Friday 18 July 2008 (14 Rajab 1429)

      Madrid dialogue shows unity: Ban
      Badea Abu Al-Naja | Arab News 


            Delegates to the World Conference on Dialogue in Madrid attend one 
of its sessions at the Auditorium Hotel on Thursday. (SPA)    
      MADRID: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has described the World 
Conference on Dialogue in Madrid as a symbol of unity among different faiths, 
adding that he hopes it will contribute to healing divisions and building a 
more secure and stable world.

      In a message to the three-day conference, the UN chief thanked Custodian 
of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah "for this welcome and timely initiative." 

      King Abdullah arrived in Casablanca yesterday from Madrid, where he 
opened the conference on Wednesday.

      "There have been few periods in history when the need for dialogue among 
world religions has been greater. At a time of increasing divisions along 
cultural and confessional lines, faith communities have a crucial role to play 
in fostering mutual understanding and in promoting a consensus on common values 
and aspirations," Ban said in his message.

      He added that the origin of many conflicts lies beyond the confines of 
faith. "This unique gathering of religious leaders can help debunk the 
dangerous myth that religion, even when properly understood, inspires 
violence," he said, adding that political rivalries, territorial ambitions or 
competition for natural resources play a major role in triggering violence.

      About 300 delegates from across the world - representing Islam, 
Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism and other faiths - are attending the 
conference, which has been organized by the Makkah-based Muslim World League 
(MWL). Participants include World Jewish Congress Secretary-General Michael 
Schneider and Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who is in charge of dialogue between 
the Vatican and Muslims.

      "This event is itself a potent symbol of unity among different 
traditions. Our challenge is to see this expression of solidarity turned into a 
genuine force for good," Ban said.

      He highlighted three points that could make it a dialogue that delivers. 
"We should reach out to young people who are vulnerable to extremist 
ideologies, activate the role of religious leaders as peace-builders and create 
platforms for engagement with religious leaders," he said. Ban said the UN 
would continue to support such initiatives through its longstanding work to 
promote tolerance, speak out against bigotry, counter extremism and uphold the 
freedom of religion, as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

      Bawa Jain, secretary-general of Millennium World Peace Summit of 
Religious Foundations, chaired the first session, which focused on dialogue in 
different religions.

      Hussain Hamid Hassan, legal adviser at Dubai Islamic Bank, said Islamic 
teachings encouraged Muslims to coexist peacefully with others.

      Najeeb Gabriel, head of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, said: 
"The essence of religions is love, good manners and rejection of injustice."

      The third speaker was Rabbi Arthur Schneier, founder and chairman of the 
Conscience Foundation Call, USA, who said the texts of the Jewish scripture 
called people to have dialogue with others and deal with them kindly. He also 
rejected the idea of a clash of civilizations. 

      M.M. Verma, director of the Interfaith Foundation in India, hoped 
dialogue would contribute to preventing hatred among faiths.

      Saleh Ben-Humaid, chairman of the Saudi Shoura Council, chaired the 
second session entitled "Dialogue and its Significance in Human Society."

      In his paper, Nichiko Niwano, president of the Japan Committee of the 
World Parliament for Religion and Peace, said dialogue should be based on 
respecting the views of others.

      Common Human Values in Areas of Dialogue was the theme of the third 
session, which was chaired by William F. Vendley, secretary-general of the 
World Conference of Religions for Peace.

      Nihad Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic 
Relations, presented a paper on ethical reality in contemporary human society.

      Other speakers in the session included Sheikh Muhammad Ali Taskheeri, 
secretary-general of the World Forum for Proximity of Islamic Schools of 
Thought in Iran, who presented a paper on the significance of religion and 
values in combating crime, drugs and corruption; Shankaracharya Onkar Anand 
Saraswati of India, who presented a paper on the role of religion and family in 
social stability; and Miguel Angel Guixot of the Vatican, who presented a paper 
on the protection of the environment as a common human duty.

      Rabbi Caudio Epelman, secretary-general of the Jewish Congress, chaired 
the fourth session, which focused on the evaluation and promotion of dialogue.

      Speakers in this session included Izeddin Mustafa of the UAE; Xue Cheng, 
vice chairman of the Buddhist Association of China; Econos Nabbel Haddad, 
executive director of the Jordanian Center for Religious Coexistence; and 
Federico Mayor Zaragoza, president of the Cultural Foundation of Peace in Spain



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