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Catholic Voice
November 20, 2017   •   VOL. 55, NO. 20   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
Sponsoring refugee families,
second time around

Wilcox named chancellor for
Diocese of Oakland
In Berkeley, Catholic, Muslim leaders
seek common ground

Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, of Oakland meets with Tarek Elgawhary, an entrepreneur, teacher and philanthropist who was a member of the Muslim delegation, after the Catholic-Muslim Forum in Berkeley.

A nine-point declaration emerged from an international gathering of Catholic and Muslim leaders in Berkeley Nov. 6-8.

Finding common ground between the faith traditions, emphasizing human dignity, rights and protection of others, the fourth Catholic-Muslim Forum ended on an optimistic note.

"We assert the equal dignity and value of all persons irrespective of their race, gender, religion or social status, and we categorically condemn any attempts to stereotype any people or attribute collective guilt to them for the actions of individuals among them," was one of the nine points the participants made.

The Catholic-Muslim Forum was established in 2008 by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Signatories of the "Open Letter" (A Common Word) to Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian leaders. This gathering was hosted by Zaytuna College, the Muslim liberal arts college founded in 2009 in Berkeley.

This year's topic was "Integral Human Development: Growing in Dignity, Catholic and Muslim Perspectives." Participants included 12 delegates each from the Catholic and Muslim traditions. Additionally, there were six observers from each side. They came from as far away as Rome and Jordan; Argentina and Zambia.

Related story

Final Declaration of the Fourth Catholic-Muslim Forum
Papers were presented by scholars on both sides of the table on what it means to be human; integral human development; and obstacles and opportunities to integral human development.

The seminar was closed to the public except for the 40-minute opening session and an hour-long public session at which representatives from both groups briefed the audience on the proceedings, and the final declaration was read.

Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, offered greetings at the inaugural session. "You are all very welcome," Bishop Barber told the visitors to his diocese.

He told the gathering that last year, the Diocese of Oakland had hosted at the Cathedral of Christ the Light a gathering of representatives of Islam, Buddhism, Judaism and Christianity to declare that religion is not the source of hatred, but the source of peace, consolation and mercy. "

Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, had been expected to lead the Catholic delegation but was unable to travel. Bishop Miguel Ayuso, MCCJ, the council's secretary, read a letter from the cardinal, who referenced the recent wildfires, hurricanes and earthquakes. These events, he wrote, "illustrate to us we humans are not the master of the earth, but its stewards," called to make it "a suitable home for all its inhabitants."

After the declaration was read on Nov. 8, audience members asked participants, where do we go from here?

"It is a road map," Bishop Ayuso said of the declaration. "As human beings we are all called in our inner conscience to do our best." He tapped his chest. "Peace starts in our heart, in our families, in our connections, in our societies."

"Just coming together is extremely important," said Shayk Hamza Yusuf, head of the Muslim delegation and president of Zaytuna College. "We've made a commitment to work with our Catholic brothers and sisters, to look for ways to make these things more impactful."

As he left the gathering, Bishop Ayuso was asked what Pope Francis would think of the forum. "He loves dialogue," he said.

Final Declaration of the Fourth Catholic-Muslim Forum

After listening to the presentation of the Papers by Muslim and Catholic Scholars, the participants noted with satisfaction significant convergences between their respective traditions. Such convergences constitute a motive of hope not only for Christians and Muslims but for all, favoring a meaningful collaboration for the promotion of integral human development.

After sharing viewpoints, ideas and concerns, the participants agreed on the following:

1. Christianity and Islam both assert that God created humanity, placing it at the very summit of creation, for use with gratitude and wisdom with respect for the laws of nature as stewards for the earth and her resources gifted by Almighty God for all generations.

2. God bestowed on every human being inalienable dignity from which fundamental human rights are derived, as well as the obligation of governments to protect them.

3. We assert the equal dignity and value of all persons irrespective of their race, gender, religion or social status, and we categorically condemn any attempts to stereotype any people or attribute collective guilt to them for the actions of individuals among them.

4. Freedom of conscience and of religion resides at the peak of the edifice of human rights. Therefore, our collective duty demands that we respect, preserve and promote such rights.

5. God, our Creator, wills the integral growth of every human being for the full flourishing of God's gifts: body, soul, intellect and spirit.

6. Christianity and Islam have moral, intellectual and spiritual resources that can contribute to the integral human development of both individuals and communities. Persons of good will committed to the common good are the natural allies of believers desirous of the holistic development of persons, communities and all of humanity and the conservation of the environment that sustains us.

7. As believers, we are called to do all we can to address all that hinders the integral development of humanity, including any erroneous interpretations or understandings of our respective sacred texts and traditions.

8. We believe that insecurity, conflicts and the proliferation of armaments constitute grave obstacles to the realization of God's will for humanity, its wellbeing and growth in peace and security. This is why we consider it our moral obligation to denounce wars and the arms trade that facilitate them, and instead use humanity's resources for our personal and collective flourishing.

9. Together, as believers, we assert that those in need of development must be enabled to fulfil their destiny, allowing them to take their rightful place as full members of the human family according to God's will.

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