By Arab News
Twenty-three of the highest Muslim and Christian authorities across the Arab region on Monday committed to work together to rebuild and protect their communities from the effects of violent extremist rhetoric and actions.
In a historic initiative, they launched the first interreligious platform to advocate for the rights and inclusion of all communities in the Arab world, to combat ideologies instigating hatred and sectarianism, and to jointly address the toughest challenges their communities face.
The dialogue platform is the pioneering initiative of the Vienna-based International Dialogue Center (KAICIID), an intergovernmental organization founded by Saudi Arabia, Austria and Spain, with the Holy See as a founding observer.
Speaking at the launch of the platform, KAICIID Secretary-General Faisal bin Muammar said: “Religion, especially in the Arab world, is a powerful motivating force, and a source of shared identity for millions of people. For too long we have allowed religion to be hijacked and used as justification for causing pain and suffering. With the launch of this platform, the leaders of religious communities say ‘enough’ to this manipulation and misuse.
“There has been enough talk, and not enough action. Through this platform, we will set a visible, tangible example of interreligious cooperation. People need to see that religious communities, working together, are much stronger than any extremists, and that cooperation brings concrete benefits to everyone.”
Some of the planned activities of the platform include training for clergy on how to empower young people to resist violent extremism, and the development of religious education curricula to promote respect for all religions.
The platform will also focus on constructively engaging with all forms of media in the region to deepen respect for diversity and a culture of dialogue. The members of the platform will regularly meet national and regional policymakers to advocate for policies and laws that uphold social cohesion.
The founding members of the platform include Sheikh Dr. Shawki Ibrahim Allam, grand mufti of Egypt; Cardinal Al-Rai, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and All the East; Patriarch Aram I Keshishian, head of the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia; Sheikh Abdul-Latif Derian, the grand mufti of Lebanon; Dr. Tawfeeq bin Abdul Aziz Al-Sediry, vice minister of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Saudi Arabia; Pope Tawadros II, pope of Alexandria, and patriarch of the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria; and Sheikh Mohammed Hussein, grand mufti of Jerusalem and Palestine.
Al-Rai said: “We are determined to do what we can to safeguard our communities from war, extremism and violence, especially in the name of religion, and to plant values of dialogue, peaceful coexistence and common citizenship. We wish full success for this conference and to see the fruits of its efforts in the interreligious platform which will be launched here.”
Sheikh Allam said: “The world is in dire need of dialogue platforms based on firmly established principles. We need a dialogue that respects our contexts and does not seek to stir animosity, hatred or impose hegemony over one another.”