Friday 14 November 2008 (17 Dhul Qa`dah 1429)

      Good beginning for humanity
      Arab News 

            Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah receives a 
Christian religious leader at the United Nations headquarters in New York on 
Thursday. (SPA)    
      NEW YORK: Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah yesterday urged 
world leaders to open a new era of peace, leaving behind the bloody past, and 
mobilize their resources to fight poverty, provide treatment to patients and 
boost development.

      The king made this comment while speaking to leaders of different faiths 
during a special General Assembly session on interfaith dialogue at the United 
Nations headquarters here.

      "I hope that this dialogue would be a good beginning for humanity ... The 
days and years that have passed will not come back ... We had enough of 
killings, enmity and rights violations," the Saudi Press Agency quoted the king 
as saying.

      "If countries in the world had turned to peace and kept away from wars 
and conflicts and spent their time and energy to fight poverty and engage in 
humanitarian work we would not have seen these diseases and poverty," the king 

      He said all religions call for brotherhood and harmony and encourage 
doing good deeds for the elderly, the poor, the needy and the sick. "The world 
has now started thinking about the reasons behind bloodshed and enmity. 
Religions promote kindness. They have nothing to do with violence.

      "The humanity is in need of people like you to guide them and make them 
understand the facts," the king said and emphasized the need to preserve the 
family system intact. The participants representing various faiths commended 
King Abdullah's efforts to promote interfaith dialogue.

      "The dialogue Your Majesty started in Madrid as well as your presence in 
New York reaffirm your commitment to religious moderation," a Jewish leader 

      Responding to a comment made by another participant on the election of a 
biracial African-American as president of the United States, King Abdullah said 
the election of Barack Obama proved that the people of America are democratic.

      "We hope the new president would do good for the whole humanity and I 
expect the same from all world leaders," the king added.

      One delegate announced the plan to establish an Islamic peace foundation 
in the US by the end of this year, adding that the foundation would work for 
translating the king's initiative into action.

      UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon praised King Abdullah, calling the 
conference "a truly inspiring initiative for global harmony."

      An international effort was needed to confront the rising tide of 
communal strife and religious extremism, Ban said.

      "Extremist ideologies are on the rise. Societies are more polarized. 
Anti-Semitism remains a scourge. Islamophobia has emerged as a new term for an 
old and terrible form of prejudice," the UN chief said.

      Jordan's King Abdallah said it was impossible to talk about interfaith 
harmony without resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

      "I can think of no more effective way to ease East-West and interfaith 
tensions than to end this divisive conflict," he said.

      A string of Arab leaders said Islam was falsely accused of backing 
terrorism. They said their religion calls for moderation and tolerance and 
eschews extremism, violence and bigotry.

      "As leaders and peoples, we must assume our historical responsibilities 
to examine our painful reality through a serious and sincere dialogue between 
people, religions and cultures," Kuwaiti Emir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah 

      In her speech, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of the Philippines 
rallied world leaders to pursue a "broader interfaith dialogue" to foster 
solidarity among civilizations, citing the gains of her country's policy. 
Arroyo, however, gave a stern warning to extremists saying: "We must not 
mistake tolerance and understanding of other faiths and belief systems as a 
blank check for abuse. We will never accept violence cloaked in religion by 
anyone at anytime."

      Introducing a draft resolution on "promotion of inter-religious and 
intercultural dialogue, understanding and cooperation for peace," Arroyo said 
one of the resolution's most relevant points was the affirmation that mutual 
understanding and inter-religious dialogue were important components of the 
culture of peace.

      The high-level Culture of Peace Conference, convened by General Assembly 
President Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, sought to promote a global dialogue about 
religions, cultures, and common values.

      Cardinal Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious 
Dialogue of the Holy See, extended the good wishes of Pope Benedict XVI, who 
said the international community needed the gathering. "The United Nations must 
be a school for peace," said Tauran, adding that all member states were equal 
at the United Nations.

      Lebanese President Michel Suleiman said turning to dialogue to settle 
existing conflicts, or defuse simmering ones, would not yield results unless 
trust had been woven into the process.

      "Ongoing oppression in the occupied Arab territories questioned the 
credibility of any dialogue," he added



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