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Teach young people respect for different faiths, panel of experts advises

Education key to lasting peace, religious liberty advocates say

Members of the International Religious Liberty Association's panel of experts in Amman, Jordan last week. The group discussed the importance of education to instill religious tolerance in young people. [photo: Rajmund Dabrowski]

Promoting tolerance and respect among faith groups depends on education, members of the International Religious Liberty Association's panel of experts said last week during the group's 12th annual meeting.

Government and institutional support of religious liberty, while important, is not enough, members agreed during September 8 talks in Amman, Jordan, which marked the group's first meeting in the Middle East.

To foster respect and appreciation among members of different faith groups, young people should receive education that is practical and sensitive to religious beliefs, said some 20 panel members, who represented both Christian and Muslim traditions.

The meeting is expected to lead to a broader partnership between the IRLA and the Amman-based Arab Bridge Center for Human Rights and Development, said John Graz, IRLA secretary-general and director of the Seventh-day Adventist world church's department of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty. Both associations are committed to promoting interfaith religious understanding, tolerance and peace.

True respect for different faiths goes beyond choosing not to interfere with a faith group's activities, but requires shunning "acts of disrespect to religious symbols, rites or scriptures of others," Graz said.

Despite the legal status of some such actions, "they do not reflect the true spirit of authentic religion, which calls for tolerance and respect of other beliefs" and an "opposition to religious violence and repression," he said.

Chartered in 1893, the IRLA is the oldest association dedicated to freedom of conscience for all people and, in 2003, received a non-governmental organization status from the United Nations.