Written by Jim Winkler, President and General Secretary,
National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA
I was honored to attend a conference recently in Marrakech, Morocco on the rights of religious minorities in Muslim lands. My flight out of Washington was the last one to depart in the midst of a blizzard so when we took off after sitting on the tarmac for four hours, I knew God intended for me to be present!
The NCC has long been committed to Muslim-Christian dialogue. Thus, I was eager to participate and I encourage you to read the resulting Marrakesh Declaration. Those present affirmed “it is unconscionable to employ religion for the purpose of aggressing upon the rights of religious minorities in Muslim countries.” Much else is included in the Declaration.
Highly respected Muslim scholars, as well as governmental representatives were present. This conference took place after four years of careful planning and organizing. I pray this will be a step forward.
Clearly, the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, known variously as ISIS, ISIL, or Daesh, which has declared a worldwide caliphate and claims authority over all Muslims has created turmoil within and beyond the Muslim world. Indeed, King Mohammed VI in his message to the conference stated, “In normal circumstances, there would have been no need to address a theme such as the one chosen for this conference….Muslims have to show that certain events which are happening under the guise of Islam are driven or prompted by considerations which have nothing to do with religion.”
However, even in Morocco, a relatively tolerant and open society in which Islam is the state religion, the Supreme Council of Religious Scholars issued a decree as recently as three years ago that Muslims who leave Islam for another faith must be sentenced to death.
It occurs to me that extremists in all the world’s major religions are carrying out acts of violence and intolerance in the name of their faith. This is happening not only in Islam, but in Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Wherever and whenever possible, people of good will must come together in solidarity with one another.
That is why Jews, Christians, and Muslims have come together in the United States to create Shoulder to Shoulder, a national campaign of religious and interfaith organizations dedicated to ending anti-Muslim sentiment. This is more urgent than ever when we have presidential candidates calling for a ban on Muslim immigrants and for the registration of all Muslims in the U.S.
In Morocco, non-Muslim conference participants caucused and affirmed common values between our faiths such as kindness, honor, cooperation, reconciliation, and mercy. We confessed that our faiths and nations have at times been intolerant of Muslims, have not lived up to our own teachings, and have been complicit in war and violence. We challenged our Muslim sisters and brothers to grant full equality to non-Muslims and to do away with apostasy and blasphemy laws, and we committed ourselves to educating our own believers about Islam and to working with Muslims to build a culture of peace.
President and General Secretary