WASHINGTON — Over 400 Muslim, Christian and Jewish leaders from all over the world affirmed on Wednesday a new declaration calling for the global protection of religious minorities and marginalized communities.
The “Washington Declaration” was unveiled after two days of collaboration among hundreds of interfaith leaders who gathered for the three-day “Alliance of Virtue” conference organized by the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies and its leader, Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, a Saudi Arabian Islamic Studies professor.
The Washington Declaration states, inter-alia,
“Recognizing that our shared values are more important than our differences, and that we are strongest when we act together, we pledge to combine our best efforts to foster unity where there is discord, aid the impoverished, tend the vulnerable, heal the poor in spirit, and support measures that will ensure respect for the dignity of every human being”
Along with calling for unity and the promotion of religious freedom, the declaration calls for four courses of action.
First, it calls for the establishment of an “Alliance of Virtue” to implement the Washington Declaration. Second, it calls for the provision of over 1 billion meals to feed impoverished and underserved communities throughout the world.
Additionally, the declaration calls for a multi-religious body consisting of prominent religious figures to “support mediation and reconciliation.” Finally, the declaration calls for the creation of an interfaith committee to adopt the recommendations laid out in the declaration that “reflects the fullness of diversity in our communities and across the world.”
“All people, regardless of faith, are entitled to religious liberty,” … … “There is no room for compulsion in religion, just as there are no legitimate grounds for excluding the followers of any religion from full and fair participation in society. This principle is prominent in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and is intimately associated with the United States, where the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom preceded even the adoption of the federal Constitution.”
Members of the Washington Declaration’s steering committee include former U.S. ambassador at-large for international religious freedom Rabbi David Saperstein, evangelical Texas Pastor Bob Roberts, Imam Mohamed Magid of the All Dulles Area Muslim Society in Virginia, former archbishop of Washington Cardinal Theodore McCarrick and Mohamed Elsanousi of the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers.
As tens of thousands of people of all faiths are persecuted every year, the Washington Declaration builds upon the Marrakesh Declaration of January 2016. The declaration was signed by over 350 faith-leaders and called specifically for the protection of religious minorities in Muslim-majority nations.
“We believe that religious leaders have a special responsibility to ensure that the tenets and teachings of our faiths are not distorted for wrongful purposes and that, on the contrary, they provide a living example of God’s love at work in the world,” the Washington Declaration explains. “In light of that responsibility, we reject the polarization that leads to conflict and war. We are determined to deepen our solidarity and thereby ensure that religion is a force for reconciliation and harmony. We pledge to work across confessional divides in support of values that are central to each of our faith traditions, including peace, mercy, forgiveness, compassion, justice, and truth.
Religions for Peace leaders, including among others H.E. Shaykh Abdullah Bin Bayyah, H.E. Dr. Mohammed Al-Sammak. Sister Agatha O. Chikelue, H.E. Metropolitan Emmanuel, Dr. Deborah Fikes, Dr. Jakob Finci, Dr. Francis Kuria, Rabbi Sir David Rosen, Bhai Sahib Mohinder Singh, OBE, KSG, Bishop Gunnar Stalsett, Serigne Mansour Sy, Mr. Elias Szczytnicki, Dr. Sayyid Syeed, Dr. William F. Vendley, and Shaykh Hamza Yusuf joined an alliance of virtue this week, lifting up the good work of the #peaceforum and affirming the #washingtondeclaration which calls all believers and people of good will to collaborate for the common good.