A recently held conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, featured Sunni and Shia Muslim scholars from throughout the world who are opposed to violence against religious minorities in Muslim countries.

“The militants have targeted minority groups, among others, with violence, rape and sexual enslavement, forced conversion, and destruction of holy sites,” according to the U.S. Institute of Peace, which had representation at the conference.

The conference issued the “Marrakesh Declaration and Call to Action.”

“The statement appeals for going beyond simple tolerance to affirmative cooperation that confers ‘full protection for the rights and liberties to all religious groups’,” the institute said. “It also calls for concrete actions to achieve this goal.”

Conference attendees called “upon Muslim scholars and intellectuals around the world to develop a jurisprudence of the concept of ‘citizenship’ which is inclusive of diverse groups.”

“Such jurisprudence shall be rooted in Islamic tradition and principles and mindful of global changes,” they stated.

The declaration’s executive summary noted that “this year marks the 1,400th anniversary of the Charter of Medina, a constitutional contract between the Prophet Muhammad … and the people of Medina, which guaranteed the religious liberty of all, regardless of faith.

“The objectives of the Charter of Medina provide a suitable framework for national constitutions in countries with Muslim majorities, and the United Nations Charter and related documents, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,” the summary noted, “are in harmony with the Charter of Medina, including consideration for public order.”

The summary said numerous crises in the world underscore “the inevitable and urgent need for cooperation among all religious groups.”

“Cooperation must go beyond mutual tolerance and respect,” it said, “to providing full protection for the rights and liberties to all religious groups in a civilized manner that eschews coercion, bias, and arrogance.”

The declaration “urged Muslim educational institutions and authorities to conduct a courageous review of educational curricula that addresses honestly and effectively any material that instigates aggression and extremism, leads to war and chaos, and results in the destruction of our shared societies.”

The declaration also called “upon the various religious groups bound by the same national fabric to address their mutual state of selective amnesia that blocks memories of centuries of joint and shared living on the same land.”

“We call upon them to rebuild the past by reviving this tradition of conviviality,” the declaration stated, “and restoring our shared trust that has been eroded by extremists using acts of terror and aggression.”

The declaration noted that it is time for “representatives of the various religions, sects and denominations to confront all forms of religious bigotry, vilification, and denigration of what people hold sacred, as well as all speech that promotes hatred and bigotry.”

The declaration also said “it is unconscionable to employ religion” for the purpose of aggression against religious minorities in Muslim countries.

While noble words cannot stop bullets and bombs, they can empower and inspire. The Marrakesh Conference gives me hope of a world when swords will be turned into plowshares.

Further reading: Marrakesh Declaration and Call to Action.