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Religious leaders unite in joint appeal on acts of violence in the name of religion

12 08 2014
HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan

HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan

AMMAN, 24 July 2014 – In a media release by HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, a tireless peace advocate in the Middle East, religious leaders appeal against acts of violence in the name of religion. This statement especially concerns the terrible events in Mosul, Iraq, and reminds the religious communities of their fundamental duty to prevent the abuse of religion in order to justify acts of violence. The appeal was signed by leading representatives of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

In recent days, we have read with horror about Christians being asked to leave the town of Mosul within twenty-four hours. We have also heard about the desecration of Christian holy spaces and their symbols – the bombing of churches and a cross being removed from St. Ephrem’s Cathedral, the seat of the Syriac Orthodox archdiocese in Mosul.

These actions are an appalling blot on the proud tradition of pluralism in a region which has been home to Chaldeans, Assyrians and other Churches of the East for more than 1,700 years. Indeed the destruction caused by the violence has engulfed all of the diverse populations that make up Iraq – the Turkmens, the Yazidis, the Sunnis and Shias, Kurds and tens upon thousands of Arab families who have been uprooted from the region in fear of their lives. These horrors continue to unfold on a daily basis and follow a brutal period of fighting in Syria. Today, the United Nations estimates that one out of every three Syrians is in need of urgent humanitarian aid. We cannot stand by and watch idly, as the lives of the most vulnerable, our women and our children are destroyed in the name of religion.

We have also viewed with concern the ongoing situation in Israel and Gaza, and leaving aside the horror of that situation for a moment, have been particularly distressed by how the name of religion has been invoked to justify the murder of ordinary people. Statements posted by young people on social media justifying the taking of innocent lives as “commandments from God” are a testament to how the pressure of living under the threat of violence can cause the minds and moral compass of not just the military and seekers of power, but also that of ordinary civilians to atrophy. We should do all that we can to end the violence even as the numbers of casualties rise on a daily basis. Now, more than ever, we should all remember the quote of Malachi 2, verse 10 – “Have we not all one father?”

In these troubling times, when we bear witness to a moral crisis of unparalleled dimensions, we should recall the Islamic concepts of haq el hurriya and haq el karama, the right to freedom and the right to human dignity that are to be enjoyed by people of all faiths. To quote the words from the Quran: “We have honored the children of Adam and carried them on to land and sea.” (Surah (17) al-Isra’: Verse 70).

It would behove us to remember the words of Rabbi Magonet citing the hallel: “To get out of this narrowness, I called on God; God answered me with a broader vision. Give thanks to the eternal who is good, for God’s love is la-olam: for the whole world.”

And we should pay close attention to His Holiness Pope Francis’ remarks on the situation in Mosul, “May the God of peace rouse in everyone an authentic desire for peace and reconciliation. Violence cannot be overcome with violence. Violence is defeated with peace!” Religious leaders and their followers must draw strength from the ethical precepts that have been set over the course of our civilizations. When people turn to their religious leaders for advice, they must not receive rigid statements drawn from the misinterpretations of religious beliefs. Rather, they should be able to draw inspiration from the clear ethical standards that have been set over time, the standards that are born out of the timeless concepts of justice, compassion, generosity and imagination.

In this spirit, we appeal to the leaders and brokers of power in Mosul, the Middle East region, and indeed around the world that the holy spaces, both in our sites of worship and in our hearts, should not devolve into venues that separate us from each other. Instead, they should be venues for dialogue and for conversation, so that we may recognize the values of human dignity and solidarity to which we all subscribe. Only by having these shared conversations, we will be able to better understand each other.

Now, more than ever, it is time that we heed the words put forth in the Qur’an: “There shall be no compulsion in religion.” (Surah (2) al-Baqarah: verse 256). If we ignore this call for conciliation, attitudes will continue to harden, and we will witness the people Iraq being torn asunder – within Muslims and between the people of different faiths in the region. We cannot allow this tragedy to unfold in a land that is home to one of the world’s most ancient civilizations. We must repay the debt we owe to Mesopotamia.

