Saturday, 4 October 2008

World Conference on Dialogue in Madrid

World Conference on Dialogue in Madrid

King Abdullah Calls for a constructive
dialogue between religions

Dr. Mozammel Haque

MADRID: I came to Madrid, the capital of Spain, on Tuesday, the 15th of July 2008 to attend the World Conference on Dialogue, organized by the Makkah-based Muslim World League, under the patronage of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia, held at the El Pardo Palace on Wednesday, 16 July 2008. The conference was attended by more than 300 eminent personalities and representatives from the followers of different revealed religions and also of different philosophies, cultures and civilizations and especially those who are specialized in dialogue and its issues related to the life of human societies, to international cooperation, human rights and issues of peace, security and co-existence in the world.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
The King of Saudi Arabia has made a call to achieve a constructive dialogue between different religions. The event took place at the El Pardo Palace with King Juan Carlos I as the host, during the inauguration of the World Conference on Dialogue. King Abdullah is the promoter of this conference which lasted till Friday, the 18th of July, 2008 when the Madrid Declaration was announced.

On the opening ceremony at the El Pardo Palace, addressing the King of Spain and the eminent personalities of different religions, cultures and civilizations, King Abdullah ibn Abdulaziz said, “I extend my deep appreciation to my friend, His Majesty King Juan Carlos, and the Kingdom of Spain and its friendly people for welcoming the convening of this conference on their land, a land that has a historic and civilized heritage among the followers of religions, and which has witnessed coexistence between people of differing ethnicities and religions and cultures, and contributed, with other civilizations, to the advancement of humanity.”

King Abdullah also said, “I came to you from the place dearest to the hearts of all Muslims, the land of the Two Holy Mosques, bearing with me a message from the Islamic world (Ummah), representing its scholars and thinkers who recently met in the confines of the House of God. This message declares that Islam is a religion of moderation and tolerance; a message that calls for constructive dialogue among followers of religions; a message that promises to open a new page for humanity in which – God Willing – concord will replace conflict.”

The Saudi sovereign underlined in the presence of the Spanish monarch, the Spanish government, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero and a series of religious leaders, the common points of the three main monotheistic religions. “We all believe in one God, who sent messengers for the good of humanity in this world and the hereafter. His Will, praise be to Him, was that people should differ in their faiths. If the Almighty had so desired, all mankind would have shared the same religion. We are meeting today to affirm that the religions that God Almighty desired for the happiness of man, should be a means to ensure that happiness,” declared King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al- Saud.

Kind Abdullah also said, “It is therefore incumbent upon us to declare to the world that difference must not lead to conflict and confrontation, and to state that the tragedies that have occurred in human history were not attributable to religion, but were the result of extremism with which some adherents of every divinely revealed religion, and of every political ideology, have been afflicted.”

“Mankind is suffering today from a loss of values and conceptual confusion, and is passing through a critical phase which, in spite of all the scientific progress, is witnessing a proliferation of crime, an increase in terrorism, the disintegration of the family, subversion of the minds of the young by drug-abuse, exploitation of the poor by the strong, and odious racist tendencies. This is all a consequence of the spiritual void from which people suffer when they forget God, and God causes them to forget themselves. There is no solution for us other than to agree on a united approach, through dialogue among religions and civilizations,” said King Abdullah.

“Most of the past dialogues have failed because they have deteriorated into mutual recrimination focusing on and exaggerating differences in a sterile Endeavour that exacerbated rather than mitigated tensions, or because they attempted to fuse religions and creeds on the pretext of bringing them closer together. This is likewise a fruitless effort, since the adherents of every religion are deeply convinced in their faith, and will not accept any alternative thereto,” said the Saudi Monarch and added, “If we wish this historic meeting to succeed, we must focus on the common denominations that unite us, namely, deep faith in God, noble principles, and lofty moral values, which constitute the essence of religion.”

Likewise, the Saudi King stressed the value of religion in order to combat the problems of modern societies: “Terrorism, the disintegration of families, drugs, exploitation of the weak: all these are a consequence of a spiritual void,” he declared.

King Abdullah also declared, “Man is capable – by the Grace of God – of vanquishing hatred through love, and bigotry through tolerance, thereby enabling all mankind to enjoy the dignity that the Almighty has bestowed upon all of them.”

After the speech of both the Kings and the speech of the Secretary General of the Muslim World League, Dr. Abdullah Bin Abdul Mohsin Al-Turki, there was lunch at the Palace of the King of Spain.

Dialogue and its Religious & Civilizational Foundations
The five sessions and the concluding session were held at the Auditorium Madrid Hotel in Madrid. The first session on “Dialogue and its Religious & Civilizational Foundations” was held under the chairmanship of Dr. Bawa Jain, Secretary General of the Millennium World Peace Summit of Religious and Spiritual Leaders. Dr. Hussain Hamed Hassan, Legal Adviser, Dubai Islamic Bank spoke on Dialogue in Islam; Dr. Najeeb Gabriel, Head, Egyptian Organisation for Human Rights spoke on Dialogue in Christianity; Senior Rabbi Arthur Schneier, Founder and Chairman of Conscience Foundation Call, USA, spoke on Dialogue in Judaism and Dr. M.M. Verma, Director of Interfaith Foundation, India, spoke on Dialogue in Oriental Creeds (Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism, Confucianism).

