(Photo: Christian and Muslim leaders at Nov 1-4, 2010 Geneva conference/WCC – Mark Beach)
Christian and Muslim leaders agreed on Thursday to set up “rapid deployment teams” to try to defuse tensions when their faiths are invoked by conflicting parties in flashpoints such as Nigeria, Iraq, Egypt or the Philippines. Meeting this week in Geneva, they agreed the world’s two biggest religions must take concrete steps to foster interfaith peace rather than let themselves be dragged into conflicts caused by political rivalries, oppression or injustice.
Among the organisations backing the plan were the World Council of Churches (WCC), which groups 349 different Christian churches around the world, and the Libyan-based World Islamic Call Society (WICS), a network with about 600 affiliated Muslim bodies. They would send Christian and Muslim experts to intervene on both sides in a religious conflict to calm tensions and clear up misunderstandings about the role of faith in the dispute.
“We call for the formation of a joint working group which can be mobilised whenever a crisis threatens to arise in which Christians and Muslims find themselves in conflict,” the leaders said in a statement after their four-day meeting. “Religion is often invoked in conflict creation, even when other factors, such as unfair resource allocation, oppression, occupation and injustice, are the real roots of conflict. We must find ways to disengage religion from such roles and reengage it towards conflict resolution and compassionate justice,” said the statement issued in Geneva.
Jordan’s Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought and the Common Word group of Muslim scholars promoting interfaith dialogue also backed the plan, which the scholars have been discussing with several Christian churches for the past two years. (Photo: WCC Secretary General Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit at the Nov 1-4, 2010 Geneva conference/WCC – Mark Beach)
“Rapid deployment peace teams are clearly needed today in light of the tragic recent conflicts in Nigeria, Iraq, Egypt and the Philippines, to name only a few countries,” said Aref Ali Nayed, director of the Kalam Research and Media centre in Dubai.