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The Vienna dialogue
by Tausch, Arno
18 March 2002 16:27 UTC
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kindest regards. 
Arno Tausch

13Mar2002 AUSTRIA: Iranian president discusses religious issues during
Austria visit. 
Text of report by "ar": "Of absolute truth, small-minded people" by Austrian
newspaper Die Presse on 13 March

Speaking in Vienna's Hofburg palace on Tuesday [12 March], Iranian President
Mohammad Khatami said that wars are waged "when small-minded people think
they are in the possession of the absolute truth". "What we need is humility
and modesty," he said in response to questions that were raised at the
"Dialogue Between Religions", a meeting organized by Austrian President
Thomas Klestil.

Khatami repeatedly spoke of the "abuse of religion" by various rulers, which
led again and again to "evil actions" and great tragedies. In his first
statement, he also raised the issue of the Christian crusades against
Muslims and the lesson that has to be learnt from it today. He then quoted a
passage that seemed to refer to a statement by US President George W. Bush's
after the 11 September terror attacks. Bush then spoke of a "crusade"
against terror. Khatami said: "He who speaks of crusades today with the
intention of fomenting hatred is, indeed, morally degenerated. We have to
pray for the salvation of his soul and not tangle with him."

At the opening of the meeting, Klestil warned against "regarding the other
one as one's enemy". Nothing would be simpler, more evident, and fateful,
since plurality is an asset and not a threat. Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn
raised the question whether, by their very nature, the individual religions
made a dialogue of religions possible at all, since Christianity and Islam
both regarded themselves as "exclusive", which was bound to lead to
intolerance. Schoenborn provided part of the answer himself when he pointed
to the one God in both religions, which included one mankind, and thus all
"peoples as a single community".

The "dialogue" mainly consisted of questions from the forum to Khatami, and
was affected by the scarce time that was available. This would have almost
produced an uproar when the input of Greek-oriental metropolitan Archbishop
Michael Staikos almost got turned down. Some questions to Khatami dealt with
the problem of unity of state and religion and democracy. Khatami argued
that in a democracy, all power emanates from the people, and when the
majority of a people wants "such a system" - the unity of state and religion
- then this was democratic. The only thing that was undemocratic was when
members of other denominations would be oppressed, he said.

Khatami: "When religion and freedom are in opposition, both will lose." When
both stand side by side, there is no extremism and no fundamentalism, he
added. Khatami noted that ethics and morality had been weakened in the West,
"the soul and spirituality forgotten" and Christianity been forced back. The
concept of Jihad or Holy War was not mentioned in the meeting.

Source: Die Presse, Vienna, in German 13 Mar 02 p 5.
BBC Worldwide Monitoring/ (c) BBC 2002. 

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