More than 500 non secular and political leaders, academics and civil society activists from over eighty nations gathered in Abu Dhabi closing week to launch a hard and fast of ideas that champion the shared values of different religions and promote joint motion for the global commonplace correct and towards extremism.
It is brilliant that this occurred in the Gulf, and not in Europe or the United States. The UAE has lengthy prided itself on its merchandising of tolerance — naming this past 12 months the Year of Tolerance — however the occasion was attended via non secular leaders from throughout the vicinity, which include Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdul Karim Al-Issa, Secretary General of the Muslim World League in Saudi Arabia.
The Charter of the New Alliance of Virtues is without most of the standard platitudes that can shape interfaith charters, and is primarily based on an idea that would be embraced with the aid of all with out being seen as owned through anyone religion. This is because whilst the original Alliance of Virtues upon which this mission become based totally is thought of through the Islamic subculture, it predates Islam.
The story goes that following the period of war round Makkah known in Islam because the Sacrilegious War, a Yemeni trader introduced some items to the metropolis, and bought them to a Makkah nobleman, who refused to pay what changed into owed. The trader climbed Mount Safar, the area for public appeals on the time, and denounced his fraudulent customer and all those from Makkah who allowed one in every of their own to behave unjustly.
Other noblemen were appalled by means of the remedy meted out to this guest, in violation of the rules of hospitality let alone the policies of change, and so convened an Alliance of Virtues that committed to shield the values deemed commonplace among them, along with the defense of the vulnerable in opposition to the effective.
We recognise approximately this due to the fact Muhammad, earlier than his prophethood, changed into there, and spoke about it later. And although it came about in pre-Islamic Makkah, he said that such became the value of this alliance that if he were asked to join after the coming of Islam he would have executed so.
And regardless of this endorsement from the Prophet of Islam, the alliance may be regarded with equal approbation with the aid of different faiths too. The Alliance of Virtues become now not fashioned by means of Christians or Jews, however through people whose aim become clearly to do accurate work. This means that even though this new Alliance of Virtues is designed with the Abrahamic faiths mainly in thoughts, it is open to any who percentage the values it espouses.
But in the idea of shared values among the faiths lies the question. The interfaith world has long been ruled by using a philosophy that seeks to downplay differences and focus on commonalities. There are lots of commonalities to choose from, specially within the Abrahamic faiths; for instance, the perception in one God who created the universe and all that’s in it, and is immediately involved with the actions of humanity. But there also are profound differences, so as to no longer be overcome with the aid of ignoring them.
Moreover, the classical interfaith version is dominated, particularly the various Christian and Jewish contributors, by means of spiritual liberals, every now and then running well outside the orthodox parameters of their faiths. This domination results in fears among many conservative believers of syncretism that the purpose of interfaith work is to deny that differences among religions are sizeable, and to push the belief that all paths to God are similarly legitimate.
The hassle is that the social hostility and mutual suspicions between religions, at each a local and the global stage, are regularly dominated by the conservatives. Gatherings ruled via liberals will fail to make considerable motion closer to overcoming these hostilities — they’re preaching to the transformed.
Herein lies the satisfaction of the new Charter. Not only are its values surely shared, at the least in orthodox theologies of the Abrahamic faiths (values consisting of human dignity, freedom of judgment of right and wrong, justice, mercy and peace), but it’s far sponsored by way of a number of US evangelicals, who most of the Christian agencies are most vocally opposed to Islam. They also are inside the Christian subculture centered on the fact of the bible and the vital to proselytize. They aren’t even close to syncretism among religions.
The purpose is to attract on those shared values not to area in the direction of some specious “ever nearer union,” however for shared action. Between them, the Abrahamic faiths account for extra than half of the worldwide populace; if those concepts are acted upon, it can have a effective and huge ranging impact.
But here lies the undertaking. Writing the Charter is only the beginning. Unlike many files, it’s been written, targeted at and signed through people instead of institutions or governments. Modeled upon the preceding Alliance, it’s far an alliance of human beings of goodwill. But as with all Charter, its best price will come if it is acted upon. It have to grow to be realistic truth. This may be the task for its signatories over the coming years.
Peter Welby is a consultant on faith and international affairs, specializing within the Arab global. Previously he became the managing editor of a assume tank on non secular extremism, the Center on Religion and Geopolitics, and worked in public affairs in the Arabian Gulf. He is based in London, and has lived in Egypt and Yemen. Twitter: @pdcwelby
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