Rising Against Confused Dogmas!

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Ziad El-Sayegh
MECC Policies and Communication Advisor

 “History shows that religious extremism, national extremism and also intolerance have produced in the world, be it in the East or West, what might be referred to as signs of a “third world war being fought piecemeal”[1]. This text is rich with geopolitical meanings comprising warnings against the continued disfiguration and misuse of religion for destructive political purposes; whilst religions calls fundamentally for brotherhood, peace and politics in the interest of public good including the sound management of the public life.

The historic meeting between Pope Francis and the Imam of al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmad al-Tayeb in Abu Dhabi calls for a deep understanding of the UAE remarkable initiative on one hand and the courage of both the Pope and the Imam at a time where populism is wreaking havoc. Both the initiative and the courage reflect values that rise against confused dogmatisms. However, this historic meeting and the comprehensive outcome document necessitate a practical follow-up reflecting the historic theology and jurisprudence where the merits of unity stem from plurality; the unity of humanity before God, irrespective of the expressional divergences or faith-based facts.

The reference to liturgy and jurisprudence from a historic perspective is a must amidst the race between moderation and the rise of extremism. The bloody crime committed in New Zealand and Sri Lanka proves the deadly alliance amidst extremists from both religions. A peaceful approach to the practicalities of this objective alliance setting aside any religious imbrication is needed; religion being used as an aggravating factor in conflicts. Here, the cultural, economic, social and political factors supersede religion. The dilemma lies in the positioning of the religious factor amidst an ideological system demonizing the other based on the aforementioned factors. Henceforth, one must look into how this event has moved to the west and how the choices of some have changed in the repression of migrant refugees, how it has moved from the square of national fusion to a crisis in the management of plurality. It is not true that confrontation hereby sums up the Islamo-Christian encounter. For the sake of simplifying the approach one might be predisposed to summarize it. Pope Francis and Al Azhar Imam have met; and if only Sayyed Sistani, the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Orthodox Church and the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Middle East Council of Churches (MECC) would meet, raised by their moral values, they would build a deontology-based structuring course in public policies to supplement politics, education, economy, and ecologies setting aside any secular foundations. Secular foundations become more intelligible every day. However, practicalities are still deficient and moral agreement is still missing, hence, our point.

Pure Religious Awareness

In any ways, the document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together declares that religion must not be used to incite violence. It has affirmed the “importance of awakening religious awareness and the need to revive this awareness in the hearts of new generations through sound education and an adherence to moral values and upright religious teachings. In this way we can confront tendencies that are individualistic, selfish, conflicting, and also address radicalism and blind extremism in all its forms and expressions”. This religious awareness is noteworthy in this part of the document as it discusses religious awakening though it is at the same time controversial. This controversy revolves around the fact that this awareness is expressed, so far, by means of a “violent awareness” and a “seclusive awareness”. Was this not what we had witnessed in the Middle East and the Arab World in the past ten years? Is this not what we have encountered in the West in the past two years especially with voices rising and saying that western societies are facing a tremendous identity change?

Ecumenical Success

Some might think that with the rising star of the Christian, Muslim and Jewish extremist right, the latter daring proclaim the Judaity of Israel, hence denying the right of the Palestinian refugees to return or the right to those living inside Israel to a peer to peer citizenship, this problematic must have emanated from the misuse of religion for racist reasons. However, one must be concerned with the fact that the failure of the religious educational system in proving that it is free of extremism, assumes a search in restructuring the system around the religious social responsibility more than just generalizing purely dogmatic concepts. That was the main intention of the document: the use of social justice as a corner stone to a regulatory system where pluralism meets the good governance of joint resources in avoidance of any disaster arising from injustice, wars, occupation, migration, refugees to name a few among the most frightening characteristics of today’s world.

The document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together marks the beginning of a serious rise against religious demagogy and is the corner stone for a return to the origins. The challenge lies today in having the religious, Christian and Muslim references translate it into public policies where many fault lines are surfacing. The document reflects the success of the ecumenical choice in living together.

[1] Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together