Open, constructive and respectful interreligious dialogue can play a positive role in combating negative religious stereotyping, hatred, incitement, violence and extremism, attendees heard at the annual meeting between the EPP Group and the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in the European Parliament in Brussels recently.
Ensuring a peaceful coexistence between cultures and religions in Europe
Achieving a common understanding between cultures and religions to ensure a peaceful coexistence of people in Europe is one of the primary goals of the EPP Group’s Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue, Group Chairman Manfred Weber highlighted. Weber thanked the 34 ambassadors of the OIC in attendance, European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides, and MEPs for their commitment to regular and open dialogue.
Such initiatives were described as “critical” by the Permanent Observer of the OIC to the EU, Ismat Jahan. Her Excellency expressed sadness at the rise of extremism globally, religious intolerance and racial discrimination. “It is almost impossible to turn on the news today without witnessing scenes of hatred, violence and intolerance often perpetrated in the name of religion or faith. Radicalised extremist forces such as Daesh (or ISIS) in their orchestrated terrorist attacks worldwide in the name of Islam are simultaneously debasing the faith and aggravating sectarian and religious tension locally and globally.
Open, constructive and respectful debate of ideas, as well as interfaith and intercultural dialogue can play a positive role in combating negative religious stereotyping, hatred, incitement, violence and extremism Ismat Jahan
“Ironically, these terror attacks also provide the populist, anti-immigrant, anti-refugee and purely xenophobic elements, in Europe and elsewhere, with an excuse to further their narrow agendas. This often gives rise to anti-Muslim and anti-Islam rhetoric and acts, and what is most regrettable - it finds space in national election campaigns,” Jahan said.
The OIC is not a religious organisation but a political body of 57 states which encourages religious and community leaders to promote peace and development and to address the root causes of intolerance and discrimination based on religion.
“Notably, the OIC at its highest level has consistently condemned attacks against non-Muslim minorities including terrorist attacks on shrines and churches, emphasising the right of minorities to citizenship and to practice their faith in peace, categorically rejecting any justifications for terrorism and violent extremism.”
“Open, constructive and respectful debate of ideas, as well as interfaith and intercultural dialogue can play a positive role in combating negative religious stereotyping, hatred, incitement, violence and extremism,” Ambassador Jahan added.
Facing humanitarian crises in Europe’s neighbouring regions
For the Co-Chairs of the Working Group on Intercultural and Interreligious Dialogue, MEPs Jan Olbrycht and György Hölvényi, Europe needs such dialogue more than ever to build mutual trust to protect the freedom of religion as Europe faces new challenges.
Indeed, the response to humanitarian crises in Europe’s neighbouring regions is one such challenge, which the European Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management, Christos Stylianides, later addressed, underlining that the European Union is the leading humanitarian aid donor worldwide.
We support people in need regardless of their ethnicity, religion, social class or sexual orientation. Our only guide is our four humanitarian principles: humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence Christos Stylianides
“We go where the needs are. We support people in need regardless of their ethnicity, religion, social class or sexual orientation. Our only guide is our four humanitarian principles: humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence,” he said.
The grave and tragic humanitarian crises ongoing in Yemen, Syria, Iraq and across the Horn of Africa were stressed by Commissioner Stylianides, who outlined the extensive support provided by the EU to each region.
Many ambassadors voiced their opinions in contributions during the open, frank and respectful exchange of views between EPP Group Members and the representatives of Islamic countries.