Despite all the negative developments concerning extremist groups in the Middle East, they have had a positive impact on religious communities.
Shiite and Sunni institutions in Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to denounce and condemn extremists, deeming their acts to be in direct conflict with Islam.
The extremist voices calling for the killing of other Islamic denominations have been drowned out by calls for moderation, dialogue and cooperation.
The past three weeks have witnessed three major conferences to combat religious extremism in the Middle East. The Iranian city of Qom, the Vatican and Cairo have each hosted conferences one at a time.
Senior clerics from different Islamic sects took part in these conferences and stressed the need for joint action to combat extremism and militancy.
The Pontifical Councils initiated the interreligious dialogue under the auspices of Pope Francis and held the Catholic-Muslim summit titled “Muslims and Christians: Believers living in society,” Dec. 2-4. The conference was attended by senior Christian and Muslim clerics of every stripe.
In the same vein, during his visit to Turkey on Nov. 28-30, the pope called upon believers of all religions to differentiate between religiosity and intolerance and to reject all forms of extremism and fundamentalism that use religion. He also urged Muslim clerics to condemn the brutal acts of the Islamic State (IS) that are being committed in the name of Islam.
Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, said that on Dec. 5 he had received promising and encouraging messages from Muslim scholars who attended the conference.