OIC chief praises pope’s efforts to revitalize interfaith dialogue

Updated 16 December 2013
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OIC chief praises pope’s efforts to revitalize interfaith dialogue

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.


Twenty-five bodies found after army sweep in Mali

Updated 22 min 39 sec ago
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Twenty-five bodies found after army sweep in Mali

  • The grim discovery was made after 25 people from the Fulani ethnic group, who are predominantly herders, were picked up last week by the army in the localities of Kobaka and Nantaka.
  • Central Mali is a vast area where the state is near-absent and extremists, blamed for exacerbating the dispute, roam with little constraint.

BAMAKO; Mali: Twenty-five bodies were found in central Mali after the army carried out a sweep in the unstable region, sources said on Monday, adding to concern about abuse by security forces in their fight against extremists.
An NGO called Kisal, which campaigns for the human rights of pastoral communities, said in a statement “25 bodies” had been found in three mass graves.
It provided a list of 18 names of people who, it said, had been killed.
The grim discovery was made after 25 people from the Fulani ethnic group, who are predominantly herders, were picked up last week by the army in the localities of Kobaka and Nantaka, Kisal said.
Separately, Oumar Diallo, a member of the Fulani association Tabital Pulaaku, said in the main regional town of Mopti that the first grave had seven bodies, the second held 13 and there were five others more in the third.
Central Mali is a vast area where the state is near-absent and extremists, blamed for exacerbating the dispute, roam with little constraint.
The armed forces are facing increasing accusations of arbitrary arrests and extra-judicial killings in their fight against the insurgents.
A source at the defense ministry told AFP that an inquiry had been opened but denied “these accusations of summary executions.”
A ministry spokesman also denied there had been any abuse.
“The zone is dangerous,” he said, explaining “terrorists and unidentified armed men” had been in the area.
On May 19, the army said three Malian soldiers and 12 “terrorists” were killed in fighting at an army camp near the border with Burkina Faso. But locals alleged the dead were all civilians and the army later put out a new statement that spoke of 12 “people” killed.
A resident of Nantaka named Hama Kelly said that troops arrested every person they came across as soon as they arrived in the village.
“They took their mobile phones and identity cards. Afterwards, people who were (members of the) Songhai (ethnic group) were released but all the Fulani were kept behind,” Kelly said.
The governor of the Mopti region, General Sidi Alassane Toure, declined to make any comment when approached by AFP.
“An army unit is in the area, I am awaiting its return to find out the situation,” he said.
Tensions and violence have intensified in the Mopti area over the past three years, featuring clashes between Fulani herdsmen and sedentary farmers from other ethnic groups who accuse the pastoralists of colluding with extremists.
Extremists linked to Daesh took control of the desert north of Mali in early 2012, but were largely driven out in a French-led military operation launched in January 2013.
The insurgents have morphed into nimbler formations operating in rural areas, sometimes winning over local populations by providing basic services and protection from bandits.