(Vatican Radio) Jordan’s Prince El Hassan bin Talal has praised progress in interfaith dialogue following last week’s Third Catholic-Muslim Summit. The Summit, organized by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, took place in Rome from 2-4 December.
Prince El Hassan was among dozens of Sunni, Shia, Christian and other faith leaders taking part in the Summit to reflect on the theme, “Christians and Muslims: Believers Living in Society.”
Tracey McClure spoke to Prince El Hassan following the summit. She asked him what made the gathering different from preceding meetings.
Listen to the interview:
His Royal Highness said firstly, the Summit led to a “call to action, the focus on assisting our youth to developing a sense of well-being which essentially means working with and networking experiential programs” in schools and universities, among other things.
Secondly, he noted, “there is a commitment now to contacting the international community, to contacting UNESCO, to building a new perception of the other through re-visiting - warts and all - the shortcomings, the strengths and failures of the ‘other’. This is no longer a summit which addresses challenges, divergence and convergence – we have arrived at a template of achievement that has allowed us to develop a high level Christian-Muslim program of exchange of visits to dangerous zones for example. To witness the effect of violence and to show our solidarity on the ground, to get out of the ivory tower, to promote cooperation in the humanitarian field and this is essential now, particularly as we are attempting to address poverty, illness and lack of access to basic needs,” he said.
During the Summit, a Shia representative from Iran proposed the reexamination of sacred texts in a historical context – something that Prince El Hassan described as “courageous.”
“There was a commitment in the conference to reexamining the text, heritage and history of the ‘other’ and I think that is the most morally courageous thing that you can do,” the Prince stated. “So that if you have a timeline, you can identify as Scott Atran, the author, has done in his spectacular book ‘Talking to the Other’ or Karen Armstrong in her spectacular book - [an] amazing study of ‘rivers of blood’ as she calls it. She goes back to the Assyrians and to the Babylonians and so forth and sees where violence has been prevalent in destroying cultures. So I think it is absolutely essential … that we analyze our actions: past, present and future.”
Religious leaders from many faiths working in the area of interfaith dialogue – including some attending the Rome summit - have received death threats for their efforts to promote understanding and better relations between religions.
Asked if he was concerned for his own safety, Prince El Hassan answered: “There’s nothing new in receiving death threats. I think that they’re a badge of honor in a sense. At least you’re getting through to the target audience. We only live once. We might as well be very clear that Christianophobia is also on the rise in the world. The 'hatred of Christians' as it’s being described at a meeting in Basel on the fourth of December. So basically, it’s not a hatred of Muslims and Christians, it’s a hatred of the faithful for – if you were well-intended – you could say, for not delivering on the promises: not creating a better world.”
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