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Catholic bishops and Muslim leaders unite to decry terror, extremism and weapons of mass destruction

Posted September 5

U.S. Catholic bishops and Shia Muslim leaders from Iran recently found common ground, taking a cohesive stand against terrorism, religious extremism and weapons of mass destruction.

In a joint declaration issued on Aug. 18, bishops and Muslim signatories called for "peaceful co-existence," and said that Jews, Christians and Muslims are united in "belief in one God" and working for "the common good of humanity."

"Christianity and Islam share a commitment to love and respect for the life, dignity and welfare of all members of the human community," the statement read. "Both traditions reject transgressions and injustices as reprehensible, and oppose any actions that endanger the life, health, dignity or welfare of others."

The statement was signed by Rev. Oscar Cantú, Bishop of Las Cruces, His Eminence Theodore Cardinal McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington, Ayatollah Ali-Reza A'arafi, president of Al-Mustafa International University and Dr. Abdul-Majid Hakim-Elahi, director at the international affairs office of the Society of Qom Seminary Scholars.

Text of the declaration goes on to label terror acts and the development and use of weapons of mass destruction as "immoral," calling for a world without such weaponry.

"We call on all nations to reject acquiring such weapons and call on those who possess them to rid themselves of these indiscriminate weapons, including chemical, biological and nuclear weapons," the statement read.

On the national defense front, though, the bishops and Muslim leaders affirmed the rights of self-defense, saying that "proportionate and discriminate force" can be used to make sure that people are protected.

Extremism was also decried in the joint statement, with both parties calling on religious leaders to stem the tide of radicalism. The "spread of extremist ideologies," the document said, is many times rooted in "superficial and erroneous readings of religious texts."

"Violent extremism and terrorism are global challenges. They are perversions of authentic religious belief," the statement continues. "The guilt of terrorist acts should not be assigned to members of an entire religion, nationality, culture, race or ethnic group."

The statement concluded with a proclamation that the parties will continue interreligious dialogue. You can read it here.

It was released to the public after Catholic and Muslim leaders met in Rome from June 5-10; they also held a previous meeting in Qom, Iran, in March 2014, Catholic News Agency reported.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recapped the June meeting in a statement, saying that it "sought to build a sustainable channel of effective communication between American and Iranian religious leaders to foster greater mutual understanding and constructive engagement."

The dialogue between Catholic and Iranian religious leaders is notable, specifically considering the increased number of international terror attacks that have sparked fears around the globe — themes that are dealt with throughout the declaration.

But rather than striking a divisive tone, the statement seeks to focus on commonalities between Islam and Christianity.

Bishop Cantú said in an Aug. 24 statement that the joint declaration was a "sincere dialogue between two religions that are united in their concern for the life and dignity of the human person."

He continued, "Together, we commit ourselves to continued dialogue on the most pressing issues facing the human family, such as poverty, injustice, intolerance, terrorism and war."

Email: bhallowell@deseretnews.com Twitter: billyhallowell Facebook: facebook.com/billyhallowell

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