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A. Kftarou: Address to First Middle East Peace Talk

Address to First Middle East Peace Talk, July 16, 2020

It is my pleasure to talk to you today at this international meeting conducted by UPF about the message of peace and love between religions in the Middle East.

It is painful that the Middle East for so many decades has been painted red on world maps due to continuous conflicts for more than half a century, and for different reasons like injustice, tyranny and a culture of hatred passed down through generations.

From my position in the Islamic field in the institution established by Sheikh Ahmed Kftarou 70 years ago, I can say that the essence of the Koran’s message is peace. The word “Islam” stems from the root “peace” in the Arabic language; one of God's names is Peace, and the Muslim greeting is "Peace be upon you."

These are clear values seen in the sacred Mosque of Mecca when people in white robes gather in millions in peaceful spiritual gatherings.

But the reality in the Middle East is still far from the peace that we wish for. In this context I'm not an expert in politics, but I will talk from a religious point of view and the Koranic point of view revealed through prophet Mohammed to establish peace on Earth.

The Koran is clear when it talks positively about Christians of justice and goodness:

"You will certainly find the nearest in friendship to those who believe (to be) those who say, ‘We are Christians.’ This is because there are priests and monks among them and because they do not behave proudly.

"And when they hear what has been revealed to the apostle, you will see their eyes overflowing with tears on account of the truth that they recognize; they say, ‘Our Lord! we believe, so write us down with the witnesses (of truth).’

"And what (reason) have we that we should not believe in Allah and in the truth that has come to us, while we earnestly desire that our Lord should cause us to enter with the good people?"

We have to be clear in our principles of reconciliation. We are not talking about uniting the two religions, a notion which is not useful to either; rather we mean the peaceful coexistence of religions, in a way that is fair to both, despite their differences. Why should we let the difference in faith become a source of hatred, enmity and war?

The religious brotherhood which we are talking about is Koranic in its essence.

In the opening verses of the Koran, Surat al Fatiha says, "Praise to the lord of all creation." This expresses the fundamental innocence of religion, free from the racism or fanaticism that some groups (in East and West) are calling for.

At the end of the Koran, the verse says Allah is "the lord of all people, the king of all people," indicating equality between people regardless of their religion, ethnicity or color.

And between the opening and closing of the Koran there are many other verses that support believing in other prophets as a duty for all Muslims in order to build loving relationships.

It is strange that the relationship of brotherhood between Muslims and Christians is a relationship of dispute, though we are asked to believe in and dialogue with each other.

What is the use of talking with reverence about prophets who are in the spirit world while we are cursing each other and hating each other, even though we were asked to dialogue with each other peacefully as the Koran asked us?

In order to build this brotherhood, the prophet wrote a letter to the Christians of Najran [a city in Saudi Arabia], protecting their crosses, churches, and priests as an Islamic pledge to them. So Muslims and Christians lived together in Damascus, Baghdad, Aleppo and Cairo.

Here I am talking about such a wonderful history, but I feel sad that this beautiful way of life is disappearing from our life today. It is a sad situation in which people have been driven back to conflict and struggle between mosques and churches. In this context Hagia Sofia [in Istanbul] has been brought back into politics instead of the beautiful symbolism of a great church building in the Islamic world center. This symbolism is no longer there now, bringing people back again to the mosque-church struggle.

I have always wished for this historic monument to be a place for brotherhood between religious followers, and a home for compassion, forgiveness and love, and that Istanbul would have a great international role in taking care of religions and establishing an international brotherhood of humanity.

I wanted to take this opportunity and appeal to the decision-makers in Istanbul, in the hope that these values can be preserved in their new plan, that a clear space remains in this great historic monument of religious brotherhood, and that efforts and energies can be united to build the culture of peace and prevent the culture of revenge from returning.

Finally, I would like to thank everyone who organized this meeting for us, and I hope my message is clear. I would like to say that we are all required to spread the culture of peace and love between people.

We need, in every city in the world, a house of God that transcends the small boundaries of denominations and is accommodating to all people of God without discrimination:

"And for Allah is the East and the West, therefore, wherever you turn, there is Allah; surely Allah is Ample-giving, Knowing."


To go back to the first Middle East Peace Talk article, click here.