On April 18, 2015, Ambassador Norland and Dr. Muhammad Shafiq of the Nazareth College, New York State attended the Batumi International Forum on Peace and Religion, hosted by the Georgian Muslim Union, the First Step Forum, Republic of Turkey Presidency of Religious Affairs, and the Oslo Centre for Peace and Human Rights. Below is the communique signed at the conclusion of the meeting.
The Georgian Muslim Union, the First Step Forum Republic of Turkey Presidency of religious Affairs and the Oslo Centre for Peace and Human Rights hosted an international conference on peace and religion at the Sheraton Hotel, Batumi on 18 April 2015. Georgian Muslims and Christians gathered for conversations together with international guests from both faiths. This event was followed on 19 April by a large public meeting to celebrate the 1444th. anniversary of the birth of the Prophet Muhammad in the Hall of Batumi State Musical Centre. The keynote speakers at the conference included: the former Norwegian Prime Minister, Mr Kjell Magne Bondevik, currently President of the Oslo Centre for Peace and Human Rights; Mr Richard Norland, USA Ambassador to Georgia; the Very Revd Johan Candelin of the First Step Forum; Professor Nebi Gumush of the Turkish Embassy in Tbilisi (Georgia); Professor Akbar Mukaddasi of Qom University, Iran; the Revd Paul Fiddes of the University of Oxford; and Dr. Muhammad Shafiq of the Nazareth College, New York State.
The conference objectives were: to deepen the relationships between people of different religions, to raise awareness of religious contributions to peace, to pay attention to the co-existence of people with different faith traditions for the sake of community welfare, and to deepen multilateral relations among religions.
The participants in these conversations:
affirm that Islam and Christianity are religions of peace, centred upon the love of God and the love of neighbour;
affirm the dignity of all human beings and urge that their religious feelings should be respected and their religious freedom safeguarded;