Our three religious communities represent, among them, about 55% of the world’s population. If we make peace, the world will be at peace.
Sixth Doha Conference on Interfaith Dialogue, May 13-14, 2008
Let me begin by expressing my thanks to the State of Qatar – Emir, government and people – and also to the Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue and to the University of Qatar for their leadership in organizing this important conference, and for their warm hospitality which makes us all feel that we are among our brothers and sisters.
All of us attending to this conference have come because we care deeply about making peace among the world’s Muslims, Christians and Jews, and because we believe that peacemaking is central to the teachings of our faiths. Our three religious communities represent, among them, about 55% of the world’s population. If we make peace, the world will be at peace. But all too often in the world today our communities are in conflict with each other.
When Christians think about peace, we immediately think of the teachings of Jesus in the Gospel: “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9). “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also” (Luke 6:27-29). “Be at peace with one another” (Mark 9:50). Muslim and Jewish participants in this conference will think of similar texts in their own sacred Scriptures.
But when we look around us in the world today, we see that our fellow-Christians, fellow Muslims and fellow-Jews are not always practicing these teachings. Some time before the worldwide scandal broke at Abu Ghraib prison, the military policeman who was the chief perpetrator of the atrocities there wrote a letter to his family in which he said: “The Christian in me knows that it is wrong, but the law enforcement officer in me loves to make a grown man piss his pants.” We know now that nearly all of the “interrogation techniques” which he used at Abu Ghraib had been specifically authorized by the Secretary of Defense, and that he believed that he was doing what his military superiors wanted. So his conscience as a Christian came into conflict with his role as a military policeman, and the military policeman in him was able to suppress his Christian conscience. We can think of similar examples of Muslims and Jews who have perpetrated acts of violence contrary to the peaceful teachings of the faiths which they profess to hold.
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