In a meeting with Pope Francis on Thursday in Rome, former president Shimon Peres invited the Arab world to form a “united front” against terrorism.
“Today the Arab world recognizes the growing threat of terror as we do, as well as the extremist activities of the Islamic State and the Islamic Jihad. There are common interests for cooperation between Israel and the Arab world. The Arab world can join forces with Israel, the United States and the European Union in the united front against terror in which religious leaders play a pivotal role, led by Your Holiness,” he told the pope.
“Terrorists do not hesitate to use religion for the benefit of the atrocious crimes which they carry out. They take passages from the Quran and justify beheadings and slaying of women and children. We must put an end to it.”
Pope Francis urged interfaith cooperation and called on religious leaders to play a central role in opposing terrorism and the use of religion to justify it. The pope added that terrorism infringes upon religious freedoms and harms all religions.
The two leaders met at the Vatican to discuss the security crises unfolding in the Middle East and the summer’s fighting between Israel and Hamas.
Peres opened the meeting by denouncing Hamas’s violence during the 50 days of Operation Protective Edge. “Hamas’s use of schools, hospitals and mosques as launching pads, and its use of human shields, are opposed to all religious beliefs,” Peres said, according to a press report released by a Peres spokesperson.
The former president insisted Israel does not intentionally target civilians, lamenting that “the war on terror is painful and harms innocents on both sides.”
Peres went on to summarize the security situation in the Middle East, briefing the pope on the escalation of terror in the region, the rise of the Islamic State, and the threat of Al-Qaeda on Israel’s northern border. The two also discussed the need to act to mitigate terror, incitement, discrimination and poverty.
Francis echoed Peres’s call to action, saying, “in view of the rise of terror, we must join forces and act with resolve against the growing threat of terror which is an enemy to all religions.”