Greetings of peace and blessing. It is with immense pleasure to inform you that, representing URI, we participated in the International Conference organized by KAICIID (King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue) entitled “Interreligious dialogue for peace: promoting peaceful coexistence and common citizenship” held in Vienna 26-28 February 2018.
As part of the fifth anniversary of KAICIID’s launch as an intergovernmental and interreligious organization, the Centre organized a second high-level meeting for the purpose of launching the much needed and often requested High-level Religious Leaders Joint Platform. In past decades, the world has witnessed several conflicts in which religion has been misused to justify violence. This has led to the emergence of a number of crises (such as internal conflict, violence, displacement and a massive increase in refugees) that have challenged and undermined the stability of the whole world. These conflicts have grown to target followers of different religions in many parts of the world. The violence committed in the name of religion threatens the cultural, social and religious fabric of relations in and between communities, as well as the very survival of religious institutions and communities affected by the conflicts.
In the light of the above reality, there is an urgency to formulate effective responses to the need to foster interreligious and intercultural dialogue to face such a challenge. It is with this core point in mind, the meeting was organized.
More than 250 participants, including 80-100 international participants and 20-30 participants from international organizations and representatives from government missions attended the meeting. The meeting took place over the course of two days and broken into both panel presentations, with time for in-depth, interactive discussion and small working groups on certain thematic areas. Specific meetings were also organized, as part of the event, for the launch of a regional inter-faith dialogue Platform in the Arab region.
At a conference, leading representatives of different religious communities worldwide spoke up in one voice for social cohesion, peaceful coexistence and respect for religious diversity.
Some of the religious leaders and participants attending the conference included Patriarch Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople, Dr. Mohammad bin Abdul Karim Alissa, Secretary General, Muslim World League, Dr. Abbas Shuman, Deputy of Al-Azhar, Theodoros II of Alexandria, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the Chief Rabbi of Moscow, Russia, and President of the Conference of European Rabbis, Adama Dieng, the UN Secretary-General's Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, Mr. Nassir Abdulaziz Al-Nasser, the High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations, and Dr. Yousef Bin Ahmad Al-Othaimeen, Secretary General, Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and Ahmad Alhendawi, Secretary General of the World Organization of the Scout Movement.
Support for KAICIID’s mission to promote interreligious and intercultural dialogue also came from the representatives of the Centre’s Council of Parties, Dr. Michael Linhart, Secretary-General for Foreign Affairs, Republic of Austria, Dr. Nizar Madani, State Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, and Amb. Belén Alfaro, Ambassador at large for the Alliance of Civilization and the Interreligious Dialogue, Kingdom of Spain. KAICIID Board Member Bishop Miguel Ayuso, delivered a speech on behalf of Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran President of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue.
The particular focus of the conference was on the work the Centre is carrying out to promote peaceful coexistence in focus areas, especially in the Arab region. At the conference, the Centre launched the first interreligious dialogue platform for religious leaders from the Arab region.
Over the two days, the gathered religious leaders, policymakers and experts participated in a series of dialogues on topics such as the role of religious leaders & policymakers in promoting social cohesion & common citizenship, global partnerships for dialogue and promoting social cohesion, interreligious education & common citizenship values, and social media as a space for dialogue. The participants included leading figures in interreligious dialogue, experts and policymakers.
At the conclusion of the conference, participants presented their recommendations for the Centre, and its partners. These recommendations were grouped thematically under the topics of social media, social cohesion and interreligious education.
On this occasion of this international interfaith meeting, the URI Africa Peace award was presented to KAICIID in recognition of the outstanding work of KAICIID in promoting Interreligious and intercultural dialogue. (For more information on the award, please do read the press release from URI-Africa)
Immediate future plans include discussions to enhance working partnerships at the global level between URI and KAICIID. These are exciting times ahead.
May Peace Prevail on Earth
Kiran Bali MBE JP
URI Global Chair
Amb. Mussie Hailu, Global Envoy of URI &
Regional Director of URI-Africa and
Rep of URI at the African Union and UN