- The leaders of the various world religions have particular responsibilities for promoting mutual respect and appreciation of other faith traditions. The final document of the World Congress of Religion in Chicago in 1993, with 6,000 participants, was a milestone on the way to respectful coexistence. These good pieces of advice should be filled with life by every local religious leader.
- The human being as God’s creature must be in the center of religion. The founders of all world religions have repeatedly called for respect for this creation. Active tolerance is love for his creature and the image of God himself. The love of humanity is the measure of all love of God; human dignity is sacrosanct.
- For the overzealous and the radicals who look down upon others while calling for confrontation, there must not be room in the churches, synagogues, and mosques. Their hatred desecrates the holy words, “Peace be with you!”
- All human actions and sins are within the domain of God’s mercy. Only he, not a human being, judges the sinner. Whoever as a human being elevate themselves to God’s place as the supreme judge of sinners, leaves the ground of their religion.
- Religious leaders should with good example and courage represent the true and good doctrines of their religions. The leaders must promote it actively and treat everybody humanely and respectfully. Where inhumanity reigns, it needs to be addressed with clear words.
- Interreligious dialogue must be improved and practiced locally. This practice will first result in understanding, then in trust and humanity.
- 1. In 2010, a fire was set in a mosque near the holy city of Bethlehem and copies of the Holy Qur’an were burned. Rabbi Fruman, from the Israeli town of Tekoa, gave a Qur’an to the Imam of the mosque as a gesture of respect and solidarity.
- Albania is the only European country with a Muslim majority. In 1945, it was the only country in which more Jews lived and survived than at the beginning of the occupation of the Balkans by the Nazis. An estimated 2,000 Jewish refugees from Greece, Slovakia, and Austria were hidden from the SS and Gestapo by Muslim believers and thus were saved. At the time 800,000 people lived in Albania, 70 percent of them were Muslims, 20 percent were Orthodox Christians and 10 percent were Catholics. There were only 200 Jews in the country and the Muslim families risked their lives in hiding the Jews in their homes. Nazlie Alla, whose family saved Jews, talks about this in the book by Norman H. Gershman, Muslims who Saved Jews in World War II.
The Albanians followed their religious and national code of honor, the Besa. They gave the Jews their word of honor to protect them and treated them as though they were members of their families during the hard times. The population of the entire country risked their own lives for the foreign Jews. The Muslim scholar Kujtim Civejy explained, “My father, who had the privilege to protect many Jewish families, said that God had given him the opportunity to practice his Islamic faith, namely generosity as a Muslim virtue.” “No one took money. We are good Muslims. God gave us the opportunity to save Jews. All life is precious and God-given. Saving lives is a gift from God. We took the Jews under our code, the Besa.” Said Kalaja, who then was twelve years old, recalls his father telling him, “If someone knocks on the door, take responsibility, my son. This is the ethics of our Qur’an and good Albanian tradition.”
- The African country of Cameroon has a population of 24 million. Of this population, 70 percent are Christians and 21 percent Muslims. Traditionally, great tolerance was praised amongst the different families. In May 2004, when a group of radical Islamists threatened Christian villages, the Muslim and Christian dignitaries came together and called for respect for the others in their respective communities.
- In Bangui, the capital city of the Central African Republic, Archbishop Dieudonné Nzapalainga and the highest-ranking Imam Oumar Kobine Layama are trying to restrain the hatred between Muslims and Christians who are ready to use force. Since the spring of 2014, Lamaya lives in the residence of the archbishop as his guest, after radical Muslims had wanted to kill him. On radio programs, their common message is, “Break the vicious circle – get reconciled with one another!”
- The Catholic lay organization Sant’Egidio was founded in Rome in 1968. 50,000 volunteers now work in 73 countries around the world. In Mozambique, after 17 years of civil war with one million dead, the organization mediated a peace agreement. Since the interreligious peace summit in Assisi in 1986, Sant’Egidio has organized an annual peace summit at which the common responsibility for the world ethos on account of religious values is emphasized. (www.santegidio.org)
- Bishop Damian, general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Germany, together with the chairman of the German Bishops’ Conference, Archbishop Dr. Robert Zollitsch, called for ecumenical prayers to be held for peace in Egypt. The central hour of prayer, in which the then Archbishop of Berlin, Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki, and the bishop from the Evangelical Church, Dr. Markus Dröge, participated, was held on August 22, 2013, in the Coptic Orthodox church St. Antonius and St. Shenouda in Berlin.
