University of St Andrews: Leaders sign Declaration of Humanity led by St Andrews academic

Leaders of many faiths and beliefs from around the world gathered in Rome yesterday (Wednesday 25 May) for the signing of a declaration for humanity.

The event was attended by senior members of several faiths including the Buddhist monk Shartse Khensur Geshe Jangchub Choeden Rinpoche, Deputy Secretary General of the International Buddhist Confederation, New Delhi, India, and directors of the Buddha- Dharma Pramana Institute of Brazil, Dr Plinio Tsai and Patricia Palazzo Tsai. Non-religious leaders included the historian Omar Mohamed, the only academic to remain in Mosul during ISIS occupation, and Dr Camila Vergara of the University of Cambridge, an associate of the St Andrews Centre for the Study of Religion and Politics (CSRP) and co-author of the revised St Andrews text, known as the St Andrews – Roma Monti Declaration.

The 100-strong delegation from 25 countries was joined by Halil Acvi, a Muslim student at the University of St Andrews, and Renata Beman, a researcher of Rome’s Pontifical Athenaeum Regina Apostolorum for the signing of the Roma Monti Declaration for a Shared Humanity.

The original declaration was written in St Andrews by Professor of Divinity Mario I Aguilar, and the first signing was held in Upper College Hall at the University in 2016, followed by signings in India and Chile.

The text of the declaration has been updated, in collaboration with Dr Camila Vergara of the University of Cambridge, to fully reflect all genders, abilities and ethnicities.

The 23-point declaration incorporates the teachings of different faiths and embraces the basic principles of humanity, equality, diversity and freedom. 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 CSRP, said: “This was a historic signing, significant and historical, in tune with goals of the University of St Andrews’ inclusive community. For the first time in a declaration of this nature a specific mention is made of those who are regularly excluded, of victims of abuse, and of those with different abilities.

“The impact and inclusive research that started in 2016 will be continued in an ongoing interaction not only with the faith communities but with a full engagement with those involved in creating the socio-political conditions for the recognition of dignity in every human being.”

Before the signing, the group also remotely joined the Sakya Buddhist community and the 14th Dalai Lama for Life Offering Prayers at the main Tibetan temple in Dharamshala, India.

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