Calling for a new social pact, World Council of Churches (WCC) general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit urged an international, interreligious conference in Abu-Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, to use their religious influence and institutions to nurture tolerance and respect through the transcendent value and concrete practices of love.
Organized by the Muslim Council of Elders, the Global Conference on Human Fraternity on 3-4 February convened prominent international religious, intellectual and media personalities from a variety of religious traditions and included, along with Tveit, Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Dr Ahmad Al-Tayyeb.
In a world marked by hatred, intolerance, and conflict, said Tveit, what the world’s religious traditions have to offer is the indispensable counterweight of love.
Citing Christian convictions, among others, he said, “As Christians we believe that the love of God, as it manifested through Jesus Christ, can move us to live together as one human family.”
Nor is this simply sentiment, he said. “Authentic love is more than emotions; it is something shown in a common search for justice and peace. We are created together and called together as peoples of faith to be guardians of one another, as sisters and brothers.”
Acknowledging that religious groups themselves have often failed to live it, Tveit proferred love as the antidote to hate and especially the scourge of racism.
“The evil influence of racism in the world today challenges us all, whatever our faith may be, to work out in practice what it means truly to love all our human sisters and brothers, and to seek for them the experience of justice and peace in their daily lives that we would also wish for ourselves.”
“Racism is a reality, degrading, discriminating and excluding others. Racism is a human sin and one of the most dangerous poisons in our lives as one human family.”
Citing 20th-century genocides, particularly of the Jews in World War II, Tveit warned of present dangers posed by exclusivisms.
Linking one God and one humanity, he noted, the role of religious communities is to “inculcate the value and concept of citizenship on the basis of diversity, promotion of freedom of religion and belief, and solidarity among different religious communities.”
"Today a new communal narrative and a new social pact are needed for us, everywhere, also in the Middle East, the cradle of our three Abrahamic religions. Particularly the most vulnerable should experience the true support and solidarity of all. Among those who have been suffering the longest from lack of solid citizenship, lack of equal rights and proper protection, are the Palestinian people."
Tveit concluded "We know also that religious convictions can motivate strong emotions, including aggression, hatred, and even violence toward others. It is our responsibility, we who are here, and everybody representing religions in our time, to reflect God’s love for humanity."