The path of love leads to justice and peace

by Matias Ikkala last modified 26 August 2016 10:51 AM
The path of love leads to justice and peace

Participants of the interfaith youth seminar. Photo: Emelie Hjerth

25 August 2016

A group of young Christians and Muslims met at Cairo on the 18th-22nd of August for the seminar “Youth Engagement, Religion and Violence”. The meeting organized by the World Council of Churches and the al-Azhar University comprised of lectures, working groups, and various official meetings.

As for the Christian part, our group consisted of young Christians of both genders from Sweden, Finland, Germany, Hungary, and Bangladesh, as well as representatives from the five main church communities in Egypt. The Muslim participants, equally balanced, were all students of the al-Azhar University and came from Egypt and other African countries.

As a part of the Christian delegation, I can say that we were all very impressed by the spirit of friendliness and fraternity that the al-Azhar met us with. It was thanks to this welcoming atmosphere that we could reach a safe space in which to encounter each other in all openness and honesty.

During our visit, the forum was met by the Grand Imam of al-Azhar, H.E. Prof. Dr. Ahmed el-Tayeb, and Pope Tawadros II of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. Both religious leaders emphasized that no religion declares violence and encouraged the youth of the world to embrace their role as ambassadors for justice and peace.

In our conversations with each other during the lectures and in our free time, we were able to get to know each other better and understand that both Christianity and Islam declare peace among all people as their core message. During our workshops we were able to discuss our thoughts and ideas in more detail, and in the end we gave our recommendations for the continuation of the international interfaith forum. The recommendations are still being edited and will be released soon by the World Council of Churches.

Justice and peace in encountering the other

Globalization and cultural variety has become the new reality of the whole world. This has led to some tensions between groups of people, as we have lately witnessed in Europe. In Finland too, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland has recognized the need for more contact between people of different faiths and cultures. This need has greatly impacted the form of the new strategic guidelines of my church for the years 2016-2020.

The new strategic guidelines for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland are called “Church of Encounter”. The guidelines highlights the role of the individual in cultural and interfaith encounter. Every person is the primary point of contact for encounter with the other. Intercultural and interfaith encounter is carried out by each and every individual on a daily basis, which means every encounter should be faced with great seriousness.

I feel this is also the message H.E. Prof Dr. Ahmed el-Tayeb conveyed to us. We young people have to build the world of the future. In every encounter we make, we have the decision to either take the path of love which leads to justice and peace, or take the path of prejudice, which leads to hatred and tension. Thus in everyday encounters we have the possibility to become ambassadors for justice and peace.

Disclaimer

The impressions, hopes and ideas expressed in this blog are the contributions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or policies of the World Council of Churches.

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