Vol. 37, No. 1
Religious leaders meet in North Africa
In late November, the African Council of Religious Leaders met in Marrakech, Morocco, to discuss the emerging challenges facing the countries in that region and their people. The religious leaders and representatives from Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Sudan, Iraq, Palestine, Turkey and Kenya were convened by the Religions for Peace Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Council. They were joined by representatives from the UN, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Islamic Education Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO). Other participants came from the U.S., Japan, Peru, France, Nigeria and Norway.
The MENA Council meeting took place in the context of political transformation, violence and instability in the Arab world. The religious leaders, through the MENA Council, work together to build a strong multi-religious platform and to prevent the misuse of religion. The meeting's theme was "Engaging historic faiths to advance the common good in the Middle East and North Africa."
The gathering noted "with grave concern, the decreasing numbers of Christians in places such as Jerusalem and the wider Palestine/Israel, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Tunisia and other countries in the region" and called for "contracts of mutual care" between Islam, Christianity and Judaism. They rejected violence and reiterated the urgent and irreplaceable importance of enabling the three historic faiths in the region to work together for the common good.
- Calling on the religious and faith communities to "unite on the basis of shared values," Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, president of the UN General Assembly, noted that this was the only way to "build flourishing communities committed to just peace across the region."
- While condemning fanatics and extremists who call for and cause violent confrontations in the region, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary General of the OIC, noted that these conflicts had nothing to do with religion, but rather its misuse.
- Abdulaziz Othman Altwaijri, Director General of ISESCO, condemned the manipulation of religion for political ends. He cautioned those who interpreted the scriptures out of their historical context, stating that this was a dangerous trend that should be stopped.
- Imam Mohammed Hussein, Mufti of Jerusalem, called for co-existence and a dignified life for all people in the Holy Land.
- Prof. Mohammed Sammak, co-president of Religions for Peace International, described the burning of places of worship as a total violation of the Shariah, Ahadith and the Constitution and proposed the introduction of a Muslim-Christian contract as a first step in the development of contracts of mutual care.
For additional information about the work of Religions for Peace in Africa, contact Dr. Mustafa Y. Ali, Secretary General, African Council of Religious Leaders, firstname.lastname@example.org.