Religious Values: between Pacifism and Respect for Life

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran

Opening Session of the 6th Doha Conference on Interreligious Dialogue

 13-14 May 2008

Dear Friends,

1. I would like, at the beginning thank God for having brought us together to this hospitable country and to this beautiful city for this meeting.

2. I also wish to thank the organizers of this Conference, which has now arrived at its sixth edition. I congratulate them for having thought of organizing this unique Conference in the heart of the Arab countries. I note with satisfaction that the Qatari people are courageous and maintain their promises! For example, they promised to widen the Conference to include Jews, and to create an international structure for dialogue – now the International Centre of Doha for Interreligious Dialogue – : both promises have been maintained! I also note that there is a clear distinction between the roles of the various institutions involved in the preparation of the Conference. I am glad to note the role the Faculty of Shari’a of the University of Qatar has had, and still has, in the organization of the Conference. The fact that this Faculty has at its head a woman, in the person of Dr ‘Aisha al-Mannaie, adds to the merit of Qatar in this process.

3. I am also glad to note the participation of the Catholic Church and of the Holy See in this initiative. I remember my participation in the II Doha Conference, jointly organized by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, namely the Commission for Religious Relations with Muslims in the Vatican, and Qatari partners of the Faculty of Shari’a and of the Gulf Center for Studies, with the collaboration of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, which was held from 27-29  May  2004, on  the  theme  “Religious  liberty:   a   theme  for Christian-Muslim Dialogue”, with the participation of 72 Muslims and Christians. At that time I was in charge of  the  Pontifical Vatican Library and of the Secret Archives of the Holy See, where  many valuable Arabic and Islamic manuscripts are conserved. As you may know, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI called me last June for a new service: I am the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. I am accompanied by Msgr. Khaled Akasheh, who is charge  of the Islam Desk in the same Council.

4. The absence of the Holy See from V Doha  Conference, last  year, was due to communication and technical problems and should not give any cause for anxiety that the engagement of the Catholic Church in interreligious dialogue is any less.

5. In fact, since the beginning of His Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI, the very day after the solemn inauguration of his Pontificate, on 25th April 2005, affirmed to the participants in the ceremony from different religious traditions: “I am particularly grateful for the presence in our midst of members of the Muslim community, and I express my appreciation for the growth of dialogue between Muslims and Christians, both at the local and international level. I assure you that the Church wants to continue building bridges of friendship with the followers of all religions, in order to seek the true good of every person and of society as a whole”. He also said: “It is therefore imperative to engage in authentic and sincere dialogue, built on respect for the dignity of every human person, created, as we Christians firmly believe, in the  image and  likeness of God  (cf. Gn 1:26-27)”. I am sure we all agree with His Holiness on the necessity of an “authentic and sincere dialogue” and that the kind of meeting we are engaging in is “authentic and sincere” and therefore lasting and fruitful. Dialogue, as we are all aware, is a necessary service to humanity: it is no longer a choice. If well done, in love and truth, it is synonym of mutual understanding, respect, peace and harmony among the various components of a society, whether ethnical, religious, cultural, or political.

6. I am particularly glad that this conference is to discuss religious values. We, followers of the three major monotheistic religions, we share religious values with followers of other religions and we find ourselves closer in sharing them, because of our common belief in God as Creator, as Providence and as the ultimate end of  every  human being (cf. Nostra aetate, n. 1). Prayer, fasting, alms giving (cf. Nostra aetate, n. 3), compassion for the weak, the sick and the  poor, respect for parents, solidarity on familiar and religious community basis are some of the values we share as Jews, Christians and Muslims. The sacred character of human life – though with differences – is also a shared value. I recall the clear affirmation of Pope John Paul II: ” Human being is the way of the Church”. I think  that we  can  and should say that human being is the way of all religions! I am happy to see a prominent Muslim figure, when H.M.King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia stated, in full agreement with what  affirmed by  Pope John Paul II: “All those who believe in the Torah, the Bible and the Quran have one loyalty, to humanity”.

7. As for peace, permit me to quote an important document of the Second Vatican Council at this regard, Gaudium et Spes (n. 78): “Peace is not merely the absence of war”. Peace rests on justice. Peace is the fruit of love. Consequently all the believers have a special responsibility in cooperating with all those who try to ensure the effective respect of the dignity of the human person and its rights, to develop the sense of fraternity and solidarity, to help the brothers and sisters in humanity not to be slaves of consumerism and materialism.

8.In this regard I would like to draw your attention to  something which if specific to the believers. Every week, on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, millions of men and women regardless of their age, of their culture, of their social condition gather to join inp rayer in their mosques, synagogues and churches. They succeed to live unity in diversity. We must put this patrimony, a kind of savoir-faire at the disposal of all humanity. I do think this is a significant contribution we can offer to building peace on solid foundations: “The name of the one God must become increasingly what it is: a name of peace and a summons to peace” (Novo Millennio lneunte,n. 55)”, as Pope John Paul II wrote.

9. Let us educate our youth to peace, to mutual respect. As religious leaders, let us promote a sound pedagogy of peace, which is taught in the family, in the mosques, in the synagogues, in the churches, in ours schools, in our universities. Religions do not make war, unfortunately – as history teaches us – their followers sometimes make war.

May God bless our meeting and give us the courage to be peace makers.