Focus

Conf calls for promotion of dialogue culture

By Zafarul-Islam Khan
Geneva: The third round of the Saudi-sponsored Dialogue between Civilisations and Religions was held here during 30 Sept.-1 October. Held under the auspices of the Makkah-based Muslim World League (MWL), the conference brought together hundreds of clerics, scholars and thinkers from 40 countries. The conference was part of the "Initiative of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah ibn Abdel Aziz Aal Saud for Dialogue among Followers of Religions and Cultures and its Impact on Promotion of Human Values" which started at Makkah in June 2008; a second round was held at Madrid in July 2008 (see earlier reports in MG issues 202 and 205). While the first round prepared a consensus among the Muslim Ummah for the need for such an international effort, the second and third rounds focussed on a common ground with other faiths like Christians, Jews, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jainists and discussed broad issues of agreement for peaceful coexistence among people of all faiths and cultures. The UN General Assembly had last November adopted the recommendations of the first two conferences.
 

The Geneva round was inaugurated by Councillor Muriel Berset on behalf of Swiss President Hans-Rudolf Merz. She pledged Switzerland’s all-out support for the initiative and highlighted her country's efforts to promote a peaceful world. "We welcome all of you to Geneva, the city of peace and dialogue," she said in Arabic.

Participants included UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay and representative of the Pope, Khalid Aksha. Dr Samuel Kobia, Secretary General of The World Council of Churches stressed that dialogue among followers of religions is based on mutual respect. Dr Abdullah Al Turki, secretary-general of the MWL and the main spirit behind the conference said that King  Abdullah's interfaith initiative aims at disseminating human values, promoting coexistence among people of different faiths, spreading the values of peace and security, fighting evil in the world and promoting cooperation between communities. The MWL is looking forward to the day when this initiative becomes a humanitarian project that will be implemented through a series of conferences, seminars and other programmes involving organizations and personalities from around the world, Al-Turki said in his address at the opening session.

Father Nabeel Haddad, executive director of the Jordanian Center for Religious Coexistence Research, spoke about the good experience of the Christian community in Jordan, saying Muslims treat them with respect.

William Baker, president of Christians and Muslims for Peace, said that "We need to move forward now by taking the dialogue initiative to the public and discuss issues such as poverty, occupation of homeland and human rights violation."
The communiqué called on the media to play a pivotal role in spreading the culture of dialogue and enhancing its goals and foundations. They pointed out that misunderstanding about other faiths and cultures and the absence of mutual trust were the main reasons for conflicts. Delegates agreed on the need to nurture a culture of dialogue and trust among the younger generation to make this historic initiative a success. They pointed out that misunderstandings about other faiths and cultures were the main reasons for conflicts. The conference called for joint efforts by people of all faiths to eliminate poverty, protect environment and prevent the arms industry from exploiting conflicts and wars.

Delegates supported a proposal to set up an international centre for dialogue to launch new programs to put the initiative in practice. The communiqué underscored the importance of the Makkah Declaration calling for the establishment of an international Islamic Commission for Dialogue and voiced support for the participation of more women and youth in future dialogue conferences.

Indian participants included Pramjit Singh Sarna, Chairman of the Delhi Gurdwara Parbhandak Committee, Swami Agnivesh, Dr Shantila Karamshi Somaya, Dr Molikal Abdul Salam, Prof MD Nalapat, and MG editor Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan. Vice President Hamid Ansari too was invited but he could not attend due to protocol problems.

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 October 2009 on page no. 1

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