Islamic conference in Cairo promotes peace

By Waleed Abu al-Khair in Cairo


Women preachers attend the 27th International Conference of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs in Cairo on March 11th. [Photo courtesy of the Egyptian Ministry of Endowments]

At the conclusion of the 27th International Conference of the Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs , held March 11th and 12th in Cairo, participants issued a 17-point plan titled "The Cairo Document for Spreading Peace".

The document sets forth an action plan for addressing the central topics of the conference; countering terrorist ideology and preventing its spread, establishing the culture of peace, and finding ways to involve religious, political and media leaders and decision-makers in fighting the scourge of terrorism.

The conference, held under the auspices of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and the chairmanship of Minister of Religious Endowments Mohamed Mokhtar Gomaa, who heads Egypt's Islamic Affairs Council, drew clerics, politicians, academics and media figures from around the world.

Noteworthy this year was the participation of women preachers.

Discussions covered contemporary challenges -- including terrorism, ideological extremism and political and cultural conflict -- and ways to tackle them, and examined the role of political leaders in spreading peace.

They also looked at the role of international organisations in spreading the culture of peace, the role of political parties in educating the youth and preparing them to deal with challenges, and the ways and means of economic decision-making and its impact on spreading peace.

Full engagement to counter terrorism

"The 27th International Conference on Islamic Affairs is one of the most important Islamic conferences on fighting terrorism to be held in years," said organising committee member Yassin Khamis of Egypt's Ministry of Endowments.

He pointed to the size of the conference, titled, "The Role of Leaders and Decision Makers in Spreading the Culture of Peace and Confronting Terrorism and Other Threats", and the number and stature of its participants.

Many speakers stressed the need to link the counter-terrorism efforts of religious institutions with those of political leaders to streamline the implementation of decisions, Khamis told Al-Mashareq.

They said it was important to "involve parliamentarians, journalists and politicians in fighting terrorism and ideological extremism and spreading the culture of peace", he said, as well as international organisations.

This type of engagement is the only effective way to counter terrorism, he said.

Youth were a key focus, Khamis said, with speakers highlighting "the importance of the role of political parties in educating the youth and raising their awareness, because they are the cornerstone in the process of fighting terrorism".

Promoting peace among peoples

It was significant that the conference was held in Egypt, where religious institutions, led by Al-Azhar, play a major role in the promotion of moderate and balanced thought, said Ismail al-Khatba, director of preaching and religious guidance at Jordan's Ministry of Endowments and Islamic Affairs.

"The conference also is an important tool in the eradication of terrorism, at a time when many countries are suffering from terrorism and the destruction it brings," he told Al-Mashareq.

Terrorism hampers progress in all countries, obstructs cultural, economic and social progress and causes the peoples of the region to live in fear, he added.

"Peace among peoples is the key to eradicating terrorism, especially as all peoples are now in need of peace, having suffered the woes of war, divisions and spread of terrorist ideology," al-Khatba said.

It is important to affirm "the major role entrusted to Muslim scholars of all nationalities in spreading peace once again", he said.

"It is crucial that they make recommendations that are then put at the disposal of political leaders to follow in fighting terrorism."

Women's participation is key

"The participation of women preachers is very important and affirms the role of women in the war on terrorism," said Wafa Abdul Salam, a preacher affiliated with the Egyptian Ministry of Endowments.

"Women preachers are tasked with participating in this process through their work as preachers, wherein they put emphasis on spreading peace in their sermons," she told Al-Mashareq.

Islam is a religion of peace, she said, "and the dissemination of the correct teachings of religion results in the spread of real peace and rejection of violence, extremist ideas and terrorism".

Abdul Salam said the work of women preachers should focus on meeting with women in the mosques and highlighting their role in raising children and setting them on the right path.

"If this is done at home, and children are enlightened through proper and sound upbringing and taught the correct teachings of Islam, this will reflect on other members of society and lead to the elimination of the anomalies that afflict society as a result of the contaminated ideas spread by extremist groups," she said.

"It is not possible to promote peace between peoples without conviction and faith in inner peace," Abdul Salam said.

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