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Brussels Peace Declaration on Religious Coexistence
Sardar Muhammad Tahir Tabassum , Director, Institute of Peace and Development
Brussels, Belgium
December 23, 2007

An International Conference on Interfaith Dialogue towards Global Peace at the Peace Embassy in Brussels, Belgium, unanimously passed a resolution entitled "Brussels Peace Declaration on Religious Coexistence" on December 1, 2007.

Participants discussed the importance of interfaith harmony and conflict resolution to combat extremism, intolerance, hatred, and violence in the name of religion.

The conference was organized by the Universal Peace Federation-Belgium and the Institute of Peace and Development, a European think tank. Both organizations affirmed that they will work together to promote and preserve peace, justice, human rights, equality, genuine brotherhood, and tolerance. Cultivating friendly interactions among people of diverse cultures and religions will help create an environment conducive to building peace and harmony among communities and peoples.

Prominent Pakistani intellectual, Major General (retired) Muhammad Tahir, Director of Welfare Education for the Fauji Foundation of Pakistan, was the keynote speaker and received the Institute of Peace and Development's Peace Award 2007 and a UPF appointment as an Ambassador for Peace. He said that all religions promote a message of peace, harmony, love, and compassion.

He described the basic principles and moral values that govern Islamic nations' dealings with other nations. He said that justice is the inalienable right of all people and that oppressing other people is forbidden, irrespective of their religion, color, or ethnicity.

General Tahir envisions the emergence of a world culture wherein the histories and traditions of diverse cultures and civilizations are respected and accepted. He hopes that enmity and oppression will give way to respect and tolerance as people recognize that everyone has the basic right to live peacefully and enjoy their own cultural tradition or religion.

Representing the host organizations, Mr. Amin ul Haq, President of the Institute of Peace and Development, affirmed that organization's commitment to oppose terrorism and extremism in all its manifestations and the use of religious symbols and ethnic values to generate conflicts, feed wars, or justify terrorism. Mr. Philippe Jacques, Secretary General of the Universal Peace Federation-Belgium, spoke of UPF's work to promote understanding and tolerance among people of all religions based on its understanding that humankind is one family under God.

Conference presenters gave examples of interreligious initiatives, including those between Jews and Muslims in Europe and among different religious groups in India. Buddhist and Sikh speakers described aspects of their traditions that can contribute to peaceful coexistence among diverse people in Europe.

The Secretary General of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, H.E. Prof. Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs. Louise Arbour, congratulated the NGOs for taking the initiative to organize the event. The Director of Human Rights Without Frontiers, Mr. Willy Fautre, expressed appreciation for efforts to promote tolerance and respect among various faiths around the world.

The conference decided to establish a Permanent Committee for Interfaith Cooperation, comprised of religious scholars and representatives of different faiths and communities, NGOs and the media.

NOTE: Reference was made at the conference to the European Platform for Jewish Muslim Cooperation established by the European Parliament in Brussels on November 27. It aims to build trust between Jewish and Muslim communities in Europe, support and empower grassroots dialogue and cooperation, and provide a forum to showcase good practices at a European level. Its steering group consists of twelve representatives of Jewish and Muslim organizations from six European countries.


BRUSSELS PEACE DECLARATION ON RELIGIOUS COEXISTENCE
December 1, 2007

We, the representatives of different faiths, communities and cultures, participating in an international Conference on Inter-faith dialogue towards global peace, organized in Brussels on 1st December 2007 by two sister organizations, Universal Peace Federation (UPF) and Institute of Peace and Development (INSPAD) Belgium, have stressed the promotion of inter-faith dialogue for peaceful religious co-existence, cultural harmony and understanding. We have noted that the multi-cultural society in Europe has become an example for the world to follow.

? The participants of the conference stressed the role civil societies play in creating social awareness about inter-religious harmony, human rights and respect of law, as well as the role of religious and spiritual educational institutions in promoting tolerance, mutual respect and human rights as human rights are part of all religions and civilization.

? The conference called for strengthening communication between the representatives of religions, faiths and European inter-governmental and non-governmental institutions.

? The conference urged the media and intellectuals to focus on principles that enhance values, equality, tolerance and acceptance of others after having thoroughly examined and discussed the common values of the various faiths and religions as well as barriers to building inter-faith harmony within the international community and people.

We declare our profound conviction that

? The various faiths and religions in European countries advocate peace, compassion, and tolerance among mankind.

? The promotion of human rights and fundamental freedom, including the right of individuals to choose religion or faith, can contribute to upholding respect for the diversity of faiths and religions, which is essential in combating extremism, intolerance, hatred and violence.

? It is more important for people of different religions and faiths to stand united and make clear that they will not allow the use of violence to divide them. We must all speak up against those who use religion to rationalize terrorism and murder.

? Promoting and protecting peace, justice, human dignity, equality, equity, genuine brotherhood, tolerance and friendly interaction among cultures and religions needs to be cultivated and nurtured to help create an environment conducive to building peace and harmony within communities and people.

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