Religious Freedom Issues
1st Catholic-Muslim Conference in Russia Meets
ZENIT, 11/30/2005
Moscow - For the first time in Russia, representatives of the Catholic Church and Islam formally sat down to discuss their differences, and what they have in common.
The meeting, entitled "Islam and Christianity: The Path to Dialogue,"
took place Thursday in the main mosque in Moscow, and commemorated
the 40th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council's declaration
"Nostra Aetate," on the relationship between the Catholic Church and
non-Christian religions.

The declaration promoted a new understanding between Catholics and
Muslim believers, "who worship the one God, living and subsistent,
merciful and almighty." It also highlighted points of dogma that are
common to both religions born from the tradition of Abraham.

The Mufti Council of Russia; the Spiritual Management of Muslims of
the European part of Russia; the Catholic Archdiocese of the Mother
of God in Moscow, and the St. Andrew's Theological-Biblical Institute
organized the meeting.

Catholic Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz of Moscow pointed out that
"in the present prevailing context between the religions of the
world, the conference takes on an extraordinary relevance when not
only our local but also worldwide society is faced with the call of
more dangerous times."

United

"Our different religions must respond jointly to these calls in a
worthy and appropriate manner," the Catholic prelate said. "It is our
moral obligation and our civic duty.

"It is paradoxical that, on one hand, the modern world becomes ever
more secular and lives as if God did not exist, and, on the other, it
implores religious leaders: Help us, all our hope is in you!"

The archbishop continued: "Though, unfortunately, the hope in
religions to solve world problems has not given the expected results,
we are obliged to teach the world, stained by inequality, moral
relativism, xenophobia, corruption, interminable bellicose conflicts
and terrorism, that reciprocal dialogue and tolerance between
different beliefs is the way to cure world problems."

Ravil Gainutdin, president of the Mufti Council of Russia, said:
"Forty years ago the age of dialogue and unity between confessions
began.

"For the first time in the history of Christian-Muslim relations, the
Church saw in Muslims -- not enemies or heretics but participants
with equality of rights in relations between humanity."

According to Gainutdin, "the 'Nostra Aetate' declaration laid the
basis for reciprocal cooperation between Catholics and Muslims on a
world scale."

Referring to the contribution of the preceding Pope, Gainutdin added:
"We Muslims recognize in the person of John Paul II a great religious
reformer, who greatly influenced the spread of the idea of the Second
Vatican Council, and the dialogue between religions."

Just in time

Father Igor Byzhanov, secretary for Inter-Christian Relations of the
Department of Religious Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate of the
Russian Orthodox Church, said that the principles of "Nostra Aetate"
are more timely today than ever in the life of Europe, where the
recent turmoil in France put into question the peaceful coexistence
of the Muslim and Christian cultures, including in Russia.

"The Russian Orthodox Church can give a good example of practical
dialogue," continued Father Byzhanov, adding that in his opinion the
dialogue is "optimistic and friendly."

"If there is love at the base of relations between different
religions, then there will be no room for enmity, extremism and
terrorism," he said.

In a declaration signed by the participants at the end of the
meeting, the religious leaders observed that "the world will not
improve by resolving its problems only in the limits of secularism."

The participants were convinced that "every man has the right to
freedom of conscience and to worship according to his religious
beliefs."

"Extremism is foreign to the religious character, and almighty God
does not bless violence and terrorism," they added. "Understanding,
dialogue and tolerance between different beliefs have a way of
healing the problems of the world."
© ZENIT