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  – 24.02.2006

[Austria] Weiland: Speaking to and Learning from Each Other

Interreligious Meeting in St. Pölten – “No World Peace without Religious Peace – No Religious Peace without Interreligious Dialogue”

St. Pölten, February 22nd, 2006 (epd Ö) – Instead of “secluding oneself timidly or defiantly from each other” the point is to “speak to and learn from each other” – this path had to be looked for in all situations, emphasised the Lutheran Superintendent Paul Weiland at an interreligious prayer in St. Pölten on Friday, February 17th. Martin Luther had defined God’s patience with people, at whom his unconditional love is directed at, as “tolerance of God”. Christians are invited to imitate this philanthropy of God. This path can “lead to a better understanding and to a better dealing with each other”, the superintendent said.
Tolerance had its boundaries, where it got down to incitement of the people or extremism prone to violence. Tolerance could neither be decreed politically nor enforced with any ideological means. Tolerance could only be campaigned for.
“The reconciled diversity of cultures and religions is no utopia,” said Karl Rottenschlager of the St. Pölten Emmaus Community that had coordinated the meeting. Next to Weiland and Rottenschlager, the President of the Islamic Community in Austria, Anas Schakfeh, the Vice-Chairman of the Council of Churches in Austria, Gottfried Auer, and the Vice-Chairman of the St. Pölten Islamic Cultural Society, Mehmet Isik, were participants of the Interreligious Meeting and Prayer themed “Man Is Man”, amongst others.
In 24 years, St. Pölten Emmaus Community had been free to take in more than 1000 foreigners seeking help as guests, Rottenschlager reported. If mutual respect, regard, and tolerance for people from other nations, cultures, and religions, were really lived, amazing things would be possible. The caricature conflict showed how quickly the peaceful cooperation could be destroyed due to a lack of mutual respect. The mission says, “Let us carry reconciliation to those places, where the wounds of hatred burn. No world peace without religious peace. No religious peace without interreligious dialogue!”
“The rest of Europe should take a look at Austria and let itself be inspired by the atmosphere here”, said the President of the Islamic Community, Anas Shakfeh, who condemned the disputed caricatures as well as the riots of Muslim extremists. He praised the efforts for dialogue of the Austrian government explicitly. Mehmet Isik of the St. Pölten Islamic Cultural Society called it irresponsible to hurt religious feelings consciously under the smoke-screen of freedom of the press. “Islam” meant peace. “We despise violence, in every sense. The Muslims in Austria are very concerned about the constant new maxima of escalation. We fear another damage to the image of Islam with direct repercussions for us.”

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