Search

 

Cablegate: Vatican-Affiliated Conference Reviews Christian-Muslim

VZCZCXRO4414
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHROV #0031 0571524
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 261524Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY VATICAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 1263
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RUCNRAQ/IRAQ COLLECTIVE
RUCNISL/ISLAMIC COLLECTIVE
RUEHTV/AMEMBASSY TEL AVIV PRIORITY 0109
RUEHJM/AMCONSUL JERUSALEM PRIORITY 0088
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN 1303

UNCLAS VATICAN 000031

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM PREF PREL KIRF IZ IS VT
SUBJECT: VATICAN-AFFILIATED CONFERENCE REVIEWS CHRISTIAN-MUSLIM
COEXISTENCE IN THE MIDDLE EAST

REF: 09 VATICAN 95

1. (SBU) Summary: Political, academic and religious leaders
from the Middle East presented their views on Christian-Muslim
coexistence in the region at a conference organized by the
Vatican-affiliated Community of Sant'Egidio on February 22 in
Rome. The conference addressed, among other topics, the future
of Christians in Iraq, inter-religious dialogue and
globalization, and the role of the media in helping Arab
audiences connect with the non-Arab world. Conference
participants repeated some tired arguments and did not break new
ground on avenues for coexistence, but did discuss some new
themes. The conference also provided insights about ongoing
challenges to getting the U.S. story out. End Summary.

2. (U) In one of the panels, Archbishop Louis Sako of Kirkuk
lamented the exodus of Christians from Iraq. He complained that
the Iraqi Christian population, which has gone from an estimated
800,000 before the war to an estimated 300,000 currently, often
face a hostile environment. If the situation does not change,
he said, all Iraqi Christians may decide to emigrate. Sako did
not think that the March Iraqi parliamentary elections would
change things much, but was encouraging all Christians to
exercise their right to vote. He opposed, however, mixing party
politics with Christianity. Religion, he said, is not an
appropriate foundation for a political party or nation-state.

3. (U) Lebanese Minister of Culture Tarek Mitri spoke about the
importance of inter-religious dialogue to increase intercultural
understanding. He said globalization has helped the Middle East
substantially by fostering the growth of a middle class.
However, globalization can lead to anxiety as flows of negative
information increase worldwide. Mitri stated that many Arab
Muslims fear the takeover of their culture by the West and often
link local Christians with Western values. He stated that these
fears are exacerbated by the presence of Israel in the region.

4. (U) Mhamed Krichen, from the Al Jazeera satellite TV
station, spoke about the importance of information flowing into
the Middle East. Many in the West mistakenly assume that Al
Jazeera covers only news that relates to anti-Islamic
prejudices, he said. Krichen used the Haitian crisis as an
example of a disaster widely covered by the network. The story
helped Arab audiences step back from their preoccupation about
how non-Muslims view Islamic culture.

5. (U) Radwan Al Sayyid, from the As-Sharq Al-Awast media group
of Lebanon, dismissed the notion that journalists should pay as
much attention to nation-building efforts as to bombings,
killings, terrorism, etc. In places like Iraq, he claimed,
reporting about U.S. nation-building efforts would amount to
propaganda.

5. (SBU) Comment: The Community of Sant'Egidio -- and other
organizations at, and affiliated with, the Vatican -- continues
to organize frequent inter-religious encounters. They're
needed. The topic of this conference was "uniting factors
present within monotheistic religions" - but it still brought to
the fore many differences. Several presenters repeated
hackneyed (and occasionally implicit anti-American) arguments.
Jewish leaders were excluded purposefully to focus specifically
on Christian-Muslim relations. Yet, speakers mentioned Israel
many times in pejorative ways - generally linking Israel to the
West. Many more encounters, plus inter-faith action to address
common concerns, will clearly be needed to chip away at such
reflexive views. More constructively, however, this conference
did deliver some diversity of themes for an inter-religious
dialogue gathering. The emphasis on Haiti, for example, was
salutary as it reminded the audience of the need for unity in
confronting terrible tragedy. This was the same theme
Sant'Egidio covered in fall 2009 at its flagship annual event,
held last year in Poland, where it took thousands of
participants of all faiths together to visit Auschwitz and
Birkenau (reftel).

DIAZ

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
World Headlines

 

North Korea: NZ Denounces Missile Test

Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Peters has denounced North Korea’s latest ballistic missile test. The test, which took place this morning, is North Korea’s third test flight of an inter-continental ballistic missile. More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: Zimbabwe - Meet The New Bosses

At 75, Mnangagwa is not exactly what you’d call a new broom. As many observers have pointed out, his track record has been one of unswerving dedication to Mugabe ever since the days of anti-colonial insurgency... To these guys, things had to change in Zimbabwe, so that things could remain the same. More>>

ALSO:

 
 
 
 
 
 
  • Pacific.Scoop
  • Cafe Pacific
  • PMC