Religious representatives in Netherlands respond to Iranian cleric's call for coexistence

7 August 2014

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Fourteen representatives of faith organizations gathered here on 2 July to study the statement made by Ayatollah Abdol-Hamid Masoumi-Tehrani last April on religious coexistence in Iran.

Ayatollah Tehrani gifted an illuminated work of calligraphy to the Baha'is of the world as a "symbolic action to serve as a reminder of the importance of valuing human beings, of peaceful coexistence, of cooperation and mutual support, and avoidance of hatred, enmity and blind religious prejudice".

As a prominent Iranian cleric, Ayatollah Tehrani's courageous act has resonated with individuals and groups throughout the world, inspiring a growing conversation on the need to transcend religious prejudice and intolerance and strive for a harmonious interaction between society's diverse religious adherents. His action is particularly significant in light of a continued campaign of persecution against Baha'is in Iran, which has witnessed intensification in recent months.

Inspired by Ayatollah Tehrani's statement, the Dutch religious representatives explored related issues within the Netherlands, discussing how they can exert influence within their own communities to promote peaceful religious coexistence and address any existing attitudes of superiority.

In a letter of appreciation to the Ayatollah which they composed together, the representatives stated, "We wish to wholeheartedly support your efforts, by working for the eradication of notions of religious intolerance in our country and to take practical initiatives to eliminate conflict from our society and foster instead love and fellowship, solidarity and altruism."

"We firmly believe that this is the mission called for by our respective religious scriptures and traditions, our prophets and saints," they said.

"We are aware that much patient and persistent work remains to be done, that we should especially accompany the youth of our communities and society at large in their endeavor to serve society..."

"We stand ready to work together in this mighty and glorious enterprise – the building of a collective conscience – in which we feel united with you and the many other people of goodwill in Iran and beyond," the letter concluded.

Media coverage

Ayatollah Masoumi-Tehrani's statement has evoked responses from diverse religious figures around the world, including Islamic leaders on three continents, who have raised their voices in support of his gesture and the content of his message.

The Iranian cleric's significant action was also recently mentioned in a commentary in The Christian Science Monitor, on 24 July, which highlighted the efforts of prominent Muslims to promote understanding among religions. Referring to these acts, the article, which was also reprinted in the Daily Times in Pakistan on 26 July, stated: "All these gestures of interfaith understanding may not seem like much during conflict and brutal suppression. Yet they help create the conditions for a change in thinking, in part because they are so startlingly unthinkable..."