Al-Azhar convenes International Peace Conference in Cairo

Jim Winkler, General Secretary and President of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, spoke today at a conference organized by the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Cairo. This conference comes less than three weeks after Christian churches in Cairo were victims of extremist violence on Palm Sunday.

His Holiness Pope Francis, His All-Holiness Bartholomew I, His Holiness Pope Tawadros II, and World Council of Churches general secretary Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit are also taking part in this conference.

Recalling the recent violence, Winker said, “We are deeply concerned about the use of violence in the name of any religion. God is not the author of hate and is not honored by such violence. We share the suffering of the churches in the Middle East. The recent Christian Palm Sunday bombings here in Egypt are a source of great pain for us. The Coptic Orthodox Church in the U.S. is part of the NCC and we weep with them as they grieve.”

This important dialogue comes at a time not only when Egyptian churches are reeling from violent attacks, but also as President Trump continues to push for a ban on Muslim immigrants and severe limits to the acceptance by the US of refugees, and as anti-Muslim sentiment rises in the US.

“Just as we seek to protect the full and equal rights of Muslims in the United States,” said Winkler to the Grand Imam, “we support your attempts to protect the full and equal rights of all people in Muslim-majority nations.”

The National Council of Churches was a founding member of Shoulder-to-Shoulder, a multi-faith effort to curb Islamophobia in the US. The NCC also hosts Christian-Muslim and Christian-Jewish dialogues and is building new dialogues with other faith groups as well. Interreligious peacemaking has been at the heart of the NCC’s work for decades. [The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ are also founding members.]

Winkler also remarked, “It is incumbent for the religious leaders of our three faiths to commit to one another and with one another to speak and work for peace with justice. I so pledge myself and the National Council of Churches to be a partner with you in this holy endeavor.”

The National Council of Churches is a coalition of 38 member communions ranging from mainline Protestant denominations to historic peace churches. Also included in the NCC are several Orthodox denominations, including the Coptic Orthodox Church, which has suffered from anti-Christian violence in Egypt. The NCC believes that dialogue, not war, is the best way to build peace and cooperation.

The full text of Jim Winkler’s speech in English and in Arabic can be found here.

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