Egypt - Muslim and Christian leaders came together on Sunday in an attempt to show that battling terrorism is their common goal cutting across the religious and cultural divide.
Sitting side-by-side, preachers, officials and activists representing the two faiths argued at a Cairo conference a dialogue between religions and promoting coexistence were the only way out of the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.
"Justice and mutual respect between cultures are the main means to eradicate terrorism and wars," said Hamid Bin Ahmed Al Rifaei, head of the Saudi-based International Islamic Forum for Dialogue, the organiser of the two-day conference.
Many in the Islamic world see the US-led retaliatory strikes in Afghanistan as a war on Islam and say their religion and the Islamic culture have been stigmatised as a result.
"No to violence. No to terrorism. No to cultural conflicts. Yes to just and comprehensive peace and yes to dialogue between cultures," said Riyad Jarjour, secretary- general of the Middle East Council of Churches.
Participants agreed that no religion should be held responsible for the mistakes of unwitting individuals. They called for correcting misconceptions about Islam, whether among Westerners or those Muslims who do not understand their religion well.
"There is no religion or nationality for terrorism," said Arab League Secretary-General Amr Musa. It is time "religions and countries worked together to fight international terrorism," Musa said in a prepared speech read by an aide.
William Vendley, secretary general of the US-based World Conference on Religion and Peace, said the military response was an "inadequate" tool to rid the world of terrorism.
A renowned Islamic scholar agreed.
"To fight terrorism, we have to define what terrorism is and to know what are the reasons behind terrorism, not to fight terrorism by similar terrorism," said Youssef Al Qaradawi, echoing similar calls by other participants.
The conference agreed that poverty, frustrations and oppression provide a fertile ground for more terrorism.
While condemning all forms of terrorism, many of the speakers called for a distinction between terrorism and the legitimate right of resistance to occupation, a reference to the Palestinian uprising against Israel.
The meeting condemned Israeli practices against the Palestinians, with some arguing that Israel's attacks amount to acts of terror.
The speakers included Egypt's highest Muslim authority, Grand Mufti Nasr Farid Wasel, Grand Sheikh of Al Azhar Mohammad Sayed Tantawi and Pope Shenouda III, the head of the Coptic Church, as well as a Vatican representative. - Agencies
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