubling, the leaders expressed, to learn of the situation in Mosul where more than 8,300 Christians have been forced to flee due to violence from Islamic extremists in the last two weeks.

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"We are profoundly conscious of the terrible suffering endured by Iraqi people of every creed in recent years and wish to express our solidarity with them," the Muslims and Christians leader at the meeting stated. "We find no justification in Islam or Christianity for those promoting the insecurity or perpetrating the violence evident in parts of Iraq."

They called on religious, political and community leaders to do everything they can to facilitate the return of all persons and communities and ensure a stable environment for all citizens in Iraq.

The 36 religious leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, and the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Dr. Ali Gomaa, were gathering for the meeting, titled, "A Common Word and Future of Christian-Muslim Engagement," at Lambeth Palace.

Participants addressed issues such as the global economic crisis, interfaith education, different understandings of scriptures, shared moral values, respect for foundational figures in the respective faiths, religious freedom, and the persecution of minorities in Iraq during their Oct. 12-15 meeting.

The Common Word conference, which was hailed as the "most significant" gathering of international Muslim leaders ever to be held in the United Kingdom, was purposely scheduled to mark the first anniversary of "A Common Word Between Us and You" – an unprecedented letter signed by 138 diverse Muslim leaders that sought to find common ground between Christianity and Islam with the aim of global peace.

"In this conference we are celebrating the shared values of love of God and love of neighbor, the basis of A Common Word, whilst reflecting self-critically on how often we fall short of these standards," the group said in the communiqué.

In addition to urging world leaders to address religious persecution in Iraq, the faith leaders also called on global leaders to work together to ensure that the "burden" of the financial crisis and global environmental crisis "does not fall unevenly on the weak and the poor."

"We must seize the opportunity for implementing a more equitable global economic system that also respects our role as stewards of the earth's resources," they said.

Attendees of the Common Word conference included: Metropolitan Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syrian Orthodox Church; Dr. Ingrid Mattson, president of the Islamic Society of North America and professor of Islamic Studies and Christian-Muslim Relations at Hartford Seminary in Connecticut; and Professor David Ford, Regius professor of divinity at the University of Cambridge, England.

Egypt's Sheik Ali Gomaa said at a press briefing that the conference had been a great success "and together we are now on the right path towards the benefit of humanity … We hope to make this world a better place for our children and grandchildren; a place where there is mutual cooperation."

Leaders have committed to the following activities for the coming year:

• Identify and promote the use of educational materials, for all age-groups and in the widest possible range of languages, that offer a fair reflection of the faiths
• Build a network of academic institutions, linking scholars, students and academic resources, with various committees and teams which can work on shared values
• Identify funds to facilitate exchanges between those training for roles of leadership within our religious communities
• Translate significant texts from the two traditions for the use of the other

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