Your Excellency, Dr. Hasan Bin Abdallah Al Ghanem, Minister of Justice,
Your Excellency, Dr. Ibrahim Al-Naemi, Chairman of Board of Directors of DCID,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I always feel privileged when, as a son of Doha, I am given the opportunity to speak as an international official in a public forum here. At the outset, I would like to thank His Highness Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani for sponsoring and supporting Interfaith Dialogue as one of the main pillars of the foreign policy of the State of Qatar, who is an active and effective member of the UN system. I would also like to thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar and the Doha Center for Interfaith Dialogue for inviting me to address this gathering of the 10th Doha Conference on Interfaith Dialogue”.
I was born and brought up as a Muslim and feel blessed that the faith my parents bequeathed to me has prepared me to become the man I am today, a man living in a world of multiple faiths, multiple beliefs and multiple historic traditions. In brief, the complex and challenging world of the 21st century, where not a single question – any question – has a simple, easy answer.
Today more than ever in the history of humankind, at every step in our daily life, we are faced with difficult moral, social, political and philosophical questions. They have the potential of troubling our personal peace, as well as that of our community and the world beyond. In such a context, re-connecting with our faith and its spiritual elevation and clarity can save us from taking the wrong path, doing harm to ourselves, to others and the world.
Who among great figures of history, from prophets of religion to famous statesmen, have not relied on their faith to make the right decision? Isn’t, afterall, the strength of the leader bound by the extent of the responsibility he is entrusted with for the service and development of his own people?
At the grave hour of decision-making, leadership today, can only be well-deserved if the leader inspires his strength from the goodness inherent to spirituality, faith and human rights.
This, I submit, Ladies and Gentlemen, was always so, and it will always be so, when the decisions made are GOOD decisions, it is then that they bring welfare to the community, the nation or the world.
In its multiple linguistic variations, imploring God’s help in the tense moments of decision making , by saying “My God!,” reflects our profound need for serenity and help from the Creator, regardless of our differences.
Why is it then that religion today has become a source of division, tension and conflict? Why the intolerance? The exclusion and marginalization? The mayhem?
Is it that faith, whatever its content, unites us through its spiritual elevation, whereas religion separates us through the particularities of its material construction?
Islam, in the Holy Quran sought social peace as its first goal, in declaring equality between all religions : Lakoum dinoukoum wallayia deeny. “You have got your religion, I have got mine” – let us leave it at that and not fight each other simply because we have different religions.
The implicit meaning here is a call to focus on what we all share: faith.
Let us then welcome all faiths and beliefs – and I say ALL – to the table.
Let the conversation be always inclusive, always serene and humble, and let us all aim at the good for all, in all circumstances.
It is of historic significance that institutions like our host – the Doha Center for Interfaith Dialogue – celebrate faith at a global level.
I would like to declare from this podium, my desire to foster mutual cooperation between the Alliance and the Doha Center, by virtue of an institutional agreement between the two entities that would allow us to work as partners during my tenure.
Indeed, we are more than ever aware of this common ingredient in our lives: the spiritual dimension of existence that many of us aspire to, that unites us and could be a powerful factor if applied to the solution of some of the world’s most challenging problems, ranging from inter-ethnic conflicts to environmental degradation.
As High Representative for the Alliance of Civilizations of the United Nations, my vision is to use the Alliance as a soft power tool of preventive diplomacy which is stipulated by the UN Charter.
That being said, I have stated that I will use mediation as one of my priorities during my leadership of the Alliance being one of the tools used to diffuse tensions stemming from cultural differences, and to bridge the gap between identities, beliefs and traditions, in line with the Report of the High Level Group which gave birth to the Alliance.
It was indeed an honour, that Her Highness Sheikha Moza Bint Nasser, the First Lady of the State of Qatar was among the distinguished panel that produced this report. Her Highness patronage of the Alliance, remains fruitful and outstanding in many ways.
It goes without saying that in accordance with my mandate, Interfaith dialogue is high on my agenda in this regard. I will engage ALL faiths and seek their cooperation and support, so that together we can heal the wounds of a world crying for relief from intolerance, extremism and terrorism, as we have seen recently in the Republic of Mali.
Furthermore, I will explore with both faith communities and cultural institutions and personalities the possibility of organizing interesting and useful events among, to mention a few , a world festival of sacred music, to bring together in one strong moment of aesthetic pleasure the transcendence of faith and the sublime dimension of music as pacifiers of the mind and the soul and as a source of hope and human fraternity in a world often in despair because of the rampant hegemony of materialism.
Territorial claims, political differences, the hard reality of national interests – all these differences can be addressed and possibly solved peacefully, if our hearts and minds are inclined towards peace instead of war.
In that context, the Alliance has established contacts, programs and activities with religious leaders in the various regions with a view of benefiting from their impact on promoting the culture of peace and renouncing violence.
Who better than faith leaders to sow the seeds of peace in the hearts and minds of their flock and thus prepare the ground for the give-and-take of traditional diplomacy?
I can see in the agenda item “Conflict Resolution and Peace” of this conference echoes my own philosophy concerning the power of faith and interfaith dialogue in conflict resolution, as I have just explained. The complexity of world issues requires that we seek all the tools of conflict resolution and peace-building available in our toolbox, beyond the tools of traditional diplomacy and including resorting to International Law. I pledge to you, for my part, as I have done so in addressing the Vienna Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations, that I will do everything I can during my five-year mandate as High Representative to engage faith leaders at all levels, including the highest level, to invite them to act as partners of the Alliance of Civilizations for the achievement of peace and security for all.
I wish you a successful conference.