During the 9th Colloquium between Iran’s Center for Interreligious Dialogue (CID) of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization (ICRO) and The Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (PCID) which took place in Teheran on November 25th and 26th, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran made the following address. The theme of the meeting is “Christians and Muslims in Constructive Dialogue for the Good of Society.”
Your Excellency Dr Abuzar Ibrahimi Turkaman,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
First and foremost, I raise my heart in thanksgiving to God, the Almighty and All-loving, in Whom we, Christians and Muslims, believe with similarities and differences that make our respective religious traditions inseparable parts of the great family of the Abrahamic monotheism.
In my name and also in that of my delegation, I wish to thank Dr Ali Muhammad Helmi, the Director General of the Center for Interreligious Dialogue, and his staff for all what they have done to make this important meeting possible.
From the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, its Secretary, Fr. Miguel Ayuso, was here in Iran for a preparatory meeting of the Colloquium, while Mons. Khaled Akasheh, the Bureau Chief for Islam, has been coordinating the event.
The contribution of speakers, participants, the Apostolic Nunciature in Iran, and of the Chaldean, Armenian and Latin Churches, has been of great importance for the preparation and the carrying out of this event.
This is our ninth colloquium. However, some of us had occasions to meet during similar initiatives in other countries. These meetings, we can say, have generated confidence, mutual esteem and collaboration. It is hoped that the III Christian – Muslim Summit that will take place in Rome next December, to which some of the participants of this Colloquium, will only enhance these aspects necessary for peace-building.
As we are all aware of, mutual knowledge and cooperation, especially in times of crisis is of great importance. The very fact that religious leaders and scholars from different religions traditions are meeting together is an eloquent message to respective religions.
However, once we are back to our respective communities, the questions normally put to us are: What are the advantage of your dialogue for us, Muslims and Christians, at the grass root level? What kind of changes can we expect in our daily life? These questions become more pertinent for religious communities particularly for those that are small in number in a society that has a strong majority belonging to another religion. This is true in the case of Muslims in Italy, of Christians in Iran, and both for Muslims and Christians in India.
An easy ‘temptation’ in this context can be that of speaking for those communities saying, well, they are fine; they enjoy many privileges, therefore, they should not complain of anything. It would, however, be more opportune to give these little communities the possibility of speaking about their situation openly, without fearing any negative reactions either from the political authorities or from their neighbours. Self-criticism and constructive criticism by others are very useful. Through them either we open our eyes to the reality or are helped to open to the same.
This leads me to an important aspect of being believers and also of being believers in dialogue. It is the question of credibility. Am I credible as a Christian or as a Muslim? And to be credible, I have to ask myself whether I am consistent. Are my deeds in compliance with my words or are they contradictory to one another? This is obviously true also for our dialogue: Is it credible? Is it useful?
We are all aware of the necessity of dialogue of specialists, as ours. We should also be aware of our responsibility of bringing the finding and fruits of our meetings and deliberation to all spaces where Muslims, Christians and other believers, and also persons of good will who do not profess any religion live, work, study together. Education, especially through text books, has the moral obligation to present religions and their followers in an objective and respectful manner. Also, religious discourses, in all their spaces and forms, have the obligation of speaking about others as brothers and sisters. The words of Imam Ali “Know that people are of two types: they are either your brothers in religion or your equals in creation.” (Nahjul Balagha, Sermon #53), are of great significance. We can add a third category: brotherhood in Abrahamic monotheism, that includes the Jews as well. This reminds us of what Saint John Paul II said to the Christians of Istanbul in respect to Muslims: let us remember the spiritual bonds that unite us. Promoting these kinds of relations is one of the major reasons for the existence of the Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims at the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Obviously, while remaining brothers and sisters in humanity and in the Abrahamic monotheism, we constitute two distinct religions, that are called to thank God for what we have in common, while knowing and respecting our differences.
“Christians and Muslims in Constructive Dialogue for the Good of Society” is the theme of our Colloquium. “Construction” normally refers to the building of a house on strong foundations, layer by layer. We are continuing to construct on what many other Muslims and Christians have already done or are doing so. We need to be sure that we are doing good work, on solid foundations, to be sure of the hoped results for our present and our future.
While speaking of the good of the society, we refer to all its components, without excluding any one. In this, we imitate God Who, according to Jesus’ words, shines his sun on the good and on the evil, and sends his rain on the good and on the evil alike. Let us therefore prove by our deeds the usefulness of our deliberations and discussions.
The sub-themes that have been agreed upon and that will be presented during our meeting are interesting and important at the same time: Spirituality, religious values as a response to extremism and violence and the role of media in promoting a culture of dialogue.
When these sub-themes were agreed upon during the preparatory meeting, no one thought that the one regarding extremism and violence would become so dramatically phenomenal. We cannot remain silent or indifferent to the extreme, inhuman and multi-form violence of which Christians and Yezidis have been subjected. Many of them, as we know, have preferred death to renouncing their faith. They are true martyrs. The sacrifice of those who were driven out of their homes, often carrying but only the dress they were wearing, should not be forgotten. Nothing can justify these heinous acts. Invoking religion to justify these crimes would be a crime against religion itself as well.
Dear brothers and sisters,
Muslims and Christians, and, in fact, all of humanity, need abundant and concrete fruits of our dialogue. This meeting is like a star in a dark night. Let us pray and work, in particular through our dialogue, for a world of justice, peace, security, fraternity and prosperity.