Dialogue and Its Importance in Human Society
The second session on “Dialogue and Its Importance in Human Society” chaired by Salih bin Abdullah bin Humaid, the Speaker of Shoura Council, Saudi Arabia on 17th July. Rev. Nichiko, President of Japan Committee of World Parliament for Religion and Peace, spoke on Dialogue and Interaction of Cultures and Civilizations; Dr. Abdelhadi Al-Tazi, Member of Royal Academy of Morocco, spoke on Dialogue and its impact on peaceful co-existence; Congressman Jose De Venecia, Jr. Speaker of the Philippine House of Representatives, spoke on Impact of Religion on World Ethical Promotion and Dr. Redwan Naef Al-Sayyed, Chairman of the International Institute for Islamic Studies, Lebanon, spoke on Dialogue in the face of Calls for Clash of Civilization and End of History.

Common Human Values in Areas of Dialogue
The third session on “Common Human Values in Areas of Dialogue” chaired by Dr. William F. Vendley, Secretary General of the World Conference of Religions for Peace. Dr. Nihad Awad, Executive Director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, USA, spoke on Ethical Reality in Contemporary Human Society; Sheikh Muhammad Ali Taskheeri, Secretary General of the World Forum for Proximity of Islamic Schools of Thought, Iran, spoke on Significance of Religion and Values in Combating Crimes, Drugs and Corruption; Shankaracharya Onkar Anand Saraswati Ji Maharaj, leader of Sanatan Dharm, India, spoke on Role of Religion and Family in Stability of Society and Rev. Miguel Angel Ayuso Guixot, Rector of Pontifical Institute for Arabic Studies, Vatican, spoke on Protection of Environment as a Common Human Duty.

Evaluation and Promotion of Dialogue
The fourth session on “Evaluation and Promotion of Dialogue” chaired by Rabbi Caudio Epelman, Secretary General of Jewish Congress in Latin America & Caribbean, Argentina. Dr. Izeddin Ibrahim Mustafa, Adviser to President of United Arab Emirates for Cultural Affairs, UAE, spoke on Muslim-Christian-Jewish Dialogue: Its Future and Horizons; Master Xue Cheng, Vice-Chairman of Buddhist Association of China, spoke on Dialogue with Oriental Creeds: Its Future and Horizons; Father Econos Nabbel Haddad, Executive Director of Jordanian Centre for Religious Co-Existence Researches, Jordan, spoke on Efforts of World Countries and Organizations in Augmenting Dialogue and Overcoming Its Obstacles and Mr. Federico Mayor Zaragoza, President of the Cultural Foundation of Peace, Spain, spoke on Dialogue: Its Impact on Peaceful Co-Existence.

Disseminating of Culture and Co-existence of Dialogue
The fifth session held on 18th July on “Disseminating of Culture and Co-existence of Dialogue” chaired by Dr. Ahmed Talib Al-Ibrahimi, former Foreign Minister of Algeria. Dr. Nabil Luka Bibawi, Member of Shoura Council of Egypt spoke on Media and Its Impact on Disseminating the Culture of Dialogue and Co-existence; Dr. James Kidner, Director of Co-existence Foundation, UK, spoke on Dialogue: Its Impact on Co-existence and Dr. William Baker, President of Christians and Muslims for Peace (CAMP), USA, spoke on Dialogue, Peace and Co-existence.

The Madrid Declaration urges for
a special UN session on Dialogue

The three-day World Conference on Dialogue concluded here on Friday, 18th July by calling for forming a working team to study the problems hindering dialogue and proposing an international agreement to combat terrorism. The Islamic, Christian and Jewish leaders appealed for a special UN session to promote dialogue among the followers of religions, cultures and civilizations.

The Madrid Declaration, read by Dr. Abdul Rahman bin Abdullah Al-Zaid, Deputy Secretary General of the MWL, demanded an international agreement of defining terrorism, addressing its root causes and achieving justice and stability in the world. “Terrorism is a universal phenomenon that requires unified efforts to combat it in a serious, responsible and just way,” it said. It rejected the call for the clash of civilizations and cultures and warned of the danger of campaigns seeking to deepen conflicts and destabilize peace and security.

Delegates said legal and political negotiation must proceed the establishment of a Centre for dialogue named after King Abdullah in view of his role as a promoter of peace and constructive dialogue. “No statesman realizes the need for peace more acutely than King Abdullah whose Kingdom lies in the vortex of an imagined clash of civilizations,” said Jose de Venecia, a Filipino who is Vice-President of Christian Democratic International and Chairman of CDI-Asia Pacific International Conference of Asian Political Party.

The Madrid Declaration called upon the UN General Assembly to conduct a special session on dialogue. They said, “Dialogue is one of the essentials of life. It is one of the most important means for knowing each other, cooperation, exchange of interests and realizing the truth, which contributes to the happiness of humankind.”

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