Two panel discussions here highlighted the second morning (Nov. 2) of the “Transforming Communities” international consultation on Muslim-Christian relations. Panelists focused the attention of approximately 60 delegates on the topics “Beyond Minority and Majority” and “From Conflict to Compassionate Justice.”
The day’s first speech was offered by Lebanese minister of information Tarek Mitri. He expressed his view that discussion of religious “minorities and majorities” has become “a sterile duality” in political discourse.
It is more important, Mitri said, to recognize that all are citizens with a shared responsibility for national life and a mutual obligation in securing justice for all. This corresponds to the call, made by WCC General Secretary Olav Fykse Tveit during the opening consultation’s session, for a proper use of the word “we” in our societies.
Professor Mahmoud Ayoub of the Hartford Seminary Foundation in the USA, a member of the world Islamic council of the World Islamic Call Society, called for followers of different faiths to “deal with our conflicts through compassionate justice.”
In the case of Muslim communities in the West, he described the “dilemma” of raising children in such a way as to maintain their traditional religious and cultural identity while also encouraging them “to live meaningfully” in their new homeland.
The panel examining the journey “From Conflict to Compassionate Justice” featured three speakers: Aref Ali Nayed, director of the Kalam Research and Media Center in Dubai; the Rev. Kjell Magne Bondevik, former prime minister of Norway, president of the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights and moderator of the WCC commission on international affairs; and Farid Esack, a professor in the study of Islam at the University of Johannesburg in South Africa.
Nayed recommended dialogue as a means of helping “to keep each other honest” in the quest for justice and peace. Through dialogue, he added, it is possible to “grow ecologies of peace and forgiveness.”
Bondevik agreed: “I would argue that dialogue is not only a meaningful tool; it is perhaps the only tool to build better relations. It is a tool for the building of shared societies.”
Esack, acknowledging that “ultimate answers do not belong to humankind,” suggested that one moves in the right direction if one admits one’s own culpability in systems of injustice and recognizes oneself in others who suffer from that injustice: “The idea of justice without compassion is somehow a betrayal of justice.”
The morning’s panel discussions were moderated by Mohammed al-Sammak, general secretary of Lebanon’s National Committee for Dialogue and of the Islamic Summit, and by the Rev. Bernice Powell-Jackson, the WCC president for North America and a minister of the United Church of Christ in the USA.
Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, president of the Conference of European Churches (CEC) delivered greetings on behalf of CEC and of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople to the participants. He stated that the conference contributed to the constitution of a set of values that could strengthen the exercise of religious freedom and human rights.