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Minute on Mutual Respect, Responsibility and Dialogue with People of other Faiths

23 February 2006

WCC 9th Assembly, Porto Alegre, Brazil, 14-23 February, 2006


The international community must work together to nurture global respect for
diversity, culture and religion. Religious communities and leaders have a special
responsibility to promote tolerance and address ignorance about others. Representatives
of 348 churches from 120 countries gathered in Porto Alegre, Brazil, at the 9th
Assembly of the WCC, reaffirm their commitment to respectful dialogue and
cooperation between people of different faiths and other convictions. Through
dialogue we learn about the faith of the other and better understand their under-
lying pain and frustration. We see ourselves through the eyes of the other. We
can also better perceive the role of religion in national and international politics.

In a world where we recognize a growing interaction between religion and politics,
many conflicts and tensions carry the imprint of religion. The WCC has
always encouraged interfaith dialogue both on the global and the local level. We
urge member churches and national councils of churches to create platforms for
such dialogues. Dialogue should be accompanied by co-operation where faith
communities together can address the rest of civil society and governments on
issues of common concern, and particularly when religion, holy places, minority
rights and human rights are threatened.

Faced with the publication of the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed of Islam,
starting in Denmark in September last year, we recognize it is crucial to strengthen
dialogue and cooperation between Christians and Muslims. The publications
have caused worldwide controversies. Further publication and the violent reactions
to them increase the tension. As people of faith we understand the pain
caused by the disregard of something considered precious to faith. We deplore
the publication of the cartoons. We also join with the voices of many Muslim
leaders in deploring the violent reactions to the publications.

Freedom of speech is indeed a fundamental human right, which needs to be guaranteed
and protected. It is both a right and a responsibility. It works best when
it holds structures of power accountable and confronts misuse of power. By the
publication of the cartoons, freedom of speech has been used to cause pain by ridiculing
people's religion, values and dignity. Doing so, the foundation of this right
is being devalued. We remind ourselves of what St Peter wrote: "As servants of
God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil - honour
everyone" (1.Pet.2; 16-17). Misuse of the right to freedom of speech should
be met with non-violent means like critique and expressions of firm disagreement.

We recognize that there are more than just religious aspects to the present tensions.
Failure to find a just and peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, reluctance
to accept outcomes of free elections, together with the war on Iraq and the
war in Afghanistan, add frustration to historical experiences marked by crusades
and colonialism. In many parts of the world people identify as being politically
and economically excluded, and they often experience that dominant powers and
cultures apply double standards in dealing with issues which are important to
them. In many countries in the rich and dominant parts of the world, integration
policies have failed to welcome new minorities. Instead, they meet racism,
stereotyping, xenophobia, and a lack of respect for their religion.

The real tension in our world is not between religions and beliefs, but between
aggressive, intolerant and manipulative secular and religious ideologies. Such ideologies
are used to legitimize the use of violence, the exclusion of minorities and
political domination. The main victims of these types of controversies are reli-
gious minorities, living in a context of a different majority culture. Nevertheless,
we recognize a growing respect and tolerance in all cultures. Many are learning
that it is possible to be different, even to disagree and yet remain in calm dialogue
and work together for the common good.

The recent crisis points to the need for secular states and societies to better understand
and respect the role and significance of religion in a multicultural and globalized
world, in particular as an essential dimension in human identity. This can
help religion and people of faith to be instruments for bridging divisions between
cultures and nations and to contribute to solving underlying problems.

Resolution:

The Ninth Assembly, meeting in Porto Alegre, Brazil, 14-23 February, 2006:

a) Adopts the minute on Mutual Respect, Responsibility and Dialogue with
People of other Faiths.

b) Asks member churches and ecumenical partners all over the world to express
and demonstrate solidarity to those who are experiencing attacks on their
religion and join them in defending the integrity of their faith by non-violent
means.

c) Recommends all member churches, National and Regional Councils of
Churches to contribute to the creation of platforms for dialogue with people
of other faiths or none, and to address immediate as well as underlying
social, economic and political reasons for division, including interaction
with governments and secular authorities.

d) Urges member churches and ecumenical partners in contexts where religion
interacts with politics in a way which causes division to deepen dialogue
with leaders of other faiths, seek common approaches and develop
common codes of conduct.

e) Calls on member churches and ecumenical partners all over the world to
continue to address racism, caste, stereotyping and xenophobia in their
respective societies and together with people of other faiths nurture a culture
of respect and tolerance.

f) Reaffirms our commitment to the right to freedom of speech, at the same
time as member churches are called to contribute to a needed reflection on
how to uphold the need for ethical behaviour and good judgment in using
this right.