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Muslim and Vatican officials united against terrorism

Vatican and Muslim representatives have agreed on the need to foster knowledge of religions, to make distinctions among sacred texts, and to condemn terrorism.

In a statement published after its meeting held in Cairo late last month, the Joint Committee of the Permanent Committee of Al-Azhar for Dialogue with the Monotheistic Religions, and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue stressed the role of religious dialogue in achieving peace.

The Joint Committee was established in May 1998 to promote dialogue between Christians and Muslims. The millennium-old Al-Azhar University in Cairo is the most prestigious center of studies and research of the Muslim world. John Paul II visited the university in February 2000.

The Catholic delegation included Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue. The Muslim representation included Sheik Fawzi Fadel Zafzaf, president of the Permanent Committee of Al-Azhar for Dialogue with the Monotheistic Religions.

The meeting, which focused on the question of "terrorism and the responsibility of religions to confront it," rejected "oppression and aggression against the human person, as also the violation of every person's legitimate right to life and the right to lead that life in security and in peace."

The participants declared: "The sacred texts in both religions must be understood in their proper context. Isolating passages from their context and using them to legitimize violence is contrary to the spirit of our religions."

"Care must be taken to distinguish between the sacred texts and teachings of our religions on the one hand, and the behaviour and actions of some of their followers on the other," the final statement explained.


Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue
Al-Azhar University

4 Mar 2003