WCC Consultation Calls for Local Initiatives in Interreligious Dialogue

Jan 08, 2003 12:39 PM EST

Representatives of international Christian and Muslim organizations met in Geneva recently at a consultation sponsored by the World Council of Churches (WCC) and concluded that "globalized markets and information systems threaten to create new structures of oppression and thus feed extremism and militancy."

The purpose of the conference, "Christians and Muslims in Dialogue and Beyond," was to focus on "a critical examination of the present state of relations between the participants' respective communities, and an assessment of what has been achieved" through dialogue, according to Dr. Tarek Mitri, executive of the WCC's Interreligious Relations and Dialogue office.

Participants expressed particular concern over media coverage of events "where Christians and Muslims are perceived to be in conflict" because those reports "often contribute to the worsening of unrelated situations" by politicians and extremists who set the communities against each other. In its final report, the consultation emphasized "the role of education by and for our communities as a key arena in which to crate the trust and mutual understanding which are essential to resist attempts to exploit religious differences for destructive ends."

The participants also shared stories of local initiatives that have built trust and understanding in many parts of the world, often under the leadership of parents, teachers and faith leaders. The consultation concluded that those local initiatives would serve as the main source of models for new ways of living together--and that real change would happen in communities where Christians and Muslims live, pray, worship and work together.

By Albert H. Lee
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