Coptic Christians Are Neighbors

Imam Abdul Malik Mujahid, Chair, Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions

by Abdul Malik Mujahid
from the Huffington Post

I was horrified to read about the New Year's Day bombing that killed 21 worshipers at the Coptic Christian Saints Church in Alexandria, Egypt. I join Muslim scholars around the world who have roundly condemned this act that directly contravenes Islamic teachings.

"Muslims are not only obligated not to harm Christians, but to protect and defend them and their places of worship," said Imam Ahmed Al Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, in response to the attack.

Tense relations between people of different faiths are not limited to this horrific incident. Nor are they reserved to Egypt. Around the world, we are witnessing deadly extremism as well as intense conflict, whether the weapons are hateful words or bombs and guns.

Too often, religion is misused as an instrument for division and injustice. This betrays the very ideals and teachings that lie at the heart of each of the world's great traditions. Religious and spiritual traditions shape the lives of billions around the world in wise and wonderful ways. They offer a platform for community building, not only within individual faiths, but across faiths as well.

The Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions traces its roots to the first parliament that took place in Chicago almost 120 years ago. From the start, its aim has been to cultivate harmony among the world's religious and spiritual communities. As well, the Council aims to foster their engagement with the world and its guiding institutions to achieve a just, peaceful, and sustainable world.

Over the years, the interfaith movement has initiated dialogues and nurtured relationships between people of varying faiths. In doing so, it has provided a framework for expressing many visions of a just, peaceful and sustainable future. In the process, religious and spiritual communities have discovered a shared commitment to ethical principles and engaged in seeking the common good.

This modern interfaith movement is taking root all across the world. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair has established his own interfaith foundation; Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has found interfaith dialogue a crucial aspect of living in an interdependent world; last August, when a few Christian homes were attacked in Pakistan, the leader of the most conservative Islamic party in Karachi stood with Christians and Hindus protesting against this crime; when the Coptic Church was attacked on January 1, Sheikh Ahmed El-Tayeb, head of Al Azhar, visited the Coptic Orthodox Pope Shenouda III to express his solidarity. Students at Al-Azhar University also organized a protest rally in solidarity with Egyptian Copts.

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