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Al-Azhar Conference: Patriarch Bartholomew, “religions credible only if they promote peace”

“The credibility of religions today depends on their attitude towards the protection of human dignity and freedom, and on their contribution to peace”. The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Bartholomew I said this at the International Conference on “Religions and Peace” that is taking place at the Al-Azhar University in Cairo, where the Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb and Pope Francis will also take the floor this afternoon. Over the last two decades – the Patriarch said -, mankind has experienced continuous terrorist attacks which are a cause of death and suffering for thousands of people and are becoming the greatest threat and source of fear to contemporary societies. Ever since religions have often been suspected or openly accused of fuelling terrorism and violence. Our daily lives are full of horrific reports of terrorist attacks in the name of religion”. Religious leaders have spared no effort to dispel this myth over the past few years, committing themselves to dialogue and to peaceful coexistence. Why then –Bartholomew asked –, despite the conferences and the initiatives for peace, we are witnessing an escalation of violence in the world? “How can the world community justify the latest terrorist attacks in Paris, Brussels, Istanbul, St Petersburg, and Stockholm? How to explain the ongoing wars and armed conflicts in the Middle East?”.
At that point, Bartholomew went on to stress the “crucial role” religions can play. “Religion – he said – can divide and generate intolerance and violence. But this is rather its failure, not its essence, which is actually the protection of human dignity”. And he added: “The truth is that violence is the very negation of fundamental religious doctrines and creeds”. Then Bartholomew addressed the Muslim world: “By our presence here today, at this important Conference, we would like to oppose at least one prejudice: Islam cannot be equated to terrorism, because terrorism is alien to every religion”. Challenges – Bartholomew concluded – can “only be faced together”. “No one – neither a nation, nor a religion, nor science, nor technology – can solve problems alone. Our future is a common future, and the way to the future is a journey we have to embark on together”.

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