VATICAN CITY – Religious leaders must work to prevent fanaticism, promote dialogue and stem violence, Catholic and Muslim representatives said.
Two dozen members of a dialogue sponsored by the Vatican and the World Islamic Call Society met Dec. 15-17 at the Vatican to discuss “the responsibilities of religious leaders, especially in times of crisis.”
Pope Benedict XVI met briefly with the participants Dec. 17.
In their final statement, the participants said religious leaders have a special responsibility toward young people.
Religious leaders must work to ensure the young “do not fall victim to religious fanaticism and radicalism” by providing them with a sound education and helping them become “bridge builders and peacemakers,” the statement said.
“Religious leaders should learn to prevent, cope with and remedy” situations of tension between the followers of different religions before the situations can degenerate into violence, the participants said.
“This requires a mutual respect and reciprocal knowledge, both cherishing personal relations and building confidence and mutual trust, so as to be able to confront together crises when they occur,” the Catholic and Muslim representatives said.
Religious leaders, they said, first of all must fulfill their role as spiritual leaders of their own people by following their religious traditions, teaching their faithful about them and providing good examples of living according to their religion’s precepts.
Recognizing that religions can have an impact on the wider society, they said, religious leaders need to promote the basic ethical values of “justice, solidarity, peace, social harmony and the common good of society as a whole,” showing special concern for “the needy, the weak, migrants and the oppressed.”
The Vatican and the World Islamic Call Society have sponsored a dialogue since 1976.
The World Islamic Call Society was founded in 1972 and is based in Tripoli, Libya. It includes more than 250 Muslim organizations from 80 countries and promotes the printing and distribution of the Quran, the sacred book of Islam; the building of hospitals and clinics in poor areas; and cooperation with other religions in humanitarian activities.