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Publié le Juin 17, 2007 - 11:23 PM
Religions et conflits

Nouvelles du Secrétaire Général de la Conférence mondiale des Religions pour la Paix

Iraq at a Crossroad

The heinous attack on one of Iraq’s most revered Shiite shrines has been met with almost universal condemnation, and Religions for Peace joins in that condemnation. Clearly the attack on the al-Askari mosque in Samarra was designed to further exacerbate sectarian fear and stoke a cycle of violence among Iraqi religious communities. In this most deplorable situation, it is heartening that many Iraqi religious leaders—Shiite and Sunni Muslims and Christians—have called with a single voice for restraint and rejected the path of retaliation. In some parts of Iraq, religious leaders marched together to demonstrate their solidarity against the bombing and appeal to an end to sectarian violence.

Two days prior to the attacks, senior Iraqi religious leaders offered another urgently needed signal of Iraqi multi-religious cooperation. Religions for Peace, with two partner organizations, convened fourteen senior Iraqi religious leaders at the United Nations to focus on an “Iraq for all Iraqis.” These religious leaders forged plans to advance multi-religious cooperation in Iraq and to advance cooperation with religious communities beyond Iraq. The Alhakim Foundation and the Center for Dialogues: Islamic World—US—the West were equal partners with Religions for Peace in this event.

The meeting at the United Nations follows upon a series of Religions for Peace Iraqi multi-religious gatherings dating back to an historic meeting in Amman, Jordan, in May 2003, just a month after the occupation of Baghdad. At that meeting, Iraqi religious leaders were supported by the international Co-Presidents of Religions for Peace coming from all continents of the world. Since then, Religions for Peace has convened Iraqi religious leaders in Iraq, United Kingdom, Japan, Jordan, South Korea, and Norway over the past four years and partnered with them in humanitarian projects focusing on war-injured children.

The Iraqi religious leaders were united in their recognition that they need a mechanism that can facilitate cooperation among all religious sects and provide a unified response to extremist religious ideologies that support indiscriminate violence against persons and the destruction of religious sites. They also recognized the need for international multi-religious cooperation. This echoed an earlier mandate given to Religions for Peace to help Iraqi religious leaders build an Iraqi-led Religions for Peace council in Iraq.

The Iraqi religious leaders were frank in their views that Iraq stands at a crossroads. Sectarian violence—aided and abetted by religious extremists from both within and beyond Iraq—threatens to rend the fabric of the country. Iraq’s brilliant legacy of religious tolerance must provide a base for a new social compact. This compact must respect and protects diverse group, provide shared values to negotiate differences and forge a national identity based on shared interests. To achieve this new “Iraq for all Iraqis” will require irreplaceable leadership from Iraq’s religious communities. They are ready to lead, but they urgently need our support. They need the support of religious leaders in their own region—spanning important states as diverse are Saudi Arabia and Iran. They also need the support of religious communities from around the world.

Multi-religious cooperation in Iraq can spell success in Iraq, in the region and the world at large. We are all at a crossroads.

In peace,
Dr. William F. Vendley
Secretary General
P.S. Please permit me to share with you the following article regarding the “Iraq for All Iraqis” conference held at the United Nations.

Iraqi Sunni and Shiite leaders meet to propose solutions to Iraq's sectarian violence

The Associated Press

Tuesday, June 12, 2007
UNITED NATIONS: As their country struggles with increasing sectarian violence, some Iraqi religious and political leaders met to reaffirm their commitment to building a tolerant, multiethnic nation, declaring that the ties that bind all Iraqis "will not be broken."
Sunni and Shiite leaders gathered at U.N. headquarters for a two-day conference that ends Tuesday to discuss ways to ease the sectarian tensions that have resulted in much of the violence in Iraq. Iraq's U.N. mission sponsored the event, entitled "Iraq for all Iraqis."
"We have gathered here in New York, religious leaders and scholars, to discuss the vital issues of reconciliation and re-establishing the fraternal ties that have historically bound the people of Iraq together, which, however strained they may become, are not broken and will not be broken," said Iraq's deputy U.N. ambassador, Feisal al-Istrabadi.
Many of the leaders, who are theologians and imams in Iraq, have participated in a series of similar dialogues since May 2003, when they began working with Religions for Peace, an international religious coalition, to create an inter-religious council. They have met in Iraq, England, Jordan, South Korea, Japan and Norway over the past four years.
Mustapha Tlili, director of New York University's Center for Dialogues, which co-sponsored the event, urged the leaders to reach a "new political consensus."
"The old consensus was conceived in and enforced by violence," he told the group.
The new consensus, he said, must be based on "shared values, shared objectives, shared interests, shared identities, and framed by mutual respect, a spirit of reconciliation and a strong commitment to peace — a strong commitment to an 'Iraq for all Iraqis.'"
"In Iraq, we have a great heritage of cooperation, of coexistence," said Sheikh Khaild al-Mullah, head of the Sunni Islamic Scholars movement in the southern city of Basra.
Though Shiites and Kurds suffered injustices under Saddam, al-Mullah said most Iraqis were committed to a united, peaceful future.
"Despite all these deadly blows, the Iraqi structure was still united after the fall of the regime and the rebirth of a new Iraq," he said.
At a luncheon on religious tolerance on Monday, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Zalmay Khalilzad, also touched on the issue of combatting religious extremism, calling it the "central issue affecting the future of the world."
Khalilzad, who served as ambassador to Iraq for two years before taking up the U.N. post in April, said he thought the violence there "is less about clashes between communities than about extremists in each camp seeking to foster sectarian conflict as a tactic to achieve their own dominance."
"The failure of governments to deliver, either in terms of transparency or in terms of security, social and economic progress, lead to a kind of despair that fuels extremism," he added.
The leaders at the conference at U.N. headquarters seemed to agree that extremism was born out of a social and economic breakdown.
While the violence that wracks the country served as background to their remarks, they rarely mentioned security and focused instead on the need to strengthen civil institutions and invest in education, the arts and health care.
They proposed plans for national reconciliation that called for regional autonomy within a united Iraq and spelled out the need for aid, especially to the least developed areas of the country.
William Vendley, secretary-general of Religions for Peace, told the leaders that religion has a unique role to play in bringing peace to Iraq, and urged them to not allow extremists to wield it as a tool of war. "But, and this is said with respect, they are not enough. Religion, too, must play its own unique, and I would argue, irreplaceable role."
"Today we must all recognize that our religions — all of them — are being hijacked," Vendley said. "Cooperation among the religions is the way forward, to overcome the hijacking of religions. By coming together, by standing together, respecting our differences, we can be our true selves."

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