SIGNATORIES

  • HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal, Founder and Chairman, Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies (RIIFS) and Co-Founder & Chairman of the Foundation for Interreligious and Intercultural Research and Dialogue (FIIRD)
  • Mr. Jamal Daniel, Co-founder, Vice President and Trustee, Foundation for Interreligious and Intercultural Research and Dialogue (FIIRD)
  • Chief Rabbi René-Samuel Sirat, Co-Founder & Secretary, Foundation for Interreligious and Intercultural Research and Dialogue (FIIRD)
  • Mgr. Michael L. Fitzgerald, Board Member, Foundation for Interreligious and Intercultural Research and Dialogue (FIIRD)
  • His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel of France (Ecumenical Patriarchate) Board Member, Foundation for Interreligious and Intercultural Research and Dialogue (FIIRD)
  • Dr. William Vendley, Secretary General of Religions for Peace
  • Dr. Ahmed Al Kubaisi, Founder of Scholars Association, Iraq
  • Dr Ahmed Abbadi, Secretary-General of the League of Mohammedan Scholars

For further information, please contact:

Tracy Hicks
Head of External Relations for HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal
M: +962 77 846 5202
E: tracyhicks@majliselhassan.org
Falha Breizat
Press Secretary
M: +962 775 746 664

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GERMANY: Interfaith house of prayer to be built in Berlin

2 08 2014
German pastor Gregor Hohberg (left), Israeli rabbi Tovia Ben-Chorin (centre) and German-Turkish imam Kadir Sanci pictured holding the first three bricks of the future House of One.

German pastor Gregor Hohberg (left), Israeli rabbi Tovia Ben-Chorin (centre) and German-Turkish imam Kadir Sanci pictured holding the first three bricks of the future ‘House of One’.

BERLIN (AP) — A rabbi, an imam and a priest start praying together under the same roof. It may sound like the start of a joke, but hopes are high it will become reality in Berlin.

The three men are working together to build a common house of worship — the “House of One” — in the center of the capital that will include a church, a mosque and a synagogue, as well as a joint meeting hall at the center of the building.

“We have noticed, as a community here in the middle of the city, that a lot of people want to meet people from different backgrounds and religions and that there is a strong desire to show that people from different religions can get along,” Pastor Gregor Hohberg of Berlin’s St. Petri parish told The Associated Press. “We want to make a point and show that religions can be a cause of peace.”

Hohberg came up with the idea for the House of One, and teamed with Berlin Rabbi Tovia Ben Chorin and Imam Kadir Sanci. The trio hope Christians, Jews and Muslims will soon study and pray together.

“I believe in the power of dialogue,” said Rabbi Ben Chorin. “In the world we live in we have two possibilities: war or peace. Peace is a process and in order to achieve it, you have to talk to each other.”

The future interfaith meeting place is planned for the Petriplatz square in downtown Berlin. Currently there’s nothing but a few old sycamore trees on a sandy parcel of land that is surrounded by a busy street and old east German tenement buildings.

But the spot has a long history: It is the place where the city was first settled in the 13th century, and for hundreds of years was home to Berlin’s St. Petri church, until it was heavily damaged during World War II and eventually torn down by East German authorities in 1964.

The city, which inherited the plot after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, has already given its OK for the construction of the House of One.

The design by Berlin’s architect company Kuehn Malvezzi envisions a building 40 meters (130 feet) tall with a tower that will be accessible for visitors. The central meeting hall will be able to seat 380 people, with the separate church, synagogue and mosque all adjacent to it.

Construction costs are estimated at 43.5 million euros ($58.3 million), and funding is entirely through donations. In an online crowd-funding campaign, the three clerics are asking people from around the world to contribute by buying bricks for the building for 10 euros ($13.40) each.

Since launching the campaign at the start of June they have received a little more than 35,000 euros ($46,800). The three are also seeking corporate sponsorship and larger donations from private individuals, and the plan is to start construction work in 2016. There is no estimated time of completion.

Meanwhile, believers of the different faiths have already used the future site of the House of One for joint open-air prayers. Last week, around 150 people came together to pray for peace in the Middle East and an end to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.

“It is very important for us to overcome all the negative news in the world,” said Imam Sanci. “I have the wish, for my children, my family, for myself and for everyone, that diversity becomes a reality and that people will accept each other in their otherness.”

For more information about this unique project, please visit www.house-of-one.org

Carefully designed: Each chamber will cater to the faith's specific requirements, with a foot bath and two levels in the mosque, an organ in the church, and two levels in the synagogue

Carefully designed: Each chamber will cater to the faith’s specific requirements, with a foot bath and two levels in the mosque, an organ in the church, and two levels in the synagogue








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