Religion and hope
Friday, November 14, 2008
The meeting on interfaith peace and dialogue being held under the auspices of the UN General Assembly is truly a rare event. An occasion where 17 leaders from across the world, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Lebanon, Jordan, Pakistan, Israel, the Philippines, Spain, the UK and the USA, can meet and dine together under the same roof is, to say the least, unusual. That hostilities which bar such gatherings still exist even in the 21st century is a reflection of the kind of world we live in. Some of the Muslim countries invited to the meeting, an initiative of the Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz, do not indeed recognize Israel. For this reason alone, the message delivered loudly and clearly at the meeting, from King Abdullah, from the UN secretary-general and the General Assembly president, to develop understanding and end the defamation of religion is significant. The Saudi king’s words about religion being used to cause misery and his reminder that terrorism and criminality go against the grain of all faiths, are especially important in the context of Pakistan. Indeed King Abdullah will have raised the issue of extremism during his separate dinner for the presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan. In both these countries in particular, as well as in other parts of the Muslim world, the message of peace delivered by Islam has been distorted into one that advocates blind hatred and senseless violence. The UN chief also spoke wisely in talking about the prejudice that exists against Islam and its vilification.
The call for tolerance to be developed, for the multicultural world we live in to become a source of strength rather than division, is one that must be carried home by our leaders. In this context, President Asif Zardari’s decision to stay away from a dinner hosted by the UN secretary general, according to some reports in order to avoid a meeting with the Israeli president, is rather inapt. Surely the whole purpose of the meeting is to bring people together. The need is for the president to absorb this message himself, set an example and also set in place a policy to build the tolerance we have heard so much about within our own society, where bias, anti-Semitism and irrational discrimination on the basis of religion can be seen everywhere and are sometimes confused with principle or morality, not only by orthodox elements but by people everywhere. (The News)