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Joint communiqué of the symposium on "Religion and peaceful co-existence"

This communiqué was issued by the The World Council of Churches (WCC, Geneva, Switzerland) and the Centre for Inter-religious Dialogue of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization (Tehran, Iran) at the end of their fifth symposium that took place in Tehran on 13-14 December 2008.

14 December 2008

Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran, 13-14 December 2008

The World Council of Churches (WCC, Geneva, Switzerland) and Centre for Inter-religious Dialogue of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization (Tehran, Iran) held their fifth symposium in Tehran on13-14 December 2008.

Representatives of Islam and Christianity found new points of commonality during a two-day high level symposium of scholars and spiritual leaders in Tehran, and discussed models of co-existence between Christians and Muslims in different contexts. They explored further the conditions and principles that foster peaceful coexistence between communities of faith.

The symposium, held at the invitation of the Organization of Islamic Culture and Relations in Iran, was a continuation of a dialogue between Iranian Muslim and Christian scholars related to the World Council of Churches (WCC) which began in 1995. Participants from the WCC included six Christian scholars from Europe, North America and the Middle East, together with representatives of the WCC member churches in Tehran. From Iran, participants included some fifteen scholars and religious leaders from Tehran and Qom.

During the two-day dialogue the symposium discussed issues related to the concept of salvation in relation to other religions, the religious understanding of human dignity, conversion, the status of religious minorities in different contexts, the common values and shared principles between religious communities, the role of education in promoting peaceful co-existence, the concept of cultural and religious identity, and the role of religion in the public space.

The dialogue reached agreement on the following points:

  1. Co-existence between Christians and Muslims in Iran has its roots in the history and culture of Iranian society. In this context, both Islam and Christianity have the sources to provide the common ground for this coexistence.
  2. Peace requires mutual understanding among the followers of different faiths. This entails learning about each other's faith, and dialogue can pave the way to achieving this objective.
  3. Constructive dialogue between Christians and Muslims can build bridges of mutual respect based on clear understandings of one's own religion and the religion of the other.
  4. Muslims and Christians share the Abrahamic tradition of faith, and therefore they share responsibility for promoting peaceful coexistence in their respective communities.
  5. 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.
  6. Preserving one's own religious and cultural identity should not be in contradiction to respecting the religious and cultural identity of the other. In each religion and culture we can discover the common fundamental principles for peace and respect. Dialogue between Christians and Muslims must promote these principles and obligations towards each other in order to strengthen the peaceful coexistence.
  7. Through dialogue and cooperation Christians and Muslims can together discover their common principles and values, and renew their joint commitment to them.
  8. The symposium agreed that the experience of dialogue should not be confined to the level of scholars and spiritual leaders, but should be brought into everyday life of believing communities, wherever they may be.

At the end of this symposium the organizers felt that it is important to deepen the dialogue in the time to come by academic research, exchange of concerns, and common projects. At the same time, all participants were encouraged to engage with their respective communities to correct prejudices and enhance mutual understanding.