Religious freedom must be protected, says Catholic-Muslim dialogue

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Christians and Muslims believe that freedom of conscience and religion are the most important human rights and, “therefore, our collective duty demands that we respect, preserve and promote such rights,” said members of the Catholic-Muslim Forum.

The forum was established in 2008 by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and an international group of Muslim scholars who had signed “A Common Word,” an open letter to then-Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders urging a dialogue based on values the two faiths hold in common.

The fourth meeting of the forum was held Nov. 6-8 in Berkeley, California. The Vatican released the conclusions of the meeting Nov. 10.

Christianity and Islam both teach that “God bestowed on every human being inalienable dignity from which fundamental human rights are derived, as well as the obligation of governments to protect them,” the participants said.

“We assert the equal dignity and value of all persons irrespective of their race, gender, religion or social status,” they said, “and we categorically condemn any attempts to stereotype any people or attribute collective guilt to them for the actions of individuals among them.”

Of those rights, they said, “freedom of conscience and of religion resides at the peak,” and so all believers have an obligation to uphold them.

Participants also said their religions have “moral, intellectual and spiritual resources” that can help individuals and communities develop and grow in a way that respects all people and protects the environment.

“We believe that insecurity, conflicts and the proliferation of armaments constitute grave obstacles to the realization of God’s will for humanity, its well-being and growth in peace and security,” they said. “This is why we consider it our moral obligation to denounce wars and the arms trade that facilitates them, and instead use humanity’s resources for our personal and collective flourishing.”

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