JEDDAH: HABIB SHAIKH
Published — Sunday 15 December 2013
Last update 16 December 2013 1:55 pm
Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), has commended the efforts exerted by Pope Francis to revitalize interfaith dialogue between Christians and Muslims.
Ihsanoglu made the comment during his first meeting with the pope at the Vatican on Friday.
The secretary-general pointed out that today the presence of Muslims in historically Christian countries has expanded, while some OIC countries either have native Christian communities or have witnessed in recent years the arrival of Christians as guest workers.
The two expressed the need for greater efforts to foster respect for religious pluralism and cultural diversity and to counter the spread of bigotry and prejudices. They stressed that inter-religious dialogue is a necessary condition for peace in the world and is a duty for adherents of all faiths and traditions.
Ihsanoglu shared with the pope his vision regarding the need for a “historic reconciliation” between Islam and Christianity based on the common Abrahamic roots, in order to establish multiculturalism and harmonious societies. The pope commended the proposal and stressed the need to follow it up.
The two leaders expressed concern over the increase in inter-communal tension between Muslim and Christian communities and over the transformation of communal conflicts in some parts of the world into religiously motivated conflicts, even though the root causes are not religious in nature. Concern was also expressed about the exploitation of religion in conflict situations as a means to mobilize supporters.
They highlighted establishing a secondary, cultural tract to support interfaith dialogue initiatives.
During the meeting, views were exchanged on regional and international developments, especially the situation in Palestine. Both leaders expressed hope that the holy city of Jerusalem would be a haven in which Muslims, Jews and Christians may live and worship in peace and harmony.
Concern and dismay were also expressed about the continuation of violence in Syria, which they agreed requires a solution based on dialogue and negotiation.
The secretary-general concurred with the vision of Pope Francis on the need for a just world where poverty and hunger are eradicated and commended him for being recognized as “Person of the Year” by Time magazine.
Before the audience with Pope Francis, the OIC delegation met with Antoine Camilleri, undersecretary for relations with states, to discuss means of forging cooperation between the Holy See and OIC to contribute to global peace and security.