MADRID : 16 July 2008 – Faith communities have a crucial role to play in fostering mutual understanding and in promoting consensus on common values and aspirations, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said today in a message addressed to the World Conference on Dialogue in Madrid.
The Custodian of the two holy mosques, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia exhorted followers of the world’s leading faiths to turn away from extremism and embrace a spirit of reconciliation, saying at the start of the interfaith conference today that history’s great conflicts were not caused by religion itself but by its misinterpretation.
The Saudi Monarch’s comments came at the start of the Saudi-sponsored gathering that aims to bring Muslims, Christians and Jews closer together at a time when the world often puts the three faiths at odds.
The Saudis have billed the gathering as a strictly religious affair. There’s to be no mention of such hot-button issues as the war in Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iranian nuclear ambitions or rising oil prices. The three-day event in the Spanish capital brings together more than 200 religious leaders, politicians, academics and others from around the world.
In his message to the conference, the UN Secretary General said, “This unique gathering of religious leaders can help debunk the dangerous myth that religion, even when properly understood, inspires violence,” he said.
Mr. Ban Ki-Moon finally called for the creation of platforms for engaging religious leaders at the international level, citing the example of the Alliance of Civilizations initiative, which, with several UN agencies, is promoting partnership and frank discussion of cross-cultural concerns.
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