MANAMA- The eyes of the world were on Bahrain this week, as the Kingdom hosted the Dialogue Among Civilisations and Cultures Conference, conducted under the theme ‘all civilisations in the service of humanity.’
Organised under the initiative of HM King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to foster dialogue and peace and reject suspicion and hatred, the conference took place on May 5-7 at the Gulf Hotel Convention Centre, and drew over 300 revered religious and intellectual leaders as well as international organisations and institutions from several countries.
The conference came in line with the royal initiative to promote the alliance of civilisations as it recognises that the means of open and inclusive dialogue are essential to the ends of tolerance and coexistence, within and between all civilisations, cultures, religions and sects. The ultimate mission is peace and progress for humankind across the world.
“It raises many interesting issues; issues relating to human rights, issues related to the rule of law, and some issues related to citizenship… I’m glad to hear that there are many people asserting citizenship of the world,” Shaikh Khalid bin Ali Al Khalifa, the Minister of Justice, Islamic Affairs and Endowment, said.
The conference opened in the presence of HRH Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa with powerful keynote speeches.
Grand Imam of Al Azhar Dr. Ahmed Al-Tayyib, President of the Arab Thought Forum Prince El Hassan Bin Talal of Jordan and Chairman of the King Faisal Centre for Research and Islamic Studies Prince Turki Al-Faisal were the first to address the audience. Additionally, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon sent a message that was delivered by his representative.
Over the course of the three days, expert discussion panels explored four major themes, intended to work through any perceived lines of division in order to reach a common understanding as thinking, feeling human beings. Particular attention was paid to the role of religious, political, educational and media bodies in dispelling the distrust and hatred that a lack of consideration breeds.
There was an obvious concerted effort to shift the zeitgeist from divisiveness to rapprochement, for the betterment of humanity.
Nancy Khedouri from the event’s Higher Organising Committee chaired by Shaikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Khalifa affirmed that this conference presented an exceptional opportunity to forge new connections that should add momentum to the cause.
“Welook forward to meeting all the participants who have been here in the Kingdom of Bahrain at future conferences,” she said.
Whilst those who participated in the dialogues represent the pinnacle of their arenas, this top-down approach will be supplemented by grass root involvement as participants return to their homes to disseminate the renewed message of peace and unity.
The messages were potently included in the ‘Bahrain Declaration’ delivered during the final session of the conference.
Premised on the concept that Humanity is the common origin of all human beings, regardless of their different colors, ethnic backgrounds, languages and intellectual, cultural, religious and spiritual attitudes,” the Declaration insists that “dialogue constitutes the basis and the tool that assume the responsibility of consolidating the unity of humanity within the context of its diversity, multiplicity and plurality with the view to achieving peace, security, justice, development, equality, freedom and democracy.”
The Declaration warns that “all forms of hatred discourse are practices contrary to human rights, contradict civility and challenge civilization that leads only to exclusion and discrimination, inciting intolerance, extremism and terrorism, and calling for reclusion instead of dialogue, violence instead of peace, and animosity instead of cooperation and alliance.”
The Declaration calls for cultural, educational, and media to promote a spirit of moderation and a culture of common living within the scope of respect for the safety of the homelands and to strengthen the relationship between all human beings within the context of the divine requirement to honor all human beings.
Nejib Friji, the Director of the United Nations Information Centre, elaborated on the next steps.
“We are looking forward to the fact that all participants – led by the Kingdom of Bahrain – will lift the findings, resolutions, recommendations and the report of this conference to the United Nations, to be adopted as a concrete set of steps that will help reach the objectives,” he said.
Further guaranteeing the drive to promote dialogue among civilisations, Bahrain signed three separate Memoranda of Understanding with the United Nations, Jordan’s Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies and Al-Azhar. -BNA