Inter-religious dialogue needs to tackle issues of conflict and belief

By staff writers
January 15, 2015

A major inter-religious dialogue centre and a leading world churches' body are seeking to work together to promote constructive conversation on the impact of beliefs in the world today.

In a shared recognition of the need to promote inter-religious dialogue in a world faced with conflicts often fuelled by religion, on 13 January the Secretary General and officials from the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Inter-religious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) visited the World Council of Churches (WCC) offices in Geneva, Switzerland and met with the General Secretary of the WCC, the Rev Dr Olav Fykse Tveit.

Dr Faisal Bin Muammar, Secretary General of KAICIID and Ambassador Alvaro Albacete, special advisor to the secretary general, were present, accompanied by Dr Pierre Sigg and Ms Iris Jumbe.

After a lunch hosted by Dr Tveit, the KAICIID Secretary General introduced his organisation to WCC staff members and representatives of ecumenical organisations present at a meeting which took place in the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva. Dr Muaammar affirmed his wish to work together with the WCC on inter-religious dialogue initiatives.

“We don’t need dialogue among the elite in conference rooms only. We need to move towards implementation,” said Muaammar. “I can share my own experience where we have been able to spread the culture of dialogue involving players on the ground, working with mosques, with families and the media”, he added.

“Through my work I have seen and felt how the vast majority of human beings everywhere are against all the crimes perpetrated in the name of religion. Therefore I am a strong believer in dialogue and in building bridges”, Muaammar said.

The timing of the exchange, in the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo killings in Paris and the massacre in Nigeria, is highly significant.

KAICIID works to enable, empower and encourage dialogue among followers of different religions and cultures around the world. Located in Vienna, the Centre is an independent, autonomous, international organisation, free of political or economic influence and was established in November 2012.

The founding states of the Centre, namely Austria, Spain and Saudi Arabia, constitute the “Council of Parties” responsible for overseeing the work of the Centre; the Holy See is admitted as a founding observer to the Centre.

Reflecting on the significance of the visit, Dr Clare Amos, WCC's programme executive for inter-religious dialogue and cooperation, said, “It has been very good to be able to welcome the Secretary General of KAICIID and his staff here at the Ecumenical Centre and to enable him to see for himself the considerable resources, interest and commitment we have here at the WCC and among our sister organisations.

"This commitment enables us to work on a wide variety of concerns, from a Christian perspective, but also taking into account the multi-religious nature of our world.”

Dr Amos went on to say that the WCC staff has already begun to work with KAICIID in a number of areas of concern, particularly linked to the Middle East.

“I am hoping that this visit by Dr Muaammar and his colleagues will stimulate us to find further fruitful avenues of collaboration and partnership between ecumenical organisations and KAICIID to the benefit of our respective constituencies,” added Amos.

* KAICIID and the Vienna Declaration: http://www.kaiciid.org/en/the-centre/

* WCC programme for inter-religious dialogue and cooperation: http://www.oikoumene.org/en/what-we-do/inter-religious-trust-and-respect

* More from Ekklesia on the Charlie Hebdo aftermath: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/charliehebdo

[Ekk/3]

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