Second interfaith symposium hears from Dr Mustafa Ali


Dr Ali giving his presentation yesterday

Dr Ali gave an overview of the ‘Religions for Peace Movement’ – the first meeting of which was held in Kyoto, Japan in 1970, at a time when the then two world powers – the United States of America (USA) and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) – were on the brink of nuclear war.

He said leaders of various religions worldwide decided to do something about it. Considering that life is sacred and that the sanctity of life overrides everything else, the religious leaders met in Kyoto and despite their different faiths, rejected the use of nuclear weapons which threatened humanity.

Dr Ali said the movement for peace has since grown and in countries where there are already interfaith councils, these have been encouraged to continue their operations to avoid duplication.

For next year’s ninth world assembly of religious leaders to be held in June 2013, in Morocco or Turkey, the focus has changed.

“The threats have metamorphosed and are not of the same magnitude as in the 1970s, but we are still grappling with the nuclear issue,” he said.

He noted that the main threat is presently the misuse or misinterpretation of religion by extremist groups to perpetrate violence, noting that this happened in former Yugoslavia and is now occurring in Nigeria, Somalia and Mali. In such countries, religious extremism has led to profanation of holy sites.

Dr Ali said the slogan is now ‘Different faiths – common action’, and the strategic goal is to provide religious leaders with an effective platform to promote peace and harmony.

Dr Ali said he is aware that in such countries as Seychelles and other Indian Ocean islands, religious extremism is not a concern. However, the main issues are drug abuse and erosion of family values.

He noted that the global secretariat of the world assembly of religious leaders is in New York.
 For Africa, this is headquartered in Nairobi and Dr Ali is the African representative. There are also offices in Oslo, Norway for Europe; in Lima, Peru for Latin America and the Caribbean, in Seoul, Korea for Asia, while for the Middle East and North Africa, the organisation set up only last year will be based either in Rabat, Morocco or Doha, Qatar.