Religious figures from around the world gather in St Andrews for historic signing event.
Religious leaders from around the world gathered at Upper College Hall on Friday 23 September for the signing of a new declaration for a shared humanity.
The event was attended by senior members of the Christian Churches, the Catholic Church, Hindu communities from the UK and India, senior Buddhist monks and an Edinburgh Imam.
The 130-strong religious delegation from 19 countries was joined by 32 school pupils from Fife and three school children from Canada. The eleven-point Declaration, written by St Andrews Professor of Divinity Mario Aguilar, incorporates the teachings of different faiths and embraces the basic principles of humanity, equality, diversity and freedom.
The document will be used in schools, and by community and faith groups around the world, to form discussion and foster the idea of a common humanity as a tool against radicalisation, and as the basis for inter-faith cooperation.
The signing event formed the beginning of the conference Silence, Texts and Service: Towards a Christian, Hindu and Buddhist Dialogue, a three-day series of special events, prayers and lectures at St Andrews. The signing event was followed by the launch of Professor Aguilar’s monograph on Christian-Hindu dialogue and a public lecture on Interreligious Words: Before — and After — the Silence by the Director of the Centre for the Study of World Religions at Harvard University, Professor Francis X. Clooney.
Throughout Saturday 24 September a single session of eight papers asked questions about the practical avenues of understanding inter-faith dialogue. The activities of conference participants on the Sunday included an hour of silent prayer together, followed by the attendance of all participants (Christian and non-Christian) to a service led by the University chaplain, Donald MacEwan. After the service, Christian, Hindus and Buddhists joined the Pier walk and chanted together the Hindu OM surrounded by a number of students in their University gowns.
The chanting marked the end of the conference; however, conversations on Christianity and Hinduism continued until the evening at Arunachala Hermitage in Anstruther and at the Anstruther Pier.
The signing of the Declaration will now take place in four further locations: India in June 2017, Chile in October 2017, and, later, in Japan and Canada. The Declaration will also be one of the documents discussed at the foundation of the European Academy of Religion in Bologna in December 2016.
Professor Aguilar, as one of the founders of the European Academy of Religion, will also represent those who signed the St Andrews Declaration in his capacity as President of the newly formed International Committee for Inter-Religious Dialogue (ICIFD).
The St Andrews Declaration for a Shared Humanity is available on the Year of Interfaith Dialogue website.
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