Equal participation and shared responsibility in society are at the basis of a peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims, stated participants at an inter-religious symposium in Tehran, Iran last week. They highlighted the value of learning from each other's faith and criticized "irresponsible media".
The 13-14 December symposium on "Religion and peaceful coexistence" was jointly convened by the Tehran-based Centre for Inter-religious Dialogue of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization and the World Council of Churches (WCC).
A joint communiqué summarizing eight points of agreement highlighted the co-existence between Christians and Muslims in Iran, as well as the value of dialogue, which "should not be confined to scholars and spiritual leaders," and of "learning about each other's faith".
The joint communiqué states: "Peaceful coexistence between Christians and Muslims should be based on their equal participation and shared responsibility towards society and each other. This includes recognizing and respecting one another's religious and civil rights, and taking a common stand whenever the rights of religious communities are violated and whenever irresponsible media try to present a distorted image of any particular religion, offending its symbols and followers."
The fifth of a series started in 1995, the symposium brought together six Christian representatives (see participants list below) and some 15 Muslim scholars and spiritual leaders. Its opening session, broadcast by an Iranian TV channel, was attended by nearly 80 guests, including Iranian clergy and lay leaders, as well as scholars and university students.
For the first time, the symposium saw the participation of representatives from Iranian churches. A parallel programme provided an opportunity for the Christians from abroad to worship and maintain extensive contacts with local Christian communities.
Archbishop Sebouh Sarkissian, primate of the Diocese of Tehran, Armenian Apostolic Church, Holy See of Cilicia
Archbishop Ramzi Garmou, Chaldean Catholic Church in Iran (observer)
Rev. Matavos (Sergey) Shaverdian, moderator of the Synod of the Evangelical Presbyterian Church in Iran
Rev. Dr Jean-Claude Basset, University of Lausanne, Switzerland
Prof. Heidi Hadsell, president of Hartford Seminary, USA
Prof. Jorgen Nielsen, director of the project on Islam in Europe, Copenhagen University, Denmark
Mr Samer Laham, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East, Syria
Dr Gary Vachicourras, Institute of Postgraduate Studies in Orthodox Theology at the Orthodox Centre of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Chambésy, Geneva, Switzerland
Ms Rima Barsoum, programme executive for Christian-Muslim relations.
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