On 6-9 February 2006 an international conference was held in Cairo on 'Human Genetics and Reproductive Technologies: Religious and Secular Approaches Compared'. This meeting was organised by the Kuwait-based Islamic Organization of Medical Sciences. Of the 138 participants, three represented the position of Judaism on genetic questions, two the Protestant position, one the (Byzantine) Orthodox position, and two that of the Catholic Church. The others present were Muslims. The grand shaykh of the mosque of al-Azhar and the Minister for the Islamic Heritage of Egypt attended the final evening. Opened by a lecture by the Egyptian Dr. Hassan Hathout, the conference witnessed a clear Catholic and Muslim convergence on the principle that human life begins from the first moment of conception. Despite a hadith that permits abortion during the first 40 or 120 days, and in the absence of a single magisterium, almost all the Muslim participants upheld the defence of life from conception onwards with various scientific and theological arguments. Msgr. Camillo Ballin, the Vicar Apostolic of Kuwait, expounded the approach of the Catholic Church and referred to the fundamental principles of the dignity of the person and the sacredness of life expressed on a series of occasions by the Magisterium. The field of the defence of life is today a fertile terrain for co-operation between the believers of different religions.
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