Madrid interfaith conference concludes with call for UN session on dialogue

July 18, 2008

The World Conference on Dialogue concluded its deliberations in Madrid, Spain today. Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz proposed the conference as part of his efforts to promote interfaith dialogue.

In a final statement known as the Madrid Declaration, participants highlighted the importance of dialogue in achieving mutual understanding and cooperation among religions and cultures. They called on the United Nations to convene a special session on dialogue as a follow-up to the conference.

Some 300 delegates from around the world – representing Islam, Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism, Shintoism and Confucianism – attended the three-day conference, which was organized by the Makkah-based Muslim World League (MWL).

In remarks today, MWL Secretary-General Abdullah Al-Turki said that conference participants engaged in serious, fruitful dialogue and displayed a genuine desire for interfaith cooperation.

King Abdullah opened the conference June 16 with a call for people of all faiths to embrace reconciliation, focus on their shared values and reject extremism.

In a July 16 statement, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the World Conference on Dialogue in Madrid as a symbol of unity among different faiths and expressed the hope that it would lead to commitment and action.

“There have been few periods in history when the need for dialogue among world religions has been greater. At a time of increasing divisions along cultural and confessional lines, faith communities have a crucial role to play in fostering mutual understanding and in promoting consensus on common values and aspirations,” Ban said.

“It is important to note that many conflicts that appear to be rooted in religion often have their origins beyond the confines of faith. Indeed, political rivalries, territorial ambitions or competition for natural resources are fertile grounds for the emergence of violence. This unique gathering of religious leaders can help debunk the dangerous myth that religion, even when properly understood, inspires violence.”

The gathering focused on four major themes: The importance of dialogue in human society; the foundations of religious and civilizational dialogue; the common human aspects in dialogue; and the evaluation and promotion of dialogue.