Third Global Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations

May 28, 2010

Address by Minister of Foreign Affairs Prince Saud Al-Faisal address before the Third Global Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations in Rio de Janeiro

In the Name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate
Peace and blessings be upon our Prophet Muhammad and on all Prophets and Messengers

I would like to begin by expressing my sincere appreciation to His Excellency President  Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva for hosting this important Forum in his country. Brazil is known for the harmony that prevails among its various ethnic, religious and cultural communities. I also wish to commend the endeavors that their Excellencies the Prime Minister of Spain, the Prime Minister of Turkey, the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the High Representative for the United Nations Alliance of Civilizations are making to achieve our common goal of promoting dialogue, mutual understanding and cooperation among all people and countries.

Your Majesties, Highnesses and Excellencies,

This Third Global Forum of the Alliance of Civilizations, under the theme “Bridging Cultures, Building Peace,” is particularly important in light of the challenges that the world is currently facing.  These challenges require cooperative, concerted and integrated endeavors from all of us, especially to jointly confront the violence and terrorism of extremist groups that advocate hatred, reject dialogue and seek to cause havoc and kindle the flames of strife and conflict.

In keeping with the true principles of Islam, which is a religion of moderation and tolerance, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has pursued a policy of disseminating a culture of dialogue among civilizations and cultures, with the objective of promoting coexistence and mutual understanding and propagating human values.  This is the manner in which confrontation can be replaced with concord, and how tensions can be eased, conflicts defused, and peace and security achieved.

At the domestic level, we have promoted a nation-wide culture of dialogue.  We established a National Center for Dialogue in which all sections of Saudi society participate. We have also paid special attention to the development of education programs, the eradication of illiteracy, and the provision of vocational training opportunities. Our openness to various cultures is illustrated by awarding scholarships to nearly 90,000 male and female students to study at universities in over 14 countries in all five continents.  By the Grace of God, a university of science and technology has been established to receive students from all parts of the world who are working together to apply science and technology to the benefit of mankind.

In the social field, my country’s Government is institutionalizing the principles of human rights in the governmental and civil sectors, and spreading the culture of human rights in schools and universities. It is supporting endeavors to preserve the unity of the family, which is the mainstay of social cohesion and the first line of defense against subversion of the country’s youth by propagators of extremist ideologies.  Programs and projects have also been adopted to ensure the advancement of Saudi women and enable them to participate effectively in all spheres of life. We do not say that we have achieved all that we desire, but we are steadily moving in the right path.

Your Majesties, Highnesses and Excellencies,

Our initiative for dialogue among the followers of religions and cultures was launched to dispel misunderstanding, eliminate manifestations of conflict, hostility and hatred and emphasize the vast opportunities of cooperation among all religions without interfering with theological doctrines.  The purpose of this initiative is to strengthen and promote closer cooperation and integration with the many active efforts that have been made in this field, so they can all serve the common human values calling for virtue, fraternity and peace among all of humanity. Our initiative has proceeded along parallel political and cultural tracks.

On the political track, an Extraordinary Islamic Summit was convened in Makkah in December 2005 at our invitation, in order to reaffirm the rejection of violence, extremism and terrorism and to promote the values of dialogue, tolerance and mutual respect. The High-Level Meeting that was subsequently called by the General Assembly of the United Nations in November 2008 was intended to provide the broadest and highest degree of political support for all initiatives aimed at promoting dialogue and mutual understanding and disseminating a culture of peace. During that Meeting, we expressed our belief that: “Terrorism and criminality are the enemies of every religion and every civilization. Our dialogue, conducted in a civilized manner, should revive and reinstate lofty ideals among peoples and nations. This will constitute a glorious triumph of what is most noble over what is most reprehensible in human beings and will give mankind hope of a future in which justice, security and a decent life will prevail over injustice, fear and poverty.”

On the cultural track, Muslim religious scholars of all denominations and schools of thought gathered in Makkah in May 2008 to affirm the true nature of the Islamic religion and its message of dialogue and peace. The subsequent World Conference on Dialogue, held in Madrid from 16 to 18 July 2008 and attended by representatives of all the major religions, was, as we described it at the time, “a dialogue defending faith against unbelief, virtue against vice, justice against iniquity, peace against conflicts and wars, and human brotherhood against racism.” The Madrid Declaration that was unanimously approved stated that: "Respecting human dignity, promoting human rights, fostering peace, honoring agreements and respecting the traditions of peoples as well as their right to security, freedom and self-determination, are the basis for building good relations among all peoples.  Achieving this is a major objective of all religions and prominent cultures".  Serious endeavors are currently being made to establish an International Centre for Dialogue comprising representatives of all the main religions working in a fully independent manner, free from any political interference.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia firmly believes that cultural diversity enriches human civilization.  As a consequence, it has intensified its endeavors to further cultural contacts with friendly countries by supporting international, regional and civil society organizations and institutions concerned with culture and education. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recently held a ceremony in which our International Prize for Translation was awarded. My country is participating actively in the Arab League Educational, Cultural and Scientific Organization (ALECSO) and the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (IESCO) and is supporting civil society institutions such as the King Faisal International Award, Al-Beit al-Arabi, the International Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies in Spain, and the Arab Thought Foundation. It is also supporting the endowment of academic chairs in many universities of the world; local and international prizes have been awarded to encourage research in scientific fields and the humanities; and cultural and student exchange programs between the Kingdom and other friendly countries are being encouraged.

Your Majesties, Highnesses and Excellencies,

I am fully confident that, by virtue of the kind patronage of His Excellency the President of Brazil, and the active participation of the international community, your distinguished meeting will lead to further positive steps and joint initiatives to promote a culture of dialogue and encourage mutual understanding and respect among all human beings in the best interests of mankind.

May God’s peace and mercy and blessings be upon you.