Iran, Denmark host religious dialogue conferences

Things are more complicated than they look—in the world generally, and especially in Iran. As the intransigents in Iran and Denmark alike line up for a depressing and potentially apocalyptic “clash of civilizations,” conferences on inter-religious dialogue are held in response to the crisis in both countries. True, the “dialogue” seems to have been rather harshly proscribed at the Iran conference, and the Danish one seems to have been very low-profile. Still, a glimmer of hope that they were held. We wonder: were they at all coordinated? From Iran’s official agency IRNA, March 19:

ISFAHAN — The “Global Conference on Constructive Interaction among Divine Religions: A Framework for International Order” concluded work in this historical city in central Iran Sunday.

The two-day event which hosted 160 scholars from 38 world countries aimed at safeguarding the sublime position of divine religions in today world and highlighting the need for protecting religious sacred sites from terrorist attacks and destruction.

As the first in the kind to be held in world, the conference provided an apt opportunity for scholars belonging to different divine religions including Muslims, Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians to express their views on inter-faith dialogue and raise their voices to condemn any forms of sacrilegious acts against holy religions.

Isfahan was designated as the Cultural Capital of the Islamic World on January 1, 2006.

Was this just a propaganda-fest for the regime? We hope not, although this clip, also from IRNA March 19, is less than encouraging:

ISFAHAN — A Spanish scholar here Sunday stressed that the conflict between Iran and the US was indeed a war between “good and evil.”

A researcher and writer on theological topics Raol Gonzales made the remark in an interview with IRNA on the sidelines of the two-day “Global Conference on Constructive Interaction among Divine Religions: A Framework for International Order,” which opened here Saturday morning.

Gonzales blamed the tyrannical nature of the US President George Bush, who believes that every single person who is not with him is surely against him, as the main cause of the most of the conflicts underway in different parts of the world today.

Describing victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran as wonder which shocked the whole world, Gonzales said it was only a miracle that a country, which relied heavily on the US aid and followed its policies unquestioningly, managed to confront and fight it.

Referring to the Iraqi imposed war on Iran, the scholar said the attack launched by Iraq against Iranian nation was not a mere war in its usual sense but rather an event which was supported by many hegemonic powers in the world to suppress the justice-seeking voice of Iranian Muslim nation.

He further believed the recent attacks on the Holy Shiite shrines was a plot hatched by the US to sow discord among Muslims and followers of other religions.

This one, again from IRNA, smells a bit better:

ISFAHAN — The Archbishop of Armenian Christian Church Nerses Buzabolyan here on Sunday stressed that the identical origin of all monotheistic faiths is the element of convergence among all divine religions and said any insult to the sanctities of each of them would hurt the feelings of the followers of other faiths as well.

The archbishop made the remark in an interview with IRNA here Sunday on the sidelines of the “Global Conference on Constructive Interaction among Divine Religions: A Framework for International order,” which opened here Saturday with participation of 160 scholars from 40 countries.

Buzabolyan commented that the spiritual tenets, shared by all the divine religions, provide them with a common background in that all the religions, believing in God as the central part of their faith, share the basic principle that the oneness of God means all human beings are equipped with wisdom to “feel and see” the presence of God in every moment of their lives. That, he added, would definitely prevent them from committing such silly acts as undertaking sacrilegious actions against any of the divine religions.

He further hailed the ongoing inter-faith dialogue conference as the first preliminary step towards establishing dialogue among divine religions because, he said, it would certainly help promote unity and solidarity among followers of different faiths in a number of practical ways.

He believed the interaction and exchange of views among scholars during the event would help them remove walls and barriers and wipe out many baseless and hollow prejudices.

Archbishop Buzabolyan went on to express hope that the present gathering would encourage many other similar events in other countries resulting in establishment of a lasting dialogue among religions.

Of course inerfaith unity in opposition to free speech and secularism is also less then encouraging. IRNA, March 18:

ISFAHAN — An Iranian priest stressed that insulting Holy Prophet of Islam (PBUH) would in fact be an offensive act towards all divine prophets.

Talking to IRNA at the sideline of the ‘Global Conference on Constructive Interaction among Divine Religions: A Framework for International Order’ here on Saturday, Hacoop Arekelian said all prophets tried to convey a common message which was revealed to them by single God.

He believed the conference was of great importance in that it aimed at consolidating unity among followers of all divine religions and institutionalizing respect to divine religions among people.

At least Jews were invited. And at least they are acknowledging that the Holocaust happened. IRNA, March 19:

ISFAHAN — A leading Austrian Jewish Rabbi said here that holocaust catastrophe in Europe, which victimized millions of Jews, is nowadays used as an instrument for suppressing the rightful demands of the world nations.

Rabbi Moishe Fridmann, who leads the Association of Anti-Zionist Jews in Austria, made the remark late Saturday on the sidelines of the two-day “Global Conference on Constructive Interaction among Divine Religions: A Framework for International Order”.

Now, did the one in Denmark ever happen? This AP account is from Feb. 23:

COPENHAGEN — Denmark will host a conference next month to promote religious dialogue following the uproar over the Prophet Muhammad cartoons, the Foreign Ministry announced on Thursday.

The government will also give “a significant financial contribution” to a U.N. programme aimed at overcoming prejudice between Islam and the West, and support an Islamic festival in Copenhagen, Foreign Minister Per Stig Moeller, said in a statement.

The conference on religious and cultural dialogue will take place in the Danish capital on March 10, ministry officials said.

“This conference will bring together the prominent Islamic preacher Amr Khaled, two Islamic scholars from the Arab world and three Danish experts,” Moeller said.

He said the government was planning a range of initiatives to promote “respectful dialogue,” partly drawing on advice given by Muslim countries.

“In Denmark there is a genuine respect for the religious feelings of other people and we acknowledge that many Muslims felt gravely insulted by these controversial drawings,” the foreign Minister said.

Ministry officials said they would contact Arab and international media to spread the Minister’s message, and posted a link of his videotaped statement on the ministry’s Web page.

See our last posts on Iran, the cartoon crisis, European Islamophobia, and the struggle within Islam.