FOLLOWING the Holy Father’s call to conduct inter-religious dialogue, a Christian-Muslim conference, sponsored by the Sant’Egidio community, was held in Rome on Oct. 3 to 4.

Representatives of both faiths condemned terrorist acts and called for efforts to eliminate terrorism. They also discussed the problems that may have given rise to terrorism.

Ezzedin Ibrahim, the Cultural Councilor of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), pointed to “an explosion of hatred, violence, and suffering” in the Middle East. Meanwhile, Cardinal Carlo Martini of Milan said that “excessive materialism, side by side with excessive poverty” may have caused injustice that prompted extremist groups from Third-world countries to launch such atrocities against the rich and powerful nations like the U.S.

Cardinal Etchegaray, the retired president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, argued that terrorism is not simply a matter of religious zealotry. “Religious extremism is a reaction against anti-religious extremism,” he suggested, adding that economic inequalities and nationalistic ambitions fanned the flames.

Other speakers in the meeting were Syrian Orthodox Metropolitan Mar Gregorios Iohanna Ibrahim of Aleppo; Yusuf Qaradawi, an Islamic scholar from Qatar; and Ahmed Kamal Aboulmagd of the University of Cairo.

Participants who attended the conference included the grand mufti of Egypt, a leading imam of the Muslim community in the United States, and Islamic scholars from Saudi Arabia, Iran, and the UAE. Orthodox and Lutheran leaders were also present.

During his weekly public audience at St. Peter’s Square, Vatican on Oct. 2, Pope John Paul II reminded the people that “religion must never be used as a pretext for a conflict.” He said that he has frequently encouraged a dialogue between Christians and Muslims even before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States. “Christians and Muslims, together with the believers of other religions, are called to repudiate violence firmly,” he added. Alder T. Almo

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