World’s religious leaders urge co-operation to ‘fight against prejudice’

Imams, rabbis and bishops gather in Paris to usher in a new era of religious discussion

Rabbi Korsia speaks at the Paris Conference for Peace and Solidarity alongside Christian and Muslim leaders. Fondation de l'Islam de France/Twitter
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Interfaith dialogue can "fight against prejudice" and pave the way for mutual trust and understanding between people, religious leaders said at a major gathering in Paris.

Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders from across the world came together at the Paris International Conference for Peace and Solidarity to discuss what they could do to tackle conflict and differences in Europe and the Middle East.

"Religion is a vital factor in the peace process ... hence the importance of religious dialogue," said Emmanuel Adamakis, president of the Assembly of Orthodox Bishops of France.

Grand Mufti of Lebanon Sheikh Abdul Latif Derian said dialogue between religious groups should be based on friendship. He gave as an example "the Charter of Makkah, signed by Muslim ulama belonging to several countries of the world, but also with the Pope and the Great Imam of Al Azhar".

"The Holy Quran calls us to accept the other in all its differences"

“Dialogue and openness are fundamental. Solidarity can only be built through this dialogue, and if this is not done, we will not be able to achieve peace,” he said.

He urged all leaders to unite and said it was in the name of Islam that Muslim leaders should work with other communities.

“The Holy Quran calls us to accept the other in all its differences,” he said.

The topic of migration and Muslim integration in the West is often abused by far-right groups, but the Islamic leaders said Muslims belonged to Europe.

"We affirm that all Muslims in Europe must accept the culture and laws of the countries they live in. They should not accept foreign fatwas," said Mohammed Al Issa, secretary general of the World Islamic League.

He said that any Muslim who rejected the laws and constitution of an adopted country, wherever they may be, "does not represent Islam, but only himself and his fanaticism".

Mr Al Issa called on ethnic and religious minorities in France to “increase their contribution to strengthening the French family and national integration. Their country, France, deserves this.”

On Wednesday, Mr Al Issa met Pope Francis at the Vatican to discuss global harmony and co-operation between religions.

Ghaleb Bencheikh, president of the Foundation of Islam in France, told reporters that the Paris International Conference for Peace and Solidarity marked the “beginning of a new era”.

France has recently experienced a rise in Islamophobic and anti-Semitic hate crimes.

Rabbi Haim Korsia told the Paris gathering that France without a Jewish community could not be called France at all.

Recalling a verse from the Torah, Rabbi Korsia said: “My home will be a home of prayer for all peoples.”