In the wake of the international crisis following the publication of cartoons satirizing the Prophet Muhammad in Danish and other European newspapers, the Appeal of Conscience Foundation (ACF), an interfaith coalition promoting peace, tolerance and conflict resolution, has announced it will create a panel of scholars, experts in the world’s major religions– the ACF Inter-Religious Sensitivity Group–to make available to the worldwide media information on religious beliefs and traditions that are sacrosanct to different faith communities.
Rabbi Arthur Schneier, President of the ACF and one of 20 members of the High-Level Group meeting of the Alliance of Civilizations, currently taking place in Doha, remarked, “In many secular societies there is a dearth of knowledge about religion, and consequently a lack of sensitivity in dealing with controversial issues of concern to religious communities. The ACF Inter-Religious Sensitivity Group will serve as an educational resource to the international media about deeply held beliefs in Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism and Hinduism, in the hope those beliefs will not be improperly portrayed in the media.”
Schneier, who will announce in the near future the names of the scholars to serve as members of the new panel, emphasized that the AFC “believes profoundly that both freedom of speech and religious freedom are unassailable rights, as sanctioned by the UN Declaration of the Rights of Man. Yet the right to freedom of speech also carries an inherent responsibility and should not be used as a platform to degrade or insult any group or individual. Peaceful coexistence requires a climate of mutual respect and the promotion of human dignity among people and nations.”
With the aim of maintaining the delicate balance between freedom of the press and the responsibility not to use that freedom to incite, Schneier expressed the hope that the findings of the AFC Inter-religious Sensitivity Group “will serve as a frame of reference for the formulation of editorial decisions by media large and small that impact on religious communities.”
By providing this service to the world media, the ACF hopes to help build mutual understanding, communication and cooperation among societies with different belief systems.
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