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    » 03/26/2008, 00.00

    SAUDI ARABIA

    Contradictory signals from the Saudis on interreligious dialogue



    Favourable attitudes toward welcoming other religions alternate with reactions of entrenchment and dissent. King Abdullah declares openly his commitment to fostering interreligious dialogue, while last week the majority of the members of the consultative council voted against the resolution to respect other faiths.

    Riyadh (AsiaNews/Agencies) - King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz says he is open to and in favour of a dialogue among Muslims, Christians, and Jews, intended to establish peaceful coexistence among the members of different religions.

    In a declaration issued by the Saudi press agency, the king affirmed: "We have lost sincerity, morals, fidelity and attachment to our religions and to humanity. The disintegration of the family and the rise of atheism in the world are frightening phenomena that all religions must confront and vanquish".

    The king spoke during the sixth forum on Culture and the Respect of Religions, organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and concluded on March 24, which counted Japan among the participants, together with representatives of the Muslim world.  King Abdullah added: "I have had an idea which has obsessed me for the past two years as a result of the crisis all humanity is suffering. Such a crisis has marred and caused an imbalance of reason, ethics and humanity. For this reason, I thought" of inviting religious authorities to express their views of what is happening in the world. "We will then start, God willing, to hold meetings with our brothers in all religions".

    The sovereign, who discussed his plan with the pope during his visit to the Vatican last November, is evaluating the request advanced by Benedict XVI to allow the construction of churches in the Saudi kingdom.  According to a Vatican spokesman, Fr Federico Lombardi, if the Church were to obtain this permission, it would be an event of historic dimensions.

    In spite of the atmosphere of openness in which the forum was held, and the propensity for dialogue demonstrated by the king, last week 77 members of the consultative council voted against the UN resolution for the approval of an international agreement on respect for religion.  According to the members against the measure, the recognition of other religions is a danger to the Muslim community, which would be 'obligated' to respect them and to look helplessly upon the proliferation of places of worship in Muslim countries.

    A distinct minority of the 33 members in favour say they are surprised by the outcome of the vote.  They claim that the veto was a provocation in response to the attacks against Islam on the part of Danish, Dutch, and also American cartoonists involved in the publication of caricatures of Mohammed.

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    See also

    18/07/2008 VATICAN - WYD
    Pope: Religious freedom for well-being of society
    Benedict XVI has met with representatives of the Christian Churches and of the religions present in Australia, which he praised for its protection of religious freedom. The common effort of the religions to uphold the dignity of the human person and respect for creation. Teaching young people to seek the meaning of life.

    15/02/2008 PAKISTAN
    Bishops: 'no' to the cartoons on Muhammad; it's a mistake to republish them
    The archbishop of Lahore and the president of the Pakistan bishops' conference, Lawrence Saldanha, explains to AsiaNews that the decision of the Danish newspapers cannot be justified through freedom of expression. Justice and Peace: the last time we all suffered, and the West must understand this.

    20/02/2006 VATICAN - ISLAM
    Pope: respect for religions, but insults do not justify violence

    Benedict XVI condemns the Mohammad caricatures and asks that the exercise of religious freedom be allowed everywhere in conditions of reciprocity.



    06/11/2007 VATICAN – SAUDI ARABIA
    Pope and King Abdullah talk about inter-faith dialogue and peace between Israelis and Palestinians
    The first meeting between a Saudi king and the head of the Roman Catholic Church takes place in a “cordial atmosphere.” Press release mentions Christians living in Saudi Arabia and unexpectedly refers to Jews.

    18/12/2006 VATICAN
    Pope: peace in Holy Land from shared commitment of Jews, Christians and Muslims
    Benedict XVI again underlined the fundamental importance of inter-faith dialogue and “concrete gestures of reconciliation”.



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