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TEHRAN, IRAN

In The Name Of God, The Compassionate, The Merciful

A dialogue was held on The Week of Global Interfaith Dialogue in the venue of the Institute for Interreligious Dialogue in the presence of scholars and authorities in this field as well as the representatives of the local religious minorities.

This meeting was held at 5 p.m. on September 1st, 2003. The lecturers of this meeting were H.E. Mr. Mohammed Ali Abtahi, Vice President of the Islamic Republic of Iran for Legal and Parliamentarian Affairs and Head of the Institute for Interreligious Dialogue and Mr. Haroon Yashayayi, Head of Tehran's Association of Jews.

In the beginning, Mr. Abtahi started his remarks under the title of "Religious Responses to Violence" as follows:

"Unfortunately the serious violations prevailing in the world have had serious impacts on the course of humanity, are mainly the violations stems from religious sources." He added, "Many of the present crisis in the world are points that stem from intra and inter-religious conflicts. Thus to solve these crisis, it is obvious that there is no other way except dialogue in this very small world of today, because in today's world which is becoming even smaller due to the expansion of communication, no question is left unanswered. Since religions have a unique essence, and since no serious responses have been found, there is way except dialogue."

Mr. Abtahi then stated, "The origin of history-making violations whose beginning was the September 11, and then the attacks of America on Afghanistan and Iraq is extremism and radicalism that have been merged with religion". He reiterated, "The institution and philosophy of religion is only for the establishment of peace, but when the religion is afflicted with extremism, it creates crisis."

At the end of his remarks, Mr. Seyed Mohammad Ali Abtahi said, "We have to accept dialogue. The institution of religion is peace. When violation is associated with religion, then it makes the issues more complicated and difficult, because there is otherworldly beliefs behind it and the solution is to fight with the extremism.Then Mr. Haroon Yashayee began his remarks on "Common Values" and evaluated the Moral and Spiritual Foundations of the religions with their common values. He said, "Generally speaking, when we talk about morality, naturally we talk about its foundation and I will point out three of them." Mr. Yashayee added, "One of the moral foundations that exists in religions is the unconditional acceptance of fundamentals and branches of religion.

The religious commands are unchangeable and their implementation gives us peace in this world and salvation in the world after." He emphasized, "Rationality is moral and reason can have different interpretations with regard to the religious commandments. The executive form of the religious commands and orders could be changeable in accordance with the conditions ahead." Haroon Yashayee termed the social contract as the third moral foundation and said, "Since man is a civilization-oriented creature in essence and is accustomed to social life, therefore he has to legislate certain rules or contracts to form the moral criterion."

He reiterated, "The moral foundation of each religion is being accepting of all religions. For example, man is lawful in essence and accepts living in the society on the basis of its regulations."
The Head of Tehran Association of Jews added, "There are two interpretations of man: Metaphysic Man that has been created in the present form by the God and that is a creature with signs of the God perfection in his essence. And the other man who is a physical man that has been formed in the course of the evolution of nature and has developed as mankind."

He said, "The first knowledge of God bestowing to man is that man is from the earth and he will return to the earth. Secondly God says, 'you will eat on your own' and thus the procedure is portrayed for the man." Drawing on the Ten Commandment and the Torah, Mr. Yashayayee stated, "In the first commandment, God says to his creature: 'I freed you from slavery and offered you the freedom' and thus He teaches man morality and freedom." Then referring to attacks on Zionists, he said, "These extremists trend do not know the concept of freedom as it is given in Torah."

In the continuation of the meeting, other guests took part in the discussions and dialogues. Mr.Mir Damadi stated: "Religious violations that have taken place within the format of religions are the outcome of periods in which the religion has been placed in the format of government and religious government has been established. When the religious people were among the religious mass of the people, no violation has occurred, thus we should divert to rational secularism."

Mr. Mir Damadi stated, "We have still remained at the stage of necessities, while in the world wherever the dialogue is held, they have passed the debate on necessities and have established long term institutions. We should also pass the discussions on necessities." He added, "The problems that have created tension in the past were not only those of religion but also the religion was the weakest institution that has been used in politics and mostly the fact is that the religious people have become political playthings."

In the course of the meeting, referring to the cultural and historical issues and also those related to nationalization of the oil industry, Mr. Naimi from the Jewish Association said, "We should see where are we living and what is our situation? And organizing dialogues should be according the basis of cultural and historical background of our region and the most important task to be considered is creating a cultural framework for these kinds of dialogue before anything else."

Then Mr. Rostam Vahidi from Tehran Zoroastrian Society said, "Today's remarks were centered on two points of violation and morality, and we should deal with the issue of dialogue a little bit more." And furthermore, he added, "Much of today's violations are due to propagation and sensitivities that the followers of each religion has with regards to his beliefs."

After that, Mr. Vartan Davidian said, "When we talk about government and religion, two important issues are considered, i.e. one is the structural organization of a government and the other is religion." He reiterated, "Surely the location and time conditions should be considered and the important principle of Idjtihad (logical deduction on a theological question by an expert) should be regarded. Also the dialogue should take place on the basis of equal conditions and rights, and reconciliation. The grounds should be built such that there would be no room left for any hostile stances and the conflicts should be used at the service of a better future."
Mr. Ishidari, the grand Zoroastrian priest, at the end of his remarks added, "The foundation of our life and religious teachings are on the basis of coexistence and in that sense, we should be an extremist in coexistence."

Mrs. H. Krausen from Germany explained her experiences in the dialogue meetings in Germany and added, "In these meetings, the participants do not belong to specific institutions but they are individuals who belong to specific religions and exchange ideas on content issues that include part of Bible or Quran and hold discussions.

Mr. Baqer Talebi also said, "If we detach the religion domain, religion interpretation and religiosity from each other, then we will reach certain conclusions on clarification and interpretation of violation and also the type of reaction and position of violations".

Mr. Mohammad Ali Abtahi said, "We should consider the realities of the country and not global standards, since there are many different religions in the world and the present democracy that exists in the West is the outcome of social events in which they have passed the issue of necessities of the religion and have reached an objectivity in the society".

He also stated, "Concerning that issue that we have become political playthings, we should see what is our expectation from a religious government and if a religion could use its power, perhaps it is a positive issue. In religious government, the foundation of decision making should be the collective reason and in religious government we should think about the minimum, the middle level of the society and not a particular stratum."

Then Mr. Abtahi concluded the meeting with an explanation on this issue that in order to hold discussion we have no other way except behavioral ease. It is worth mentioning that this meeting was held in the presence of Engineer Priest Aghajaniyan and the Monk Joseph Kashapli (Assyrian).

Prepared by Atefe Sadeghi.

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