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Leading Religious Figures Meet in Riyadh… What’s Going On?

Leading Religious Figures Meet in Riyadh… What’s Going On?

Saturday, 14 May, 2022 - 11:15

Despite the presence of hostile voices intent on fortifying animosity between peoples and nations, the voices of moderation, fortunately, prevail today. That is evident in calls for dialogue, coexistence, and respect for the value of religions and the importance of culture. To give an example, the new Saudi Arabia under King Salman hosted a few days ago the Muslim World League’s Common Values Among Religious Followers forum.


Religious leaders from all over the world, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, and Jewish, attended and took part in the first forum of its kind in the history of the Kingdom, weighing major themes like human dignity, curtailing inequality, moderation, and understanding the other. The message was unequivocal. Cooperation, as the League says, is aimed at “fortifying what brings people together and creating a more tolerant world and harmonious societies, starting from the land of Saudi Arabia, the land of illumination and Islamic and human dialogue.” Secretary-General Dr. Muhammad Al-Issa, affirmed this message, saying, “We reject any erroneous or deliberately misleading interpretations that undermine coexistence between religious groups, and we must avoid taking volatile positions for the sake of short-term objectives.”


We all know that human suffering has been sharpened by the lack of a culture of tolerance, which feeds on ignorance and clings to convoluted and ideological convictions. This intolerance has left our world unbalanced and fragmented, making social life schizophrenic, a life separate from life. It thus loses its flavor and beauty, everything that gives value to our lives. Flavor and beauty are what the world needs today, especially in light of the conflicts, disputes, and wars that it has witnessed and is witnessing.


The world needs a moment to contemplate and relax, one that pushes us to really think about the state of humanity and the value of humanity and the planet that unites us without imposing barriers or restrictions. The literature of ideological radical religious movements and their actions on the ground have left Shariaa (Islamic law) misunderstood in the West, creating dangerous stereotypes based on the actions of terrorist groups. In my estimation, moderate Islam does not push for hostility toward the West. Rather, it advocates coexistence, tolerance, and dialogue. Islamic law has held and advocated these values for over a thousand years. Western civilization endorses these same values today, in a world that has become more cohesive.


In truth, I see the profound message sent from Riyadh having a significant impact on the Islamic world as a whole. The mother state, the reference to all Muslims, made its statement, stopping opportunists and ideologues in their tracks. Saudi Arabia used to be described as an ultra-conservative country, but today, it declares its alignment with the world- that it cannot be isolated from it. It leads the Islamic world and engages with the entire planet economically, politically and culturally as it strives to spread tolerance, coexistence, respect for cultures, and building bridges, so that these can become building blocks for civilized human interaction between countries and peoples.


Saudi Arabia is also fighting an internal battle as it undergoes a political, economic and social transition to becoming a modern and civil state. This transition launched by the Saudi leadership is driven by their awareness that it is a strategic need. It must be made if the country is to put itself on the international map and realize its full potential. Moving forward with this transition is the single most significant decision taken by the current leadership. This transition is a requisite for survival and the only pathway toward a civil state, a place in the international arena, and a distinguished position in the international scene at all levels.


The significance of the Common Values among Religious Followers forum is that it affirmed and fortified the desire to change the status quo in our world, especially after scenes of violence, horror, and murder became familiar sights in many countries around the world over the past years. These simultaneously shameful and painful acts are committed in the name of brittle pretexts. In contrast, the marvelous image of humanitarian values being projected from the heart of Saudi Arabia and this unprecedented religious gathering calling for tolerance, rapprochement, coexistence and respect for the other, show that openness is the language of the new Saudi Arabia, which stunned the entire world with the transformations currently underway. The globe was left in awe as the Kingdom opened its heart and chest to embrace the world with all its diversity, colors and beliefs.


This unprecedented openness must simply be observed and praised; no further explanations should be elaborated. Words fail to describe the historical metamorphosis underway in Saudi Arabia. This shift is neither in the realm of the imaginary nor even the possible. It had been held hostage by the taboo surrounding the need for it for decades. Now, however, with the vision of Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, it has become a reality with material manifestations on the ground, not promises. Success, as it turns out, is not achieved haphazardly. One does not improvise one’s way to success. It is achieved through actions based on a vision, with themes, details and an intricate schedule that is adhered to. That is the secret, that is what makes the difference.


This is what the Common Values among Religious Followers forum held in Saudi Arabia was all about. It is a sign of maturity, transformation and enthusiasm to become a hub for dialogue and initiatives aimed at promoting diversity and respect, as well as building creative partnerships founded on tolerance, pluralism, respect for difference and building bridges of human, civilizational, and cultural exchange. Ideological diversity is now rooted in Saudi Arabia, which calls for peace, coexistence and building bridges.


The world needs to take a moment, sit back, contemplate matters and relax. We must dream of a new world to create a culture of tolerance, which has always created climates of coexistence and peace, as shown by the civilization’s proximity to one another in the modern era, which renders dialogue among them more pressing than at any point in human history. Willpower remains crucial to spreading happiness if we want the truth.


We cannot live in security and stability until it strives to spread the spirit of tolerance, coexistence and peace throughout the world. Promoting this language in religious, cultural and popular discourse will push the countries of the world to consolidate coexistence and put the focus on what we share, creating a bulwark against the discourse of exclusion, religious intolerance and discrimination. It appears to me that this is the message Saudi Arabia is sending the world.


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