Working to promote freedom of conscience for every person, no matter who they are or where they live.

IRLA Experts Meeting Tackles Tough Questions in the Middle East

The 12th Meeting of the IRLA Committee of Experts:
“Teaching Respect for Religion”
Held in Amman, Jordan, on September 8, 2010

For the first time in its history, the International Religious Liberty Association (IRLA), chartered in 1893, held its Meeting of Experts in the Middle-East.  The meeting was held on September 8th in Amman, Jordan, and was conducted in partnership with the Arab Bridge Center for Human Rights and Development.  Both associations share a common goal of promoting human rights, interfaith relations and peace.
The theme of the 12th IRLA Meeting of Experts, “Teaching Respect of Religion,” provided opportunities to underline the general climate of peace and respect between religions in Jordan and the encouragement of the authorities to promote dialogue between religions. One of the documents discussed was the Amman Message of 2004, written upon the initiative of His Majesty King Abdullah II, with the goal of promoting interfaith religious understanding, tolerance, and respect.
The Amman meeting of experts is the first step in a larger partnership according to Attorney Amjad Shmmout, President of the Arab Bridge Center, and Dr. John Graz, Secretary General of the IRLA, the conveners of the meeting.
Participants in the meeting, representing Christian and Muslim traditions, addressed their commitment to shared values of mutual understanding, toleration, respect, and recognition of the rich diversity of our religious heritage.  This respect is based upon and reinforced by a number of shared foundations, including:

  1. A belief in the common heritage of all humanity, making us all brothers and sisters under the oversight of the Creator;
  2. A belief that the respective scriptures give as a duty the love and respect of our fellow-man; and
  3. An affirmation of the various international covenants and treaties on human rights and religious freedom that call for respect and tolerance of religious differences and protection of religious liberty.

The participants called for a toleration of religion that goes beyond a minimal non-interference with the religious views and activities of others, but includes a respect and appreciation for one another.  They noted that while Government and institutional statements supporting toleration and respect are important, a vital component of achieving true religious respect is education of both young people and society at large. As such, the participants believe that all societies should aim to educate their young people about the diversity of religious belief.  This education should occur in a way that is both practical and sensitive to the religious beliefs of those in the classroom.  It should emphasize respect for differing religious views and the importance of religious freedom.
The participants advocated the promotion of the above principles of religious toleration, respect, acceptance and education in their respective societies.  John Graz stated “we disapprove of acts of disrespect to religious symbols, rites, or scriptures of others. Whatever the legal status of such actions, they do not reflect the true spirit of authentic religion, which calls for tolerance and respect of others beliefs, and for a spirit of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. Further, we are dedicated to opposing religious violence and repression.”