WCC NEWS: Arab religious leaders create first-ever platform for social cohesion

WCC NEWS: Arab religious leaders create first-ever platform for social cohesion

An “Interreligious Dialogue for Peace, Promoting Peaceful Coexistence & Common Citizenship”in Vienna on 26 February is creating a first-ever joint action plan for Arab religious leaders to lead the way in repairing the divisions created by extremists, and rebuilding social cohesion and common citizenship in the Arab region.

The platform will be the first of its kind for the leaders of Christian and Muslim communities in the region, a space where they can cooperate to jointly promote the best interests of all the people in the region. Religious leaders and policymakers consider this institution essential; the lack of such a platform is as an obstacle to sustained interreligious dialogue.

More than 200 religious leaders, policymakers, academics, and representatives of international and civil society organizations are attending the conference, including leaders from the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Muslim World League and Evangelical Church of Egypt.

The conference is being organized by the Vienna-based International Dialogue Centre (KAICIID), and it represents represents a milestone in KAICIID’s programme to promote social cohesion and peaceful coexistence in the Arab region.

Ecumenical Patriarch offers opening address

In an opening address, Ecumenical Patriarch His All-Holiness Bartholomew I offered greetings and thanked those who traveled for this important historic endeavor.  “It is indeed an extraordinary joy for us to be in the presence of so many tireless workers for peace, who have travelled to be in Vienna this week in order to participate in this conference and address the increasing threats that affect human dignity, understanding, openness and peace in today’s world,” he said. “May our work here bear fruit during a confusing and challenging time in our history.”

In spite of the struggle for human rights over many decades, many governments around the world continue to legislate discriminatory laws and use force in order to suppress and deny their citizens’ freedom of religion or belief, continued Bartholomew I.

“Over the last few years, the percentage of countries with high or very high levels of social hostilities against religious minority groups has steadily increased around the globe,” he continued. “Conditions in many parts of the world are far from ideal.”

The contribution of religion is crucial to overcoming the worldwide crisis, he concluded.

“Love surpasses human capacity. It is a divine gift,” he said. “Therefore, we strongly believe that to achieve it demands much more than our human spontaneous response. It requires something much more than our simple will to follow God’s invitation. It implies a lifelong and continuous response, a commitment through faith, prayer, and spiritual struggle–in other words, through religion.”

The event also saw opening remarks from H.E. Faisal Bin Abdulrahman Bin Muammar, KAICIID secretary general; H.E. Dr Michael Linhart, secretary general for Foreign Affairs, Republic of Austria; H.E. Nizar Madami, state minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; H.E. Belén Alfaro, ambassador at large for the Alliance of Civilizations and for Interreligious Dialogue; and His Eminence Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue.