REPORT: THE VALUES THAT BIND US: TOLERANCE AND INTER-FAITH DIALOGUE

This Bussola Institute Majlis dealt with important questions concerning shared values, the importance of inter-faith understanding and dialogue and considered what future steps might be taken to encourage peaceful co-existence, inculcate mutual respect and build more tolerant societies, particularly from a religious dimension.
This inter-faith Majlis emphasised the ties that bind us rather than the differences that divide us and made a further important contribution to considering how tolerance and understanding can work to heal societal discord and pave the way to a more consensual and understanding approach to difficulties that face societies across both Europe and the Arab World.

REPORT: THE VALUES THAT BIND US: TOLERANCE AND INTER-FAITH DIALOGUE

Author

Bussola Institute

Date

February 12, 2019

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REPORT: THE VALUES THAT BIND US: TOLERANCE AND INTER-FAITH DIALOGUE

Introduction

Since it was established, The Bussola Institute, through an exploration of the ‘Values that Bind Us’, has been actively contributing towards the promotion of peace, tolerance, cohesion and inter-faith dialogue between followers of different religions.

As part of this journey, last June, Bussola, in collaboration with the Islamic Community of Croatia, and the Ministry of Islamic Affairs in the United Arab Emirates, conducted a seminar in Zagreb, entitled ‘The Values that Bind Us,’ which explored the underlying values that are shared across religions and how these can be the basis of tolerance and coexistence.

As a further step along this road, and in light the recent landmark visit of Pope Francis to the United Arab Emirates at the start of February 2019, where he attended a historic International Interfaith Meeting on Human Fraternity, Bussola decided to hold a ‘majlis’ event at its Bussola Headquarters entitled: ‘The

Values that Bind Us: A Conversation on Tolerance and the Potential of Inter-Faith Dialogue’ to explore further, the importance of inter-faith dialogue and particularly tolerance as key factors in building societies and reducing religious tensions and conflicts.

The Bussola gathering brought together 20 religious leaders, diplomats and civil society representatives to discuss important questions concerning shared values, the importance of inter-faith understanding and dialogue. Over the course of 90 minutes of guided conversation and discussion, followed by a less formal lunch, attendees considered what future steps might be taken to encourage peaceful co-existence, inculcate mutual respect and build more tolerant societies, particularly from a religious dimension.

Importantly, the Majlis set out from the premise of seeking to identify areas of common ground and mutual understanding, rather than focusing on points of difference and disagreement in religious doctrine and practice.

It was widely agreed that Pope Francis’ visit to the UAE, the first in history to the Arabian Peninsula by any Pontiff, had revealed a genuine desire for change, and for encouraging greater tolerance amongst people of different faiths. As well as conducting a historic Mass for around 130,000 of the UAE’s more than onemillion Roman Catholics, Pope Francis ,together with the Grand Imam of Al Azhar in Egypt, the most important centre of Islamic learning in the world, took part in an ‘Inter-Religious Conference for Human Fraternity’, together with more than 200 senior religious leaders from across the spectrum of faith. This was organised by the Muslim Council of Elders in Abu Dhabi and included not only the leaders of the Christian and Muslim worlds but also senior representatives from Judaism, the Hindu faith and Buddhism.

At the conclusion of the Abu Dhabi conference, Grand Imam Ahmad al-Tayyeb and Pope Francis signed a joint declaration for: ‘Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together’.The two leaders stated: “Our aspiration is that this Declaration may constitute an invitation to reconciliation and fraternity among all believers, indeed among believers and non-believers, and among all people of goodwill; this Declaration may be an appeal to every upright conscience that rejects deplorable violence and blind extremism; an

appeal to those who cherish the values of tolerance and fraternity that are promoted and encouraged by religions.”

Against this backdrop of shared determination to promote tolerance and fraternity, and to break down the barriers that too frequently result in religiously-based conflict, the Bussola Majlis contributors considered what factors would be important in bringing about lasting change, while also identifying the obstacles that stand in the path of change and how these might be overcome.


You can find more in the PDF version of this report.