CAIRO: Egypt’s Grand Mufti Ali Gomaa called for increased efforts to promote religious tolerance Monday at the launch of the C-1 World Dialogue Annual Report.
“We need profound change . to move religious discourse from aggressive and negative attitudes towards other religions, to the spirit of tolerance and co-existence, Gomaa said in response to data in report that showed increased hostility towards other religions in both the West and the Muslim world.
At the American University in Cairo event, he called upon religious leaders to fight intolerance in their sermons and personal contact.
C-1 World Dialogue, co-chaired by Gomaa and Anglican Bishop of London Richard Charters, will develop data on the way people and societies perceive different religions and religious leaders.
Turkish journalist Kai Diekmann and former Washington DC bureau chief for Al-Arabiya News Channel Abdallah Schleifer are board members on C-1.
“The C-1 World Dialogue is an important initiative and has unique potential, Gomaa said, adding that it takes a different approach by involving different sectors, including members of NGOs, business and religious leaders as well as the media.
“Action is clearly vital in order to bring about the improvement we seek, but it must be based on knowledge if it is to be effective and that is why the production of an annual dialogue report is an important and long term part of the work which the C-1 World Dialogue undertakes, Gomaa said.
According to the report, 52 percent of people in Spain have a negative perception of Muslims, as do 60 percent in Japan, 54 percent in India and 55 percent in China.
Surveys also showed a negative impression of Christians is held by 75 percent of the people in Turkey, 69 percent in Pakistan, 55 percent in China and 45 percent in Egypt.
The initiative’s aim is to use this data to develop strategies to correct misconceptions.
Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a member of the C-1 World Executive, said in a message addressed to Gomaa that “there are few more important tasks today than locating a proper place for religion in the affairs of the world, drawing on its wisdom to help solve the world’s problems, and increasing understanding both of and between the different faiths. We are all close neighbors now, which makes the task all the more urgent, according to a press statement.
In response to a question raised by Daily News Egypt, Turkish journalist Diekmann said that the initiative is not a mere notion, but will take a pragmatic approach, such as showing how people of different faiths live and interact in their daily lives, to tackle misperceptions across the board.
“Establishing and maintaining peace is one of the most urgent issues of our time, Bishop Charters said in a statement, “but for it to be possible it requires that we better understand the issues that threaten peace, how people are responding to them and how the media is shaping awareness of them. I very much hope the C-1 Annual Report will stimulate constructive debate.