Ayatollah Seyed Mostafa Mohaghegh Ahmadabadi, a Shiite professor at Shahid Beheshti University, spoke Thursday to the synodal assembly as a special guest.
His talk reflected on the "new conditions" faced by religions over the past few decades.
"Before the Second World War, and in spite of technological developments, the followers of different religions, more or less lived in their own national boundaries," he said. "Neither the enormous problem of immigration existed nor did exist such expansion of communication that connects so many different social groups together."
But by the end of the second millennium, multi-culturalism was "more or less accepted worldwide," Ahmadabadi observed. "Today there are less and less societies and groups who would defend a monolithic cultural society."
Hence, the Shiite scholar proposed, societies with a variety of ethnic groups are required to respect the presence and rights of others.
"Concordance of interests and social welfare on national and international levels is as such that no one group or country can be disregarded. And this is the reality of our time," he affirmed.
Ahmadabadi contended that mutual understanding between religions necessitates taking these cultural conditions into consideration.
"All will be sharing each other's destinies," he asserted.
The scholar said that a prerequisite for this kind of thinking is "to put aside our formal classical and conditioned viewpoint on other religions and cultures in order to be able to have a more objective vision. We have to look with understanding, respect and sympathy to other cultures."
And, the professor proposed, "We should also consider what the ideal condition is for the believers and followers? How is the best situation achieved? It seems that the ideal world would be the state where believers of any faith freely and without any apprehension, fear and obligation could live according to the basic principles and modes of their own customs and traditions. This right which is universally recognized should in fact be practiced by the states and communities."
Ahmadabadi went on to consider the particular case of rapport between Christians and Muslims.
"It is unfortunate that during certain periods in the past 1,400 years, at times because of political considerations, there have been dark moments in this relationship," he said. "But one should not relate these illegitimate acts of certain individuals and groups neither to Islam nor to Christianity."
He concluded by thanking Benedict XVI for his teaching on the "importance of continued healthy and friendly rapport between Christians and Muslims."
"Such approach and manners are essential for all believers," he said, "and certainly important for peace in the world."
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