At the Global Interfaith Dialogue held last week in New York the United Arab Emirates gave its full support to interfaith cooperation.
In his paper the Ruler of Fujairah, H.H. Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al-Sharqi said that the diversity of faiths and cultures is a valuable human heritage, which needs to be protected. This diversity can be perpetuated through collective efforts to preserve the sublime human values enshrined by various faiths, and holding together to combat aggression and oppression.
'Followers of various faiths should help each other to let the truth and peace prevail', the UAE delegation leader, Sheikh Hamad said.
Sheikh Hamad said that through accepting the call made by King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, earlier in July 2008 in Madrid, for a wider global interfaith dialogue, the United Nations has enhanced its vital role for building the alliance of civilisations across the world.
The Fujairah ruler felt that the interfaith dialogue will spread the principles of tolerance and the culture of peace.
'We have to work together to propagate the culture of tolerance and dialogue, support its institutions, widen its horizons and endorse it as the way into world peace. We have to stop squandering the world's human resources and refrain from threatening the future of our planet', Sheikh Hamad added.
'Understanding among religions should be based on full respect to the sovereignty of individual countries, their territorial integrity, the distinctiveness of the faiths they follow and their economic and social characteristics', Sheikh Hamad continued.
He stressed that the programmes aimed at spreading the culture of peace should guarantee the respect to religions, their symbols and the role of worship. The practices of intentional distortion and tarnishing of religions should end.
He noted that the UN conventions and the Human Rights Declaration epitomise in them the respect to religions and the freedom of faith.
Religion in the UAE
In his speech, Sheikh Hamad shed light on the magnificent religious harmony in the United Arab Emirates, where the followers of various religions lead a peaceful life, enjoying the freedom of belief and practice. He also noted that UAE enacted a series of legislations promoting and protecting freedom of faith and religious harmony.
Sheikh Hamad said: 'The UAE believes that the call into the culture of peace, non-violence and peaceful coexistence constitute one of the priorities of our global strategy which functions within the framework of the UN system. This is to ensure protection of our society and territories from violence, extremism and terrorism, and to eliminate chances of clashes and warfare'.
Recommendations of the Madrid Conference
Sheikh Hamad called on the world community to adopt the recommendations of the Madrid Conference, July 2008:
The Madrid Conference recommended the following decisions:
1. To reject theories that call for the clash of civilizations and cultures and to be aware of the danger of campaigns seeking to create and deepen conflicts, so destabilizing peace and security.
2. To enhance common human moral values, cooperate in their promotion within societies, and to address the problems that hinder their achievement.
3. To disseminate the culture of mutual respect and understanding through dialogue among peoples by holding conferences and symposia, as well as by developing relevant cultural, educational and media programs.
4. To agree on international guidelines for dialogue among the followers of religions in different cultures through which moral values and ethical principles, which are common elements of religions, are confirmed and supported so as to strengthen stability and achieve prosperity for all humans.
5. To work on a document related to the promotion or respect of religions and their symbols.
In order to fulfill the abovementioned objectives formulated by the Madrid Conference, the participants agreed on adopting the following:
1. Forming a working group to study the problems which hinder dialogue and prevent it from realizing its desired objectives. The group would also prepare a study that provides a vision for the solutions to these problems.
2. Promoting cooperation among religious, cultural, educational, and media institutions to deepen and consolidate ethical values, to encourage constructive social practices and to confront immoral behavior, family disintegration and other such degeneration.
3. Organizing inter-religious and intercultural meetings, conducting research, executing media programs and using Internet and other media for the dissemination of the culture of peace, understanding and harmonious coexistence.
4. Promoting the practice of dialogue among religions, civilizations and cultures through educational, cultural and media activities, in particular taking into consideration younger generations.
5. Informing the United Nations General Assembly of the results reached by this Conference.
In abiding by the above agreed principles and concepts, the participants emphasized that it is important for this World Conference on Dialogue to continue; consequently, sessions should be held periodically.
Dr Geoff Pound
Image: King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia took the lead in promoting a wider global interfaith dialogue that was held in New York.