- From October 1962 to December 1965, at the invitation of Pope John XXIII, 2,500 bishops assembled for the Second Vatican Council in Rome with the objective of renewing the church. In this atmosphere of fraternal unity, and with the sense of a better future about to dawn, the Polish bishops started a spectacular sign of reconciliation. They authored a pastoral letter to the German bishops, in which the core message stated, “We forgive and we ask for forgiveness.” This was a courageous step for the Polish bishops.
In Poland, the totalitarian communists maintained the image of Germany as an enemy as a justification for the oppression and the subjugation to the USSR. Hitler had cruelly oppressed the Polish people as “subhumans” and had many murdered in the concentration camp. Among those ruthlessly murdered were many Catholic priests, such as Father Maximilian Kolbe, and the Carmelite nun, Edith Stein. Twelve million refugees, who had lost their homes in 1945 in Silesia, Pomerania and East Prussia, moved to the west of Germany.
For the displaced, these regions that had been German for centuries were still under “Polish administration,” as agreed by the victorious powers in the Potsdam Agreement. The German Catholic Church was reluctant in the beginning but later agreed to the content of the Polish initiative. In the Charter of the German Expellees of August 5, 1950, the displaced renounced revenge, retribution and the use of force. The courageous pastoral letter of the bishops a decade later laid another foundation for the very difficult German-Polish reconciliation. In 1970, this was followed by the genuflection of Chancellor Willy Brandt in front of the Warsaw Uprising Monument, and the Eastern Treaties. On November 12, 1989, Archbishop Alfons Nossol celebrated a historical reconciliation service, in the presence of the Polish Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki (1927–2013) and the German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, at the Kreisau estate in Poland. Through a decades-long painful process of renunciation and reconciliation, enemies became first still suspicious opponents, but finally partners and friends in the NATO (1999) and in the European Union (2004).
The same miracle was achieved with the reconciliation of the former archenemies, France and Germany. The Catholic bishops provided important impulses for both historical steps toward peace.
- In July 2006, when a group of the radical right-wing National-Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) gathered in the small town of Miltenberg am Main near Würzburg, the courageous Catholic priest, Ulrich Boom, rang the church bells. He did so in order to terminate the rally after twenty minutes. The NPD sued him, but the district attorney suspended the proceedings. In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI appointed the “Don Camillo from the Main” auxiliary bishop of Würzburg.
- In Mumbai, the director of the Islam Research Foundation, Dr. Zakir Naik, organized a peace conference in November 2008. Sheikh Adel Al-Kalbani, the Imam of the Grand Mosque in Mecca, emphasized in his Friday sermon that Islam is not in conflict with other religions and that Muslims should remain patient in secular countries. Dr. Naik said, “Terrorists have no religion.” The Mufti of Punjab, Faizal Rahman Qasmi, urged the participants to combat terrorism.
- On November 6, 2007, King Abdullah visited – as the first reigning king of Saudi Arabia and Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques in Mecca and Medina – Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican. They talked about the positive contribution of the Christians in the strict Muslim country. They agreed that interreligious dialogue for the promotion of peace, justice, and moral values should be strengthened. The Saudi king initiated important interreligious meetings in Spain and Mecca, and in 2012 he established the “King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue” (KAICIID) in Vienna, with an advisory board of representatives from all five world religions (www.kaiciid.org). The founding states are the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Republic of Austria and the Kingdom of Spain.
- The Institute for World Ethos, founded by Professor Hans Küng in Tübingen, Germany (www.weltethos.org), the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies, initiated by Prince El Hassan bin Talal and Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal, with support from the Jordanian king (www.riifs.org), the International Foundation for Interreligious and Intercultural Research and Dialogue and the Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought have achieved outstanding and effective initiatives for the promotion of tolerance and respect for other religions. Numerous institutes and private initiatives follow these best practices which exhibit interreligious dialogue.
- On the German Unity Day (October 3), more than 2,000 mosques are opened for interested visitors. The German capital city Berlin organized a “Long Night of Religions” in August 2012. Churches, mosques, synagogues, Buddhist and Hindu temples opened their doors for visitors from all religious traditions. For the first time, the visitors could get a personal impression of the places and rites of worship belonging to their fellow citizens who worshipped other religions. (www.langenachtderreligionen.de).
In Cologne, on the annual “Day of the Open Mosque”, around 90,000 citizens visit the Islamic houses of worship and discuss the Qur’an.