(Below is the full text of the statement issued by the Dialogue Institute condemning extremism in the name of religion and violence. Bishop Joseph Kopacz joined other faith leaders in signing the statement in June.)
Section 1: Statement of the Problem
Recognizing the diversity of religious beliefs and philosophical outlooks in the world community, we have come together to unite around our universal and common desire to uphold and uplift each other as neighbors and fellow human beings and to affirm and support the following statement against extremism, terror, and violence done in the name of religion.
Our global society is facing an escalating epidemic of religiously motivated violence that seeks to manipulate and control people through terror and intimidation. We speak out against all extremist groups who distort religious beliefs to inflame regimes of fear and agendas of destruction for their own self-serving purposes. We reject the use of religious and spiritual traditions to justify the abuse, oppression, and exploitation of human beings.
Section 2: The Role of Religion Regarding the Threat of Extremism
We affirm that the practice of religions at their best is to honor, respect, and love our fellow sisters and brothers as we would ourselves. We understand religious extremism to be the process whereby individuals or communities reject the civil discourse and instead use violence and terror as a means of forcing political and social change, employing religious and theological resources to justify their destructive actions.
Section 3: Fundamental Human Rights
Life, liberty, dignity, and security are fundamental human rights for every single person. No human being, or group of persons should be subjected to violence or discrimination on the basis of any physical or social distinction that is motivated and justified by religious beliefs. In this regard, all human beings should be considered as equal and free members of one human family and treated with respect and compassion.
Section 4: Response Against the Use of Violence in the Name of Religion
We affirm and advocate for fundamental human rights, as described above and as protected by the United States Constitution and the Bill of Rights, especially in the First Amendment with regard to freedom of religion and freedom of speech, to be applied to all persons. Furthermore, no religious freedom should be misused to violate the fundamental human rights of other persons.
We affirm and believe that a free, independent, fair, and ethically responsible media is an indispensable prerequisite for a free and peaceful society. Threatening the free and unencumbered exchange of ideas through terror, violence, fear, and intimidation undermines the marketplace of ideas and denies the equal opportunity for religious communities and human life to flourish.
We affirm and encourage learning about different faith traditions and practices in all areas of society and for all persons, so that everyone can be well-informed about the history and ideas of religions, in order to have greater mutual understanding and cooperation among civically engaged citizens.
We affirm and advocate for positive religious values as an antidote to religious extremism. We seek to offer hospitality, empathy, and care to all people in order to build stronger and more open societies that celebrate all persons as being equal members of the human family.