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Muslim, Christian clerics call for peace and coexistence during Al-Azhar international gathering

Ahram Online , Thursday 27 Apr 2017
Bishop Paul of the Egyptian Orthodox Church speaking at Al-Azhar International Conference for Peace,
Bishop Paul of the Egyptian Orthodox Church speaking at Al-Azhar International Conference for Peace, 27 April 2017 (Photo: Al-Azhar official website)
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Senior local and international clerics underlined on Thursday the role of religious authorities in combating violence and terrorism and promoting coexistence during an international gathering in Cairo hosted by Egypt's Al-Azhar.

The two-day Al-Azhar International Peace Conference opened on Thursday with around 300 Muslim and Christian clerics and scholars and political figures from around the world.

Roman Catholic Pope Francis is expected to attend the conference on Friday and deliver a speech at the closing ceremony after a meeting with Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb.

The first session of the conference addressed obstacles to achieving world peace and challenges faced by religious authorities, state news agency MENA reported.

Speakers on the first day called on followers of different faiths to work together to denounce extremism and promote peace.

El-Tayeb reaffirmed that the notion that war in Islam is "defensive, not offensive," and that fighting in Islam should be a response to "aggression rather than infidelity."

"Black terrorism… is not justified by Islamic law or the Quran, but stems from greatly unjust policies of domination, hegemony and double standards," the senior sheikh was quoted by MENA as saying.

Olav Fykse, general secretary of the World Council of Churches, who is attending the gathering, emphasised the importance of the principle of citizenship to protect people's rights regardless of their religion

"Violence cannot be practised in the name of religion and the circumstances we are experiencing emphasise the importance of love between everyone," Fykse said.

In February, Al-Azhar convened a similar inter-faith conference in Cairo that brought together Muslim scholars and Christian leaders from 50 countries.

Pope Francis will head to Egypt on Friday to boost ties with Muslims and show solidarity with the country's Christian minority.

His visit comes after the two deadly suicide bombings that targeted Egyptian churches earlier this month.

During his two-day trip, the pope will meet President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi as well as Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II and the head of the Coptic Orthodox Church.

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