(Catholic News Service) Rome, August 30, 2016 – Shia Muslim religious leaders from Iran and U.S. Catholic bishops say they have a common fight against weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and violent religious extremism.
“Christianity and Islam share a commitment to love and respect for the life, dignity, and welfare of all members of the human community,” they said in an Aug. 18 joint declaration. “Peaceful coexistence is built on equity and justice. We call upon all to work toward developing a culture of encounter, tolerance, dialogue, and peace that respects the religious traditions of others.”
The two delegations agreed that belief in one God unifies Jews, Christians, and Muslims.
“Religious leaders must provide moral guidance and speak out against injustice and anything that is harmful to humankind,” said the declaration, titled “Gathered in the name of God.”
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, signed the document, as did Bishop Oscar Cantú of Las Cruces, who chairs the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace.
The joint declaration followed a June 5-10 meeting in Rome. The dialogue built upon a meeting in Qom, in northern Iran, in March 2014 which focused on the elimination of nuclear weapons.
Bishop Cantú said the joint declaration is the fruit of “sincere dialogue between two religions that are united in their concern for the life and dignity of the human person.”
“Together, we commit ourselves to continued dialogue on the most pressing issues facing the human family, such as poverty, injustice, intolerance, terrorism, and war,” he added, according to the U.S. bishops’ conference.
The Iranians who signed the document are Ayatollah Ali-Reza A’arafi, president of Al-Mustafa International University, and Dr. Abdul-Majid Hakim-Elahi, director of the International Affairs Office of the Society of Qom Seminary Scholars.
The joint declaration rejected the development and use of weapons of mass destruction as well as “all acts of terrorism.”
“Together we are working for a world without weapons of mass destruction. We call on all nations to reject acquiring such weapons and call on those who possess them to rid themselves of these indiscriminate weapons, including chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons,” the declaration said.
The religious leaders similarly opposed “indiscriminate sanctions” and other policies that harm innocent civilians, like the forced expulsion of people from their homelands.
They also rejected extremism.
“We remain gravely concerned by the spread of extremist ideologies, often fueled by superficial and erroneous readings of religious texts, that negate the inherent worth and dignity of every person, regardless of religious belief,” their declaration said. “We call upon religious and community leaders to confront the spread of such ideologies that induce sectarianism and violence.”
They characterized violent extremism and terrorism as “perversions of authentic religious belief.”
“The guilt of terrorist acts should not be assigned to members of an entire religion, nationality, culture, race, or ethnic group,” they added. “Countering violent extremism requires firm determination and cooperation to address its root causes.”
“We call upon all to work toward developing a culture of encounter, tolerance, dialogue, and peace that respects the religious traditions of others,” they said.
“Serving God requires working for the welfare of all His creatures and the common good of humanity. Religious leaders must provide moral guidance and speak out against injustice and anything that is harmful to humankind,” said the declaration.
Other bishops in the Catholic delegation included Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moines nd Auxiliary Bishop Denis Madden of Baltimore. The five-member Iranian delegation was headed by Ayatollah Mahdi Hadavi Moghaddam Tehrani and Ayatollah Abolghasem Alidoost.