U.S. bishops, Iran religious leaders issue joint declaration

| Mark Pattison | August 25, 2016 | 3 Comments

U.S. Catholic leaders and some of Iran’s top religious figures issued a joint declaration that calls for the end of weapons of mass destruction and of terrorism — and the assigning of blame for terrorist acts to an entire religion.

“Christianity and Islam share a commitment to love and respect for the life, dignity and welfare of all members of the human community,” said the declaration, dated Aug. 18 and made public Aug. 24. “Both traditions reject transgressions and injustices as reprehensible, and oppose any actions that endanger the life, health, dignity or welfare of others. We hold a common commitment to peaceful coexistence and mutual respect.”

The declaration, which is under 500 words, said: “We regard the development and use of weapons of mass destruction and acts of terrorism as immoral. Together we are working for a world without weapons of mass destruction. We call on all nations to reject acquiring such weapons and call on those who possess them to rid themselves of these indiscriminate weapons, including chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.”

Last year, Iran signed a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with the United States and the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, including Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom, along with Germany and the European Union. In it, Iran agreed to restrictions on its nuclear development program lasting a decade or longer in exchange for the easing of economic sanctions imposed on the country by the Security Council since 2006.

The United States has had such sanctions on Iran since late 1979, the start of a hostage siege at the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran’s capital, which lasted 444 days.

“We oppose all acts of terrorism, especially those that directly target innocent civilians, whether the perpetrator is a state, a nonstate group, or an individual. We also reject indiscriminate sanctions and other policies that impose harm on innocent civilians, especially the most vulnerable,” the declaration said.

“We remain gravely concerned by the spread of extremist ideologies, often fueled by superficial and erroneous readings of religious texts, that negate the inherent worth and dignity of every person, regardless of religious belief,” it continued. “We call upon religious and community leaders to confront the spread of such ideologies that induce sectarianism and violence.”

The declaration called terrorism and violent extremism “perversions of authentic religious belief.”

“The guilt of terrorist acts should not be assigned to members of an entire religion, nationality, culture, race or ethnic group,” the religious leaders said. They said “firm determination and cooperation” is required to counter such violent extremism and “address its root causes.”

“The human family must collectively and genuinely confront poverty, unemployment, the worship of money, ignorance, discrimination, armed occupation, military aggression, injustice and the cultures of intolerance, supremacy and impunity,” they said.

The religious leaders said they support “the legitimate right of self-defense and affirm a nation’s right to use proportionate and discriminate force to protect its people against transgression and to restore their rights.”

But they condemn “the forced expulsion of people from their homelands and affirm their right to return as well as the international community’s responsibility to facilitate a restoration of their rights.”

They added, “Peaceful coexistence is built on equity and justice. We call upon all to work toward developing a culture of encounter, tolerance, dialogue, and peace that respects the religious traditions of others.

The religious leaders committed themselves “to sustained, active interreligious dialogue that transcends governments and national boundaries, serves the common good of the whole human family, and reflects our shared values.”

Signing the declaration were Bishop Oscar Cantu of Las Cruces, New Mexico, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, and Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick, retired archbishop of Washington, who is a committee member. Iran’s signatories were Ayatollah Ali-Reza A’arafi, senior member of the Supreme Council of the Society of Qom Seminary Scholars and president of Al-Mustafa International University, and Abdul-Majid Hakim-Elahi, director of the International Affairs Office of the Society of Qom Seminary Scholars.

Also taking part in the talks were Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, and Auxiliary Bishop Denis J. Madden of Baltimore. They and their Iranian counterparts engaged in what the declaration called a “moral and religious dialogue” June 5-10 in Rome. This followed similar talks in Qom, Iran, in 2014.

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  • David

    How clueless our bishops are. Islam respects the dignity and welfare of everyone? Tell that to all the muslim countries in the world- including Iran- where non-muslims are treated as second class citizens & denied basic civil and human rights! Iran in particular has some of the worst human rights and religious liberty violations. This stems directly from the Quran and Islamic theology, which states non-muslims, and woman, too, are inferior beings and do not possess the basic dignity that Muslim men do. Furthermore there is rampant discrimination against non-Muslims practicing their faith, and public worship or show of Christianity or Judaism is forbidden. And are we to believe that all these societies, everywhere in the world, and all throughout history- for this is nothing new- all have a mistaken interpretation of the Quran? Furthermore, do the bishops know that Islam permits lying about itself if it has the goal of advancing the acceptance/furthering of Islam?

    • Charles C.

      Dear David,

      Of course you are correct. The idea that Iran is now opposed to terrorism is laughable, I’m sure that the document will be ignored by all concerned after they have congratulated themselves on achieving peace and understanding.

      By the way, did you notice that the Americans, according to the document, were calling for the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state?

      “they condemn “the forced expulsion of people from their homelands and
      affirm their right to return as well as the international community’s responsibility to facilitate a restoration of their rights.”

      That’s the “Right of Return” which Muslim countries have been pushing for years.

      “[T]he political position or principle that Palestinian refugees, both first-generation refugees (c. 30,000 to 50,000 people as of 2012) and their descendants (c. 5 million people as of 2012), have a right to return, and a right to the property they themselves or their forebears left behind or were forced to leave in what is now Israel . . . as part of the 1948 Palestinian exodus, and due to the 1967 6-day War. This view holds that those who opt not to return or for whom return is not feasible, should receive compensation in lieu.”

      In 2016, there were approximately 6.4 million Jews living in Israel. It is believed that a full right of return would result in Israel becoming a Muslim country. Al-Awda, a Palestinian “Right of Return” site claims:

      “There are approximately 7.2 million Palestinain refugees, equivalent to about 70% of the entire Palestinian population which is estimated at 10.7 million worldwide.”

      Israel, not surprisingly, rejects the idea of turning Israel into a Muslim country, completely and without compromise.

      As an aside, there are now demands that Spain grant a “Right of Return” to Muslims whose ancestors were expelled from Spain during the Reconquista over 500 years ago.

      What were the representatives of the Catholic Church thinking?

  • christine

    It is just bizarre that these fools can sign onto a dangerous declaration like this. In fact they probably authored it then begged and cajoled, wined & dined the evil Iranian Imams to sign. They are inviting them into our churches, and the are reading verses from the Koran from our pulpits! Moral & religious dialogue my foot! Meanwhile they have failed horribly at their only job- to save the souls entrusted to them. They can’t even teach the basics of our faith, clarify church teachings against laws and practices threatening them, What a disgrace our church leaders are involved in. Look to St Francis of Assisi and St Anthony of Padua who wanted to evangelize the Muslims and almost lost their lives to do so. Some other Franciscans did in Morocco. They did not try to make nice with them and ‘dialogue’. These exchanges are little trojan horses for the muslims to infiltrate all the more before they decide one day or another to whack us. We need a Charles Martel, a Jan Sobieski, a Don Juan…..