For the past four years, the Muslim Council of Elders along with Al-Azhar Al-Sharif have initiated rounds of dialogue between the Muslim East and the Christian West under the leadership of His Eminence Dr Ahmed El-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar and Chairman of the Muslim Council of Elders. A total of 50 young Christians and Muslims from various nationalities took part in a 10 day initiative titled, ‘Emerging Peacemakers Forum’ under the patronage of Al-Azhar Al-Sharif, the Muslim Council of Elders and the Church of England.
The beauty of the abovementioned forum is that it will help religious leaders understand the reality of life for young people and their ability to influence their communities to achieve global peace, coexistence and acceptance of others. Dialogue must be conducted and accessed by everyone within society, with full yet respectful honesty being shown to achieve the desired results. The forum consisted of various lectures and workshops which were firstly held at Churchill College in the English city of Cambridge which created safe spaces for dialogue which no doubt helped instill the values of tolerance, awareness and forgiveness. Participants were also introduced to the concept of ‘restorative justice’ and taught negotiation tactics to help resolve conflicts and differences.
Religious institutions have an important role in adopting and supporting similar initiatives which can employ the youth as a useful tool to spread coexistence and harmony between East and West. There are many similarities between the Holy Quran and the new and old testaments regarding the management of disputes and conflicts. They all agree on their calls for peace, tolerance and respect for humanity and the renouncing of violence and conflict. As His Eminence the Grand Imam likes to say, “Avoid discussing religions, and respect the nature of each other’s faiths. Try to focus on common values and the humane principles of religions.”
I conclude by saying that Prophet Muhammed, Peace and Blessings upon him once stood at a Jewish man’s funeral in honour of his humanity while also making himself a strong opponent to whoever harmed non-Muslims. Islam’s humane teachings have taught us that it is not permissible to harm anyone for the sole reason of disagreeing with their beliefs. In fact, the Prophet Peace and Blessings upon him said, “Whoever kills a peaceful non-Muslim shall not smell the fragrance of Paradise, though its fragrance can be smelt at a distance of forty years of traveling.”
This is further proof that Islam and its principles is open to all other religions and cultures and seeks to embrace others. It also seeks global peace and security and the preservation of the human rights of all, as well as achieving anything which seeks to serve mankind positively.