By Courtney Mares
A Vatican delegation traveled to Tehran this week to discuss opportunities for Catholics and Muslims to serve humanity together.
“Muslims and Christians, along with all persons of good will who do not profess any particular religion, are called to promote fundamental human rights for everybody, everywhere, at all times,” participants in the interreligious meeting concluded in a final statement released by the Vatican Nov. 15.
The interreligious colloquium in Iran focused on shared values found within Shia Islam and Catholicism. The event was organized by the Vatican Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Iranian government’s Islamic Culture and Relations Organization.
At the end of the colloquium, participants agreed to a final statement of broad support for fundamental human rights, religious freedom, environmental protection, and service to others.
“Freedom of conscience and of religion is the cornerstone of the edifice of human rights and therefore should be preserved and promoted,” the final statement of the conference declared.
In Iran, Muslim converts to Christianity have suffered persecution and arrest by the Iranian government, according to a 2019 report by the U.S. Council for International Religious Freedom. At least 171 Christians were arrested in Iran in 2018, the report found.
Among the Iranian participants in the colloquium were Iranian clerics and diplomats: Ayatollah Mohammad Ali Taskhiri, Ayatollah Dr. Ahmad Beheshti, Ayatollah Dr. Reza Ramezani, and Ayatollah Abolghasem Alidoust Abarghouei.
Cardinal Miguel Ángel Ayuso Guixot, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, co-chaired the colloquium along with Dr. Abuzar Ibrahimi Turkaman, president of the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization.
Cardinal Ayuso has degrees in Arabic and Islamic studies, in addition to a doctorate in dogmatic theology from the University of Granada. He previously served as dean of the Pontifical Institute of Arabic and Islamic Studies in Rome. Pope Francis named made Ayuso a cardinal in Oct. 2019.
The Tehran colloquium was the 11th interreligious dialogue meeting between the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and the Islamic Culture and Relations Organization since 1996. The participants decided to hold the next colloquium in Rome in 2021.
“Service to others, especially the sick, the poor and the needy, is of capital importance to Christians and Muslims,” the colloquium’s final statement declares. “Serving others witnesses to the universal love of God for all human beings, because He created everyone and everything, and cares for all His creation with the same love.”