Moderator signs interfaith declaration of shared humanity

The Moderator joined a delegation of international religious leaders who signed a new declaration for humanity at the University of St Andrews Friday 23 September.

Group of leaders at the signing
The Moderator joined religious leaders from different faiths in signing the new declaration of shared humanity

Rt Rev Dr Russell Barr signed the declaration along with senior members of several Christian Churches, including the Roman Catholic Church, Hindu communities from the UK and India, leaders of the UK Jewish community, senior Buddhist monks and a representative from the Dalai Lama.

The Moderator said he was very glad to represent the Church of Scotland at an event that was both moving and timely.

“Given some of the violent nature of St Andrews religious history where there have been many executions in the name of religion, it could not have been more appropriate – or more timely— to host an interfaith event to promote a shared humanity," he said.

"The ceremony included a poem read by Lisa Marie Husby, a young woman who survived the 2011 massacre on the Norwegian island of Utoya. Her presence underlined both the importance and the urgency of this declaration.”

The 130-strong religious delegation from 19 countries was accompanied by 32 secondary school pupils from Fife in signing of the St Andrews Declaration on a Shared Humanity.

Lisa Marie Husby

St Andrews Professor of Divinity Mario Aguilar wrote the 11-Point declaration

Written by St Andrews Professor of Divinity Mario Aguilar, the 11-point declaration incorporates the teachings of different faiths as it embraces the basic principles of humanity, equality, diversity and freedom.

Once signed, it is hoped that the document will be used in schools, and by community and faith groups around the world, to form discussion and foster the idea of a common humanity as a tool against radicalisation.

Professor Aguilar, Director of the University’s Centre for the Study of Religion and Politics, said:

“This is a momentous occasion in which a group of religious leaders, members of faith communities as well as the young declare the possibilities of a shared humanity. They declare that religion is not a problem for society but that it is the solution to isolate those who have been radicalised and do not contribute to the cooperation within society expected by faith communities."

The signing event forms the beginning of the conference ‘Silence, Texts and Service: Towards a Christian, Hindu and Buddhist Dialogue’, a three-day series of special events, prayers and lectures at St Andrews.

Other key figures attending the events include Lama Yeshe Rinpoche, Abbot of the Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery in Eskdalemuir, Professor Pascal Fournier of the University of Ottowa, Bishop Christine Mayr-Lumetzberger from Austria, and Ramesh Babu, Director of the Cascade Centre for Education in Amritsar, India.

Event marks culmination of the Year of Interfaith Dialogue

Also present was a survivor of the 2011 terrorist attacks in Norway, Lisa Marie Husby – currently a student at St Andrews – who read a poem written by the survivors. The declaration will also be signed by the University’s Master, Professor Garry Taylor, local school teachers and a dozen St Andrews graduates now active in the field of inter-faith dialogue.

The event marks the culmination of the Year of Interfaith Dialogue, an initiative set up by Professor Aguilar to stimulate conversation about the commonalities between the different faiths of the world.

Signing events have already been held in Canada and more will follow in India next summer.

The Year of Interfaith Dialogue was launched in September 2015 with two public events delivered by the Dalai Lama in London, and a lecture by peace activist and Mahatma Gandhi’s grandson, Arun Gandhi.