Code: ZE04090921

Date: 2004-09-09

Religions Must Distance Selves From Terrorists, Says Cardinal Kasper

Proposes Ways to Combat "Scourge of Humanity"

MILAN, Italy, SEPT. 9, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Since religious motives are used as an "ideological cover" for terrorism, it is imperative that religions themselves "unmask" the terrorists, says a Vatican official.

Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, made that point when addressing an audience of religious representatives and cultural figures from around the world.

In the context of the "Men and Religions" meeting, organized earlier this week by the Community of Sant'Egidio, the cardinal addressed the participants on the topic "To Disarm Terror: A Role for Believers."

Among the other speakers were Ahmad Al Tayyib, rector of Al-Azhar University in Egypt, and Rabbi David Rosen of the American Jewish Committee.

"Terrorism is the new scourge of humanity and the new challenge posed to the whole of civilization," Cardinal Kasper said when alerting the audience about the problem and its link to religion.

It is especially the monotheist religions -- Judaism, Christianity and Islam -- that are suspected "of intolerance and, as a result, of being … prone to violence because of their exclusive faith -- in fact or so understood -- in the one God," he said.

Moreover, in the context of terrorism, "social, economic and political motives are mixed with religious motives" and "religion often serves as an ideological cover and is, therefore, instrumentalized," the Vatican official said.

The cardinal then asked pointedly: "But do religious oppose this instrumentalization with sufficient clarity?"

"The three religions mentioned can allude to central passages in their sacred texts that prohibit in an absolute way any kind of violence and, specifically, terrorism," he observed.

The three also contain "the Golden Rule" -- "which states that one must not do to another what one does not want done to oneself," the cardinal added. "They prohibit suicide" and "because of this, exclude categorically suicide attacks," he said.

"Therefore, according to the principles of the Koran, whoever commits such suicide attacks should not be venerated as a martyr, but should be condemned as a murderer and criminal," he insisted.

Moreover, following the Judeo-Christian tradition, man "has been created in the image and likeness of God"; therefore, "terrorism, as a negation of the dignity of man, is at the same time, an offense to God," Cardinal Kasper said.

"The justification of terrorism in the name of God is the most serious abuse of the name of God and its greatest profanation. Therefore, it was very positive that during the Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi all religions were in agreement with this declaration," he said.

However, "we cannot defend the dignity of man and peace only with pious words; we must also defend them with deeds," the Vatican official exhorted.

"Religions must wake up and activate their own spiritual resources of resistance to terrorist violence," which implies a "clear and public distancing of oneself from terrorism," something "which many precisely expect from Islam," he said.

Moreover, "religions must tear off the religious mask from the terrorists' face, to unmask them and show them for what they really are, namely, nihilists who scorn all of humanity's values and ideals," he continued.

"The profoundly nihilist character of terrorism can be overcome only through the affirmation of the fundamental attitude of all religions … profound respect," the cardinal said.

This means, he added, a "self-critical review of one's own history" and "and the preaching -- not of hatred -- but of tolerance and respect for others' convictions," as well as "the consequent condemnation of all forms of violence."

Cardinal Kasper also pointed out that in the struggle against international terrorism, "one cannot use what is condemned and combated in terrorism."

"Fundamental human rights cannot be annulled and the instrument of torture cannot be used, he said. “A preventive war cannot be undertaken that revokes the rules of the just war." And "selective killings cannot be committed without a preceding just trial," he added.

Cardinal Kasper said that all efforts must be employed to change "the conditions that favor the spread of terrorism and that could be understood as a legitimation," such as "social, economic and political injustices."

He added: "Only through the dialogue of cultures and religions" -- which puts in first place "respect of the common heritage of all religions" and which "in no way means syncretism or the giving up of one's own identity" -- "can the clash of civilizations be avoided."