Journey to KAICIID
Vision Turns into Visible Reality
Dr. Mozammel Haque
This is a journey that has taken many years, from its beginning as the personal vision of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, to the Official Inauguration of the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) in 2012.
The Journey to the establishment of King Abdullah International Dialogue Centre followed on from a series of groundbreaking, historic meetings, which included the meeting at the Vatican between the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and Pope Benedict XVI; The World International Islamic Conference in Makkah, Saudi Arabia; The World Conference on Dialogue in Madrid, Spain; the address by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz to the UN General Assembly in New York and the World Conference on Dialogue in Vienna, Austria.
The Journey to KAICIID has progressed through three stages of development, that may be characterised as i) Building the concept; ii) Taking it to the world; and iii) Implementation.
1. THE BUILDING THE CONCEPT
i) Meeting with Pope Benedict XVI on 6th November 2007
The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah met with Pope Benedict XVI in a historic visit to the Vatican, to share his idea and to engage with the Holy See in a unique initiative and commitment to interfaith dialogue. During this historic visit on 6th of November 2007, King Abdullah shared his idea for an ‘initiative for Interfaith Dialogue’ to His Holiness who indicated his willingness to support the initiative.
During this historic meeting at the Vatican, The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and his Holiness Pope Benedict XVI called for interfaith and intercultural dialogue among followers of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and “for the promotion of peace, justice and spiritual and moral values, especially in support of the family.”
The meeting sent a clear message that followers of Christianity and Islam should overcome their minor differences and focus on the common values and principles they share.
ii) International Islamic Conference for Dialogue
in Makkah on 4th June 2008
This period also provided an opportunity for King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz to set forth his principles and vision for dialogue within Islam as a starting point.
The Custodian for Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, opened the International Islamic Conference for Dialogue at the Royal Safa Palace in Makkah, the city that is regarded as the heart of Islam.
This now famous initiative by the Custodian for Two Holy Mosques, organised by the Muslim World League, brought together over 500 of the most influential scholars, academics and organisation leaders in the Muslim world to debate issues, to counter challenges of rigidity, ignorance and narrow-mindedness and with a goal of making the world better acquainted with the kind message of Islam. As the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques said in his address, “We are the voice of justice and human moral values, the voice of rational and just co-existence and dialogue, the voice of wisdom and admonition and argumentation with the best way possible.”
The initiative gained additional support and momentum when the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques made a further call for dialogue by Muslims with the followers of other religions and cultures, as a means of respecting the other. The statement by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques also sought to establish a common ground of respect among all peoples of the world.
The conference concluded with a call to different Islamic organisations to do more in terms of cooperation and coordination to advance dialogue and to make it serve the interests of humanity. A specific recommendation was to establish a King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Intercultural Dialogue, with the aim of promoting a culture of dialogue.
So the participants at the International Islamic Conference for Dialogue in Makkah urged Muslims to attempt to establish dialogue with other religions and cultures and to strive for peaceful coexistence with others. It was here at Makkah that the idea of establishing a dedicated International Dialogue Centre with a view to disseminating the culture of dialogue, was first publicly highlighted in this way.
2. TAKING IT TO THE WORLD
i) International Conference for Dialogue
in Madrid on 16th -18th July, 2008
Following up on the Makkah Conference, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques invited attendees to engage in and promote dialogue as the means to achieve peace and reconciliation and to achieve the betterment of humanity.
Three-day World Conference on Dialogue organised by the Muslim World League in Madrid during 16th-18th July, 2008, was hosted by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz and by King Juan Carlos I of Spain. Nearly 300 delegates including followers of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism as well as followers of other religions and cultures, along with scholars and researchers, attended this World Conference on Dialogue in Madrid to discuss common issues facing Mankind.
In his opening address the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz declared that he was bringing a message from the Islamic world, representing its scholars and thinkers who had recently met; the message declared that Islam was a religion of moderation and tolerance. This was a message calling for constructive dialogue among followers of religions, a message that promised to open a new page for humanity in which – God willing – concord would replace conflict.
The Conference focused on the common denominators that unite Mankind, namely, deep faith in God, noble principles, and the lofty moral values that constitute the essence of faith. Conference delegates also discussed terrorism as the major obstacle to dialogue and coexistence, requiring international efforts to deal with it in a serious, responsible and just manner.
The final declaration of the Conference rejected the notion of the so-called “Clash of Civilisation” and warned against the danger of campaigns seeking to deepen conflicts and destabilise peace and security. It also affirmed that “Dialogue is one of the most important means for knowing each other.”
This Conference concluded with several commitments including that of forming a workgroup and for joint action aimed at overcoming obstacles standing in the way of dialogue. The Conference also urged the UN General Assembly to support its recommendations and called for a special UN Session on dialogue.
ii) Plenary High-level Meeting at the UN General
Assembly, New York, on 12th-13th November, 2008
Following the adoption of the Madrid Declaration, the United Nations General Assembly convened a plenary, high-level meeting on 12th-13th November, 2008, under item 45, “Culture of Peace” to discuss interreligious dialogue.
This meeting took note of the initiative and the speech delivered by King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and the World Conference on Dialogue held in Madrid under his patronage and hosted by the King and Government of Spain. The General Assembly reiterated its call for promoting a culture of tolerance and mutual understanding through dialogue, and for supporting the initiatives of religious leaders, civil society and states seeking to entrench a Culture of Peace, understanding, tolerance and respect for human rights among the proponents of various faiths, cultures and civilisations.
