Abu Dhabi: Religious leaders from the Muslim Council of Elders — an independent international body that aims to promote peace in Muslim societies — and the Anglican Church Thursday called for peaceful co-existence between people of different faiths and to be able to respectfully disagree with each other.
Bishop Bolly Lapok, of the Anglican Communion, said each faith must take on the responsibility to teach their followers to respect people of other faiths, neither avoiding nor fearing or fighting them, and set out to explore in depth their own faith.
“The better a person understands his own faith, the more he will be able to see traces and echoes of that understanding in another faith,” Bishop Lapok said as part of a dialogue on integration, religious freedom and flourishing societies organised by the Muslim Council of Elders with Christian leaders from the Anglican Communion.
He stressed that a firm grasp of the truth taught to them in the context of their own faith will enable them to recognise it clearly in another faith.
“This dialogue shows a willingness to work towards that relationship in which Christians and Muslims can see each other travelling toward a common destination but in a different boat on the sea of life. We may be using different navigational aids but in the hazards on that journey, we keep one another in sight so that we can come to one another’s aid when need be. That is agreeing to disagree [in a correct way],” he said.
Toby Howarth, Bishop of Bradford, said we need to expand the dialogue to include people who are not here but should be. “It has been encouraging in this meeting that we have more women speaking than we have had before, and more younger people. But this process of widening the dialogue needs to continue. And we need people from other places, and representing other streams within our traditions,” Bishop Howarth said.
Bishop Howarth also called for bringing to the dialogue not just one’s doctrine and theology, law and the principles of religions, but also to bring feelings.
“What touches the deepest parts of ourselves, our hopes and fears, our loves and hate?”
He added at a few times during these sessions of the interfaith dialogue, feelings of anger or hurt were heard.
“And they have been uncomfortable, but they have been important for us to hear. Because they are also part of the reality of ourselves and our world, they need to be part of our dialogue.”
Abdul Rahman Suwar Al Dahab, member of the Muslim Council of Elders, said that one of the major challenges facing the Islam-West dialogue is that the western civilisation looks down with contempt on the eastern civilisation.
Suwar Al Dahab called on Muslims and Christians to play a role in building bridges towards sustainable peace and cross-cultural understanding.
“Gaps between the peoples of the two faiths must be bridged through media, political, scientific, economic and artistic dialogue to achieve peace and harmony between religions and its followers,” he said.
Professor Hassan Al Shafie, a member of the Muslim Council of Elders, called for fostering the culture of citizenship rather than factionalism.