Equal citizenship focus of panel discussion in Azerbaijan

The World Council of Churches (WCC) was represented at a panel discussion at the 5th World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue in Baku, Azerbaijan on 2-3 May.

Rev Dr Peniel Rufus Rajkumar, WCC programme coordinator for Interreligious Dialogue and Cooperation, was part of a panel entitled “A gap to be bridged, An Investment to be made.”

Rajkumar spoke on “Towards Greater Spiritual Convergence for Equal Citizenship Rights.”

“We are here today to explore convergences – those convergences that can make equal citizenship a possibility,” Rajkumar said. “In contexts of virulent nationalisms where there seems to be an insatiable appetite for  rendering the ‘other’ invisible through the denial of rights and agency, and where faiths and Gods are invoked with a vengeance to promote xenophobia, exclusion and discrimination equal citizenship can an effective means towards the building up of inclusive and peaceful communities.”

The overall theme of the forum is “Building Dialogue into Action.” The challenge for religions today is to use the cornerstone of pluralism to build just and inclusive communities, Rajkumar said. “For building dialogue into action we need to bridge the gap between spiritual will and collective political action,” he said. “Investing in an interreligious future starts from the faith formation of our children.”

The way to move towards a greater spiritual convergence for equal citizenship rights in the long term  is to empower our children to understand our interdependence as human beings, he continued. “The least we owe our children is the gift of truth about who they are and who they can become,” he said. “We need the moral resolve to cultivate in our children an integrated sense of identity that embraces the wonder of realising that the path towards us often runs through the highways and byways of our neighbours.”

World Council of Churches, oikoumene.org