UNITED NATIONS – People of faith can help build a brotherhood of humanity that can reach across international borders to achieve world peace, the president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue said in an address to the General Assembly.
“Religions, despite their weaknesses and contradictions among their followers, are the harbingers of peace and reconciliation,” Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran said Nov. 12 during the General Assembly’s high-level meeting on the culture of peace.
The cardinal also urged world leaders to promote opportunities for people of different faiths to come together so they can overcome indifference, build respect for diversity and promote the sacredness of life.
The cardinal was one of more than 70 speakers to address the world body in a two-day meeting that explored various means to bring peace to the world and greater understanding among the world’s many faith traditions.
The meeting was convened in an effort to bridge the widening gap between faiths and cultures as extremists exploit religious differences. In addressing the General Assembly, the leaders presented a unified message calling for the celebration of cultural and religious differences and the condemnation of extremists who use violence to exploit religion for their own purposes.
Among others addressing the general assembly were King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of the Philippines, President Shimon Peres of Israel, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad of the Palestinian Authority, King Abdullah bin Al-Hussein of Jordan, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and President Tarja Halonen of Finland.
Cardinal Tauran said people who gather for worship are “teaching the language and gestures of peace.”
“They endeavor to listen to the other, to understand the other, to trust before judging,” he said. “These are attitudes educating people to allow peace to flourish.”
“Believers must be consistent and credible,” the cardinal added. “They cannot make use of religion to oppress freedom of conscience, to justify violence to spread hate or fanaticism, or to undermine the separation between the political and religious.”
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia told the meeting’s opening session that religion should not be turned into instruments that cause misery.
“Terrorism and criminality are the enemies of every religion and every civilization,” the Saudi leader said.
Israel’s Mr. Peres later followed and in his remarks invoked the memory of Abraham, who called his brother Lot to peace and reconciliation, and said their example can serve as inspiration for the world.
He reminded the General Assembly that a basic tenet of faith is that humans were created in God’s image and that to harm a man is to harm God.
Mr. Peres also reaffirmed his government’s commitment to continue peace negotiations with the Palestinian Authority as well as recent outreach efforts with Syria.
Mr. Fayyad of the Palestinian Authority concurred that his government is prepared to continue peace negotiations with Israel. He called upon the international community to support efforts to bring a lasting and just peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
“The people of Palestine, Muslims and Christians, aspire to peace and justice and are committed to the principles of coexistence and tolerance,” Fayyad said.
Addressing the meeting Nov. 13, President George W. Bush said the United States remains committed to promoting religous liberty worldwide.
“One of the defining features of any democracy is that it makes room for people of all backgrounds and all faiths,” the president said. “Democracies allow people with diverse views to discuss their differences and live in harmony.”