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KAICIID: Promoting universal principles of tolerance
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 01 - 12 - 2012

Samar Fatany

In the past many conflicts and wars were instigated by religions. Today extremists in all religions are still a threat to humanity and world peace.
At present in Europe, the debate between atheists and believers has also become more bitter and rancorous. However, in spite of the obstructionists, the majority of people in the world still believe in God and consider their faith very necessary and a consoling factor in their daily lives.
Meanwhile, governments are also finally beginning to recognize the important role of religious leaders, who have been marginalized for a long time, in the promotion of peace and global coexistence.
On November 26, the United Nations officially recognized The King Abdullah International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) in Vienna, as an international organization that aims to contribute to conflict prevention and resolution, the creation of lasting peace, building bridges between conflicting religions and the promotion of mutual respect and understanding among followers of different religions and cultures. The center includes nearly 800 religious leaders and activists.
There are many controversial issues that religious leaders continue to debate. The Muslim world is greatly concerned with the rise of Islamophobia and the defamation of Islam in the West, while Western religious leaders have been struggling with the concept of separation of church and state.
Atheists and agnostics have called for the removal of the ten commandments, the most sacred rules of Christian scripture, and all other things related to Christianity from public property.
The American Civil Liberties Union(ACLU) and its allies as well as other rights groups hostile to religious freedom deny churches the right to rent public school facilities for Sunday worship services. They also deny religious organizations a place in public life, thereby imposing secular life on all of society. Many Christians today remain concerned that a purely secular government that is inherently atheist is dangerously immoral.
Meanwhile, the September 11 attacks and the raging wars and conflicts around the world have made governments and policy makers aware of the urgent need to promote the role of religious leaders who can hopefully bring about peace and global coexistence. The marginalization of religious leaders and the policy of the complete separation of church and state imposed by government has demonstrated the failure of governments to promote religious values and principles. Faith-based organizations feel an obligation to put God back into public life to make the world a more peaceful and moral place.
Religion should not be a source of conflict or divide, but rather it should be the means to promote peace and global coexistence. Religious leaders today are encouraged to play a greater role in preaching universal religious principles of tolerance, compassion and justice for all. Faith-based organizations are more vocal in their opposition to those who attempt to use religion to divide all of humanity.
Faith-based organizations continue to criticize politicians who have abused their positions and power. They express concern about the threat of religious extremists who are never held morally accountable for their actions, and they are also disappointed by ineffective religious leaders who have failed to inculcate the correct values that would strengthen the conscience of individuals.
Traditionally, interfaith dialogue groups have been hard to set up, difficult to sustain, and dogged by religious and personal conflicts.
However, lately interfaith dialogue initiatives have provided more genuine efforts that are not merely hours of empty rhetoric.
KAICIID will hopefully provide the platform for all the faithful of different religions to rise up to the occasion and work together to support interfaith and intercultural organizations as well as change the negative mindset that divides them. Activists and religious scholars are required to seek common ground to confront political, social, economic and environmental issues that are a threat to humanity and world peace.
At the inauguration of KAICIID in Vienna, I met people of different faiths and different beliefs gathered to share their ambition for the creation of a world with no wars and no conflicts, a world with no hatred and violence, and no intercultural tensions and hostilities.
The strong endorsements by the United Nations, the Vatican, which has joined as a founding observer and is represented on the board, and the board of high-level representatives of the major world religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism) are enough to silence the voices of skeptics and extremists in all religions who are obstacles to peace and a threat to global prosperity.
Father Miguel Angel Ayuso explained: “Dialogue based on respect, mutual understanding and collaboration is a vital necessity for our present and future.” He said, “As an observer of the Holy See and a member of the Board of Directors for the Catholic Church, I will support the KAICIID in promoting these values.”
Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary General of the UN, said, “I fully support your vision of religion as an enabler of respect and reconciliation”. He also called on religious leaders to “promote the universal human values and unite under precepts common to all creeds”, and he criticized extremist intolerance and the propagators of hate.
The role of religious leaders has become crucial to setting a new direction for the global community. They need to be more effective in order to build trust and eliminate the fears and suspicions that are the reasons behind the turmoil and violence that are threatening our world today.
— Samar Fatany is a radio broadcaster and writer. She can be reached at [email protected]

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