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Muslim, Christian, and Jewish leaders sign historic declaration supporting religious freedom

(Reuters/Fahad Shadeed)King of Bahrain Sheikh Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa attends Arab summit in Riyadh in this file photo taken on January 21, 2013.

Muslim, Christian, and Jewish leaders have gathered at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles on Wednesday to sign a historic declaration, penned by the King of Bahrain Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, that condemns extremism and defends religious freedom of individuals.

"We declare that when extremist clergy preach hatred, violence and seek to sow the seeds of discord, that they are inciting the desecration of the name of God," the declaration reads, as reported by Religion News Service.

"We call upon all good people of Faith to disown practices such as the sowing of terror, the encouragement of extremism and radicalization, suicide bombing, promotion of sexual slavery, and the abuse of women and children," it continued.

The Bahrain Declaration for Religious Tolerance, released Sept. 13, is the first of its kind, written by an Arab Head of State. It was symbolically signed by the mother of an Islamic State suicide bomber in Saudi Arabia as well as one of his victims.

The document was also signed by Prince Nasser bin Hamad al Khalifa of Bahrain who served as an official envoy of the Gulf nation's king.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center, a global human rights organization co-sponsoring the event, stated on its Facebook page that the declaration "calls for people of all faiths to show respect for, and protection of, the rights of everyone to practice their religious affiliations in dignity and peace."

Other speakers at the event included Rabbi Marvin Hier, the founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center and Museum of Tolerance, Muhammed Khan, the director of Interfaith Outreach of the King Fahd Mosque in Los Angeles, and Rev. Johnnie Moore, a board member of the National Association of Evangelicals.

The historic document builds upon the previous declarations on religious tolerance issued from the Muslim world, such as the Marrakesh Declaration and the Jakarta Declaration.

The Marrakesh Declaration, which was aimed at protecting religious minorities in Muslim countries, was unveiled at a 2016 conference of hundreds of scholars meeting in Morocco.

The Jakarta statement, which highlighted the unique nature of Indonesian Islam as welcoming religious diversity, was signed by more than 300 Islamic leaders from about 30 countries in May that same year.

The release of the Bahrain Declaration comes in the same year that the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) designated the gulf nation as a "Tier 2" country "in which the [religious freedom] violations engaged in or tolerated by the government are serious."

USCIRF's 2017 report noted that there was continued discrimination in the country against Shia Muslims in government employment and other public and social services. It also claimed that some Shia clerics have been denied access to certain mosques and banned from conducting Friday prayers.

Bahrain is also ranked on Open Doors USA's 2017 World Watch List as the 48th worst country in the world when it comes to Christian persecution.

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