An Interfaith Gathering
By Dr. Muzammil H. Siddiqi
Muzammil Siddiqi addresses the interfaith conference
Siddiqi with Benazir Bhutto at the Kiev conference
On April 26-27, 2007 an interfaith
conference on Peace and Tolerance among Jews, Christians and
Muslims was held in the city of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine.
It was organized by the World Congress of Christians, Jews
and Muslims and the Global Foundation for Democracy and was
hosted by the Ukrainian Interfaith Association and the Global
Capital Associates. It was a select conference of about 100
people from Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The participants
were religious, political and business leaders from different
parts of the world. For two days we discussed our ideas of
peace and tolerance and ways to promote mutual understanding
and resolution of conflicts in the modern world.
In my two talks delivered during the conference I mentioned
that even though our religions differ in some beliefs and
practices; our basic moral values are very similar. We all
recognize the values of truth, honesty, justice, respect of
human life, human dignity, freedom, equality, charity, generosity
and loving for others what we love for ourselves. However,
our problems are that many among us do not practice what we
preach. We do not know each other and we do not care much
about those who are suffering economic and political injustices
and repressions in this world. Peace and tolerance in this
world will come if we all can work sincerely and seriously
to eliminate: false propaganda against each other, economic
exploitation and extortion of the weak, and the excessive
desire of some people and powers for political and military
domination and hegemony. I suggested that the conference should
1. Islam, Judaism and Christianity are inherently related.
We share the most fundamental values of faith in the One Almighty
whose name is Peace, who is merciful, compassionate and just.
Our religions call upon their adherents to manifest these
values in our lives and to advance them in relation to all
2. We should reject the idea or theory of “Clash of
Civilizations.” We must bring the civilizations and
culture to concord, not conflict.
3. We should call upon Muslims, Christians and Jews to respect
all human life, dignity and rights of all people.
4. We should call upon our governments, media and international
institutions to show respect to the sacred personalities and
sacred places and symbols of all people. We should condemn
any desecration or destruction of sacred places of any religion
and any incitement of hate against the people of faith.
5. We should emphasize urgent need for truthful and respectful
education about each other's faith and tradition in our respective
communities and schools; and should call upon those responsible
to promote such education for peaceful co-existence.
6. We should reject all forms of anti-Semitism, Christian
bashing and Islamophobia. We should call for intra-faith and
interfaith dialogue to defuse all sectarian and religious
tensions in the world.
7. We should condemn all those who commit the acts of terrorism,
suicide bombing, racism, injustice or discrimination in the
name of religion or any other name.
8. We must work to build bridges of understanding, respect,
friendship and hope and must combat any and all incitement
to hate, hostility and violence.
Ukraine is a beautiful country. It is located at the north
of the Black Sea and is surrounded by Russia, Poland, Romania
and Czechoslovakia. It has a population of about 50 million
people of different races and religions. It became an independent
republic in 1991 after the demise of the Soviet Union.
Before going to Ukraine I did not know much about the Muslims
of Ukraine; but I was very pleased to learn that Ukraine had
a large Muslim community, estimated to be about two millions
in number. The Crimean republic in the south, next to the
Black Sea, was under the Ottoman rule in the 17th and 18th
centuries and it has a large Tatar Muslim population. During
the harsh Communist rule of Ukraine and Crimea, most people
were not allowed to practice their religion freely. Now all
religions are free and religious activities are thriving in
the area. Every major city in Ukraine now has Islamic centers
and mosques. There are about 90 mosques in Crimea. The Islamic
Social Cultural Center in the city of Kiev is coordinating
much of the activities. I visited the Islamic center and performed
Jumu’ah prayer there with some other Muslim delegates
of the conference.
After Jumu’ah we had a good session of questions and
answers with the Muslims of that area. I was pleased to learn
that some of my responses from the websites of Pakistan Link
and Islamonline are translated into Russian and Ukrainian
languages and were being used by Muslims in those areas. The
Islamic center has a very active da’wah program and
has translated many Islamic books into Russian and Ukrainian
languages. They also have a weekly radio program that is aired
from the Islamic center. They also have a very good and active
Islamic website (www.arraid.org). By the blessings of Allah
and through the efforts of these Muslims, many Ukrainians
are learning about Islam and are joining the faith.
The Islamic brotherhood is amazing. You meet Muslims from
totally different backgrounds and cultures and within minutes
the bond develops and you feel as if you knew those people
for a long time. Muslims of Ukraine were very hospitable,
kind and respectful. They took us around, spent their time
with us and showed us their city.
I pray to Allah to bless them, reward them, protect them and
give them success in their good efforts. Ameen.