Dialogue, Cooperation 'Greatest Means' to Religious Solidarity, Co-Existenc e Interreligious Tension a Major Threat to Peace and Justice, LWF General Secretary Noko Says
ASTANA, Kazakhstan/GENEVA, 19 September 2006 (LWI) * Interreligious dialogue and cooperation across religious boundaries are the "greatest means of promoting religious co-existence and solidarity," Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko, general secretary of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) stated at the Second Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions.
With interreligious tension a major threat to peace and justice, the reduction of such tension and of intolerant tendencies is a matter of "urgent priority for all religious leaders and communities," he said in his speech on "Freedom of Religion and Recognition of Others." The meeting took place 12*13 September in Kazakhstan?s capital, Astana.
Noko stressed that faith was an inherent characteristic of the human condition, and a fundamental basis for the fulfillment of human dignity. "That which attacks our freedom to believe in what we believe and to profess those beliefs, threatens the essence of our human dignity," he noted.
The LWF general secretary cited the incorporation of the principle of freedom of belief and religion in the international human rights law, and stressed "it is one of those core human rights that may not be derogated from even in times of public emergency." He cautioned, "In these difficult and dangerous times many authorities would do well to remember this unconditional obligation."
From Interreligious Dialogue to "Diapraxis"
While there are many forums for interfaith dialogue, Noko pointed out, one must examine the extent to which "these dialogues are received by and impact the perspectives and experiences of our respective constituencies." It is indeed urgent, he continued, that we "move beyond dialogue to what we have called 'diapraxis' - a dialogical relationship of practical cooperation between different faith communities in addressing common challenges." Noko expressed his conviction that the "experience of working together to resolve a common problem is much more productive of mutual understanding and solidarity than any amount of academic discourse or legal proscription."
The general secretary mentioned that one of the LWF?s significant experiences in diapraxis was its participation in the Inter-Faith Action for Peace in Africa (IFAPA) process, an initiative founded by Noko himself. IFAPA is a continent-wide network of national and local interfaith councils and groups, religious leaders and communities, committed to working together for peace in Africa. Representatives of African Traditiona l Religion, Baha'i, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism all participated in the First (2002) and Second (2005) IFAPA Summits in Johannesburg, South Africa. Beyond interfaith dialogue, IFAPA "focuses on promoting practical interfaith action for peace and the building of a decent society," he explained.
"One important lesson from the IFAPA process has been the importance of a fully comprehensive interfaith engagement," the LWF general secretary continued in his speech. He underscored the vital importance of no faith community being "excluded or excused from the challenge of interfaith cooperation and the promotion of mutual understanding, since all faith communities must also address intolerant tendencies within their own traditions."
Noko concluded that the "only path toward peace in our fractured and troubled world" consists of coexistence and "dialogical cooperation in addressing the problems that confront us all, regardless of faith affiliation." He urged that in the face of "the difficult global context in which we now live, our commitment to that path should be redoubled, not reduced."
Religious Leaders Adopt Common Declaration
The 180 participants in the Astana congress concluded the meeting with a declaration in which they condemned all forms of terrorism "on the basis that justice can never be established through fear and bloodshed and that the use of such means in the name of religion is a violation and betrayal of any religion." The delegates called for the abandonment of "enmity, discord and hatred" to be replaced by "common respect and generosity."
In the declaration, they expressed their concern in regard to "increasing interreligious and interethnic tensions," deriving from "the exploitation of religious and national differences," which could be used as a justificat ion for violence. The declaration stresses that "extremism and fanaticism find no justification in a genuine understanding of religion." It is, moreover, within "the vocation of all religions" to refuse violence and to respect and peacefully co-exist with other peoples and religions.
The participants, including the 130 members of 27 delegations from 20 countries, met at the two-day congress to discuss issues involving interreligious dialogue, religious freedom, and the crucial role of religious leaders with regard to international security. The delegates, who represented major religions, including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Shinto, and Taoism, were joined by representative s of the United Nations, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organizati on (UNESCO), European Parliament, and other institutions. Kazakhstan?s President Nursultan Nazarbayev invited the representatives to meet in Astana at the "Palace of Peace and Accord," especially built for the religious summit.
The Third Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions is planned to convene in 2009. (825 words)
(Based on reporting by LWI correspondent Ms Regina Karasch, LWF National Committee in Germany, Main Board for Church Cooperation and World Service, Stuttgart, Germany.)
(The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund, Sweden, the LWF currently has 140 member churches in 78 countries all over the world, with a total membership of 66.2 million. The LWF acts on behalf of its member churches in areas of common interest such as ecumenical and inter-faith relations, theology, humanitarian assistance, human rights, communication, and the various aspects of mission and development work. Its secretariat is located in Geneva, Switzerland.)
[Lutheran World Information (LWI) is the LWF?s information service. Unless specifically noted, material presented does not represent positions or opinions of the LWF or of its various units. Where the dateline of an article contains the notation (LWI), the material may be freely reproduced with acknowledgment.]
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