Religious leaders from around the world will gather at the University of St Andrews tomorrow (Friday 23 September) for the signing of a new declaration for humanity.
The event will be attended by senior members of the Christian Churches, the Catholic Church, Hindu communities from the UK and India, leaders of the UK Jewish community, senior Buddhist monks and the representative of the Dalai Lama.
The 130-strong religious delegation from 19 countries will be joined by 32 school pupils from Fife in the signing of the St Andrews Declaration on a Shared Humanity.
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.
Once signed, it is hoped that 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.
Professor Aguilar, Director of the University’s Centre for the Study of Religion and Politics (CSRP), said: “This is a momentous occasion in which a group of religious leaders, members of faith communities as well as the young declare the possibilities of a shared humanity. They declare that religion is not a problem for society but that it is the solution to isolate those who have been radicalised and do not contribute to the cooperation within society expected by faith communities.
“The St Andrews Declaration for a Shared Humanity is a particular contribution arising out of inter-faith initiatives and inter-religious dialogue promoted by the Centre for the Study of Religion and Politics of the University of St Andrews. Those coming to sign have generously responded to an initiative that was born within the University of St Andrews and that will continue with further dialogue and academic cooperation with other academics and faith leaders in India, North and South America, and Africa.”
The signing event forms 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.
Attendees will include Rt Rev Dr Russell Barr (Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland), Abbot Lama Yeshe Rinpoche (Abbot of the Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery and Tibetan Centre in Scotland), Professor Pascal Fournier (University of Ottowa), Bishop Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger (Austria) and Ramesh Babu (Director of the Cascade Centre for Education in Amritsar, India).
Also present will be a survivor of the 2011 terrorist attacks in Norway, Lisa Marie Husby – currently a student at St Andrews – who will read a poem written by the survivors. The declaration will also be signed by the University’s Master, Professor Garry Taylor, local school teachers and a dozen St Andrews graduates now active in the field of inter-faith dialogue.
The signing event will be followed by the launch of Professor Aguilar’s monograph on the 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.
The event marks the culmination of the Year of Interfaith Dialogue, an initiative set up by Professor Aguilar to stimulate conversation about the commonalities between the different faiths of the world.
The Year of Interfaith Dialogue was launched in September 2015 with two public events delivered by the Dalai Lama in London, and a lecture by peace activist and Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, Arun Gandhi.
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