VATICAN CITY – Catholics and Muslims "are called to be instruments of love and harmony", renouncing
oppression and violence, "especially that committed in the name of religion", the newly created Catholic-Muslim Forum says. The Catholic-Muslim Forum was formed by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and a delegation of the 138 Muslim signatories of the open letter called "A Common Word".

The final declaration the forum issued at the end of its Nov 4-6 "Love of God, Love of Neighbour" seminar maintains that "genuine love of neighbour implies respect of the person and his or her choices in matters of conscience and religion".

The declaration emphasises individuals’ and communities’ right to practise their religion in private and in public, and insists religious minorities are entitled to respect.

Ibrahim Kalin, a Muslim scholar from Turkey currently teaching at Georgetown University in Washington D.C., read out the final declaration at the Pontifical Gregorian University.

The seminar brought together 29 Catholic and 29 Muslim representatives for three days. The participants included religious authorities, experts and counsellors from 28 countries, among them Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and the Philippines.

During the first two days they listened to and discussed presentations by two participants from each religion.

The discussion, conducted in a warm and convivial spirit, focused on two great themes: "Theological and Spiritual Foundations" and "Human Dignity and Mutual Respect". Points of similarity and of diversity emerged, reflecting the distinctive specific genius of the two religions.

One participant told UCA News that the parties discussed the theological-spiritual dimensions with great interest and harmony, but emotions came into play when they focused on everyday life issues. These included the suffering of Christian and Muslim believers, discrimination, violence and persecution in various places around the world.

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