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Cairo Symposium Promotes Muslim-Christian Coexistence | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Pope Francis greets Sheikh Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb (R), Egyptian Imam of al-Azhar Mosque at the Vatican, May 23, 2016. © Osservatore Romano / Reuters

Cairo- Officials, experts and clerics partaking in the international meeting in Cairo, Egypt on Tuesday reaffirmed that excommunicating other religions contradicts the principals of forgiveness promoted by faith and international conventions. Extremism was conceded to be the greatest threat to coexistence.

The head Imam of Al-Azhar, Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayyeb, called on religious institutions in the East and West to act against Islamophobia, telling faith leaders at a Cairo conference that Islam “is not the reason for wars.”

“Exonerating religions from terrorism no longer suffices in the face of these barbaric challenges,” Tayyeb said.

Tayyeb called for dispelling “the lingering mistrust and tensions between religious leaders that are no longer justified, for if there is no peace between the proponents of religions first, the proponents cannot give it to the people.”

Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros II called for “fighting extremist thought with enlightened thought.”

“Egypt and the region have suffered from extremist thought resulting from a mistaken understanding of religion that has led to terrorism,” he said.

The “Freedom and Citizenship” conference is hosted by Al-Azhar, one of the leading Muslim authorities based in Cairo.

Arab League Secretary-General confirmed that the region is undergoing tragic events as a result of misinterpreting holy scripture and exploiting the misreading to justify bloodshed by extremist groups. Extremism has hindered social values of patriotism and coexistence, he added.

The activities of the two-day conference ‘Freedom and Citizenship’ kicked off on Tuesday and are sponsored by Al-Azhar, Council of Elders of Muslims, and under the auspices of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Representing delegations of over 50 countries are partaking in the event.

The conference, including Muslim muftis and Christian clergy such as Lebanese Maronite Patriarch Bechara al-Rahi, is to issue a closing statement today.

ISIS, which controls parts of Syria and Iraq, views Christians as enemies who should either be killed or subjugated.

In Egypt, the group’s affiliate called for war on the Coptic minority after bombing a church in December 2016, killing 29 people.

Tayyeb, who represents a more moderate and traditional form of Islam, argues that groups like ISIS have perverted the religion.