Factors for the Success of the Dialogue between the followers of Various Religions:
1) In the Religious Sphere
a) Avoiding discussions regarding religious beliefs and restricting them when they are necessary to well grounded scholars and specialists as it is more suitable to avoid sensitivities and areas where the chances of dispute and conflict are increased.
b) Not harming or violating places of worship. The Quran actually calls to this, mentioning the places of worship with their various names and stating that they are the places of the remembrance and glorification of Allah, like: ‘For had it not been that Allah checks one set of people by means of another, monasteries, churches, synagogues and mosques wherein Allah’s name is mentioned much would surely have been pulled down.’ [22:40]
Moreover, history is witness to the fact that all attempts to change the status of places of worship never resulted in any good, examples being the alteration of a large part of the mosque at Cordoba in Spain into a cathedral in the year 1238 CE and the conversion of the Church of Saint Sofia into a mosque at the hands of Muhammad ‘the Conqueror’ in Istanbul in the year 1453 CE.
What is even more painful is that this erroneous practice did not even spare the places of worship within the same religion due to the presence of differences within the followers of the religion, dividing them into various schools and sects.
c) A rejection of subjecting religion and its intellectual and leading figures to insult and mockery like what occurred due to the publication of crass cartoon caricatures and the writing of narrations and stories which are insulting for the prophets.
It is true that freedom of expression and opinion are important but with the condition that this expression be correct and objective, in a manner that is solemn, civilized and sober and that the medium of communication and propagation selected for it not be distasteful.
d) Welcoming the document of ‘Mutual Respect amongst Religions,’ which was proposed and issued by the Arab side of the Christian Muslim dialogue in Beirut in the year 2008.
Moreover, carefully studying this document and considering its endorsement and adoption.
2) Cross-Cultural Views With Regards to Shared Values
a) Emphasizing taking care of the family due to it being the fundamental building block of society by encouraging standard marriage practices and discouraging relationships that are either ephemeral or anomalous.
Also, protecting the family from break-ups, improving child rearing practices and promoting a culture of devotion and respect towards parents, maintaining family ties as well as taking care of the aged.
b) Condemning violence and terrorism in all its forms, degrees as well as its causes, including whatever is perpetrated by colonizing and occupying powers upon the lands of others as well as what is carried out by individuals.
Also, calling upon international organizations to support populations which have been aggressed against and who might be forced to resort to legitimate resistance due to persecution.
Finally, supporting peace by solving international disputes with justice and without prejudice and in this regard, there is an obligation to guide upon the followers of religion whose importance and effects must not be neglected.
c) Encouraging the scientific research that is essential for the improvement of life and the development of societies on the condition that this research does not lead to the development of that which may be damaging for humanity itself or be accompanied with dangers or may lead to transgressing upon human life or the perfection in the creation of the human being, like what occurs when unjustified abortions are carried out, due to human cloning or the tampering that occurs with genetic engineering.
3) With Regards to Mutual, Peaceful Coexistence
a) To call upon the followers of all religions, especially when they reside in the same lands to adhere to the obligations of citizenship in the sense that they all enjoy the same legal facilities that are associated with it along with the rights and civil obligations that it entails.
Also that they aspire to have a sentiment of national brotherhood with all segments of society. Moreover, in exercising true democracy, equality should be guaranteed in their rights as citizens and the obligations upon them, all the while respecting the specific religious features and the established customs of all societal segments.
b) Supporting social integration at the family level by encouraging participation at work, in jobs and in the affairs of life and livelihood, the avoidance of class discrimination and resolving differences by mutual understanding, dialogue and in a way that is the best for that situation,
c) Raising ourselves above trivialities, mutual occupation with the higher necessities of a noble life and developmental affairs.
Also, finding solutions to problems like epidemics, diseases, natural disasters, poverty, social injustice, administrative and monetary corruption, overcoming illiteracy, providing opportunities for obtaining an education to everyone, an interest in maintaining national stability and an avoidance of trying to change the system of government using force and finally doing away with all forms of divisions based on different classes and factions.
d) All that which has preceded are simply references and indicators and cannot be claimed to be comprehensive in what they refer to.
However, they do provide an opportunity for the continuation of study to achieve all the declared objectives from getting the follower of various religions to meet, to come closer to each other, to coexist with each other, to prefer reconciliation over being at odds and to resolve whatever they might face whether it is major or minor, political, legal or social or other than that through dialogue and understanding and not through discord.
Prof. Ezzedine Ibrahim
(Cultural affairs advisor in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Studied at Cairo and Ein Shams universities and got his PhD in Arts from the Uni- versity of London. He assumed a number of educational and cultural posts in several Arab countries. Worked as a professor of Arts in King Saud uni- versity in Riyadh and Professor of Quaran science in Oxford University and the University of Michigan–Ann Arbor in the US. Concerned with interfaith and civilizations dialogue. (United Arab Emirates))