Jewish, Muslim and Christian faith leaders sign declaration calling for religious tolerance

(Reuters/Joshua Roberts)Republican Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas, speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland, U.S., February 23, 2017.

Hundreds of Jewish, Muslim and Christian faith leaders had gathered in Washington on Wednesday to sign a declaration calling for unity and religious tolerance.

The release of the "Washington Declaration" came after two days of collaboration between hundreds of interfaith leaders who attended the three-day "Alliance of Virtue" conference organized by the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies and its leader, Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, a Saudi Arabian Islamic Studies professor, The Christian Post reported.

"[W]e cannot love and serve God if we fail also to love our neighbors — including the strangers in our midst," the declaration stated.

"Recognizing that our shared values are more important than our differences, and that we are strongest when we act together, we pledge to combine our best efforts to foster unity where there is discord, aid the impoverished, tend the vulnerable, heal the poor in spirit, and support measures that will ensure respect for the dignity of every human being," it continued.

Apart from calling for unity and religious tolerance, the document also calls for the establishment of an "Alliance of Virtue" to implement the declaration, and it also calls for the provision of more than 1 billion meals to feed impoverished and underserved communities across the globe.

In addition, the declaration suggested that a multi-religious body consisting of religious figures be established to "support mediation and reconciliation."

Finally, the document requested the formation of an interfaith committee to adopt the recommendations in the declaration that "reflects the fullness of diversity in our communities and across the world."

The Christian Post noted that the Washington Declaration builds upon the Marrakesh Declaration of January 2016, which was signed by over 350 faith-leaders and called attention to the plight of religious minorities in Muslim-majority nations.

The conference was attended by the newly appointed U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, who gave his first public address at the event.

"This is the big one. The administration has made clear this is a foreign policy and national security objective," he said.

Brownback, however, was criticized by conservative media outlet PJ Media in an article on Tuesday for associating with Bin Bayyah, whom the authors called a "hardline Islamic cleric" who endorsed "killing of Americans in Iraq."

Deborah Fikes, the former permanent representative to the United Nations for World Evangelical Alliance, has warned the audience about the backlash from conservative evangelicals in response to collaborative efforts with Muslim leaders.

Bob Roberts, an evangelical pastor at Northwood Church in Keller, Texas, said that those within the "older, higher levels" of evangelicalism are unlikely to approve of the message of the conference because of their "old worldview." But he noted that younger evangelicals see the conference as a model for future efforts to protect religious liberty because they have "realized the world has shifted."

Other religious leaders who attended the conference include Bishop Efraim Tendero, secretary-general of the World Evangelical Alliance; Timo Soini, minister for foreign affairs of Finland; and Rabbi David Saperstein, director emeritus of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism.

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