Concerned about serious instances of intolerance, discrimination, hatred expressions and harassment of minority religious communities of all faiths, participating states underlined the importance of promoting dialogue, understanding and tolerance among human beings, as well as respect for all their diverse religions, cultures and beliefs. Participating states affirmed their rejection of the use of religion to justify the killing of innocent people and actions of terrorism, violence and coercion, which directly contradict the commitment of all religions to peace, justice and equality.
Participating states also expressed their commitment to strengthening and supporting existing mechanisms within the UN for promoting tolerance and human rights, preserving the institution of the family, protecting the environment, spreading education, eradicating poverty and fighting drug abuse, crime and terrorism, noting the positive role of religions, beliefs and moral humanitarian principles in tackling these challenges.
The vision of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques was now becoming manifest in the hearts of those religious scholars and others who were beginning to understand the possibilities of new horizon in dialogue.
The aspiration has since required that concepts, ideals, hope and vision be underpinned by hard work and by practical steps and activities, in order to turn the Dream originated by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques into a tangible, visible Reality. Conference at Vienna and at Geneva played a significant role in converting lofty ideas into a viable project, with subsequent development of the legal, political and interreligious and intercultural understandings forming the basis for a worthy and meaningful proposition.
i) World Interreligious Dialogue Follow up Conference
in Vienna on 13th-14th July, 2009
The Muslim World League, continued the initiative of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, and arranged a World Conference on Dialogue in Vienna on 13th-14th July, 2009. The meeting added to the previous discussions at Madrid and at the UN General Assembly in New York and took measures to provide an effective way forward.
Three resolutions were adopted. The World Conference on Dialogue unanimously supported the intention of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques which was to establish an international centre for interreligious dialogue. Consequently, a Preparatory Working Group (PWG) was established. It comprised representatives from the Muslim, Christian and Jewish religions and the President of the International Peace Institute (IPI) was appointed as the convener. The PWG was set up in consultation with the representatives of the Muslim World League as well as the representatives of the other world religions who were present in Vienna.
The PWG was to make recommendations for the composition of a Steering Committee comprised of named representatives from the other world religions present at the conference with a Hindu and Buddhist representation to be invited after the conference. The Steering Committee’s mandate was to present detailed proposals for the establishment of an institution to work as an international centre for interreligious dialogue – including its mission, organisation, governing structure, terms of reference and other elements – by the end of the year.
ii) Interfaith Conference in Geneva on
30th September-1st October, 2009
Maintaining the momentum of the previous meetings an interfaith conference, organised by the Muslim World League (MWL) was held in Geneva, Switzerland between 30th September and 1st October, 2009 which attracted 150 religious and academic figures representing different religions and cultures from nearly 40 countries. The Conference called on the leaders of all faiths and civilisations in the world to reflect further and to interact with the initiative by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques about the use of dialogue as a means to “uphold human values, establish justice, promote cooperation, protect human rights, preserve the family and end conflicts.”
The Interfaith conference reviewed the existing relationships among the various human civilisations, and stressed the importance of addressing the profound misunderstandings that disturb their normal course. The Conference concluded that religions are not the source of crises that disturb intercultural relations, even if sometimes some people tend to define them as such; differences stem from conflicts of interests and the predominance of selfish interests.
The Conference called on the concerned States and relevant institutions to implement international conventions, especially the United Nations resolutions and principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The final Communiqué enshrined three main topics, which were:
iii) Signing of the Agreement for the Establishment
of the Centre in Vienna on 13th October 2011
A major milestone was made on 13th October 2011 in Vienna when the three founding states, comprising the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Republic of Austria and the Kingdom of Spain signed the Agreement for the Establishment of KAICIID. The Holy See whose representative attended the Signing Ceremony also supported the Agreement.
Vienna has been chosen as the location for KAICIID because of its reputation as an international city and its long history of proven interreligious acceptance.
iv) Preparatory Commission Established
in Vienna on 23rd April, 2012
The Conference of the States Signatories of the Founding Agreement met in Madrid on 23rd of April, 2012 and established a Preparatory Commission for the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue. Its ourpose was to work toward the establishment of the Centre and to lay the groundwork for the implementation of the objectives of the Founding Agreement.
At its first meeting, the Preparatory Commission established an Interim Secretariat, appointed H.E. Faisal Bin Abdulrahman Bin Muaammar as Interim Secretary General and Ms. Claudia Bandion-Ortner as Deputy Secretary General, elected the members of the Interim Board of Directors and adopted its Rules of Procedure.
v) Agreement enters into Force in
Vienna on 21st October 2012
The Agreement for the Establishment of the King Abdullah bin Abdulziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue entered into force, on 21st of October, 2012, in Vienna, sixty days after the deposit of the instruments of ratification by all parties having signed the Agreement. The Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs of the Republic of Austria serves as Depository for the Founding Agreement.
vii) First Meeting of the Council of Parties
in Vienna on 31st October, 2012
The Council of Parties, consisting of the representatives of the three Founding States of the Centre convened for its first session on 31st October 2012 in Vienna. The Council took over from the Preparatory Commission for the Establishment of the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre to complete the necessary preparatory work for the establishment of the Centre.
In its first meeting, the Council of Parties admitted the Holy See as a Founding Observer. The Council of Parties also appointed H.E. Faisal Bin Abdulrahman Bin Muaammar as Secretary General and Her Excellency Claudia Bandion-Ortner as Deputy Secretary General of the Centre. The members of the Board of Directors were also elected.
viii) The Inauguration Ceremony of the King Abdullah
Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious
and Intercultural Dialogue in Vienna on 26th November, 2012
The King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) was officially opened on 26th November, 2012 at the Hofburg Palace in Vienna.
With the establishment of KAICIID in Vienna, the dream of King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz turns into visible reality and a new chapter of global international dialogue begins.