Los Angeles, Sep. 14 (BNA): Under the patronage of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, the Kingdom of Bahrain Declaration and the King Hamad Global Centre for Interfaith Dialogue and Peaceful Coexistence were launched in Los Angeles, California.
His Majesty the King deputised His Highness Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Representative of His Majesty the King for Charity Works and Youth Affairs, to attend the Declaration signing. His Highness stressed that peace could only could be achieved through understanding and effective participation, affirming that the Kingdom of Bahrain recognises the importance of creating an environment conducive for peace by empowering individuals and communities to feel comfortable in their own skins.
In the opening speech, HH Shaikh Nasser said: “Love thy neighbour as thyself” is call to all of us to let down our guards and communicate constructively and empathetically with everyone around us in our community, in our country and in the globe. It’s through understanding that we shatter our misconceptions and presumptions about the “others”.”
His Highness added: “By promoting religious freedom for all with an emphasis on mutual respect and love, we believe in our ability to achieve a world that thrives on peaceful coexistence, and this day is a reminder to all of us of what we have achieved in promoting interfaith dialogue and understanding, as well as another reminder of the work we must complete, in combating hate speech and bigotry.”
The King Hamad Global Centre for Interfaith Dialogue and Peaceful Coexistence will be inaugurated in November 2017 to contribute to international discussions on promoting interfaith dialogue and tolerance, in addition to signing the Declaration of the Kingdom of Bahrain, an international document committed to promoting religious freedom for all.
His Highness pointed out that the launch of the centre follows the fruitful launch of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa’s chair at the University of La Sapienza, Rome, to teach dialogue, peace and interfaith understanding last year.
His Highness stressed that the responsibility to facilitate engagement and promoting inclusion isn’t only limited to states and governments. He said: “We all have a responsibility to contribute positively to this dynamics through small acts of kindness and care in our communities. When your children play in the park with other children who might identify themselves differently than yours, then you promote coexistence.”
His Highness continued: “When you wave “Hello” to your neighbour walking to church on Sunday or to the Synagogue on Saturday or to the mosque on Friday then you are an active agent for co-existence. It’s those small acts of kindness that turn coexistence to an enshrined part of our DNA, an indispensable part of our being as humans.”
His Highness concluded: “I am proud to be a Muslim and an Arab, a human, a citizen of this world. A world where love and respect are second nature and a world where there is no place for hate or violence. A world of peace.”
Rabbi Marvin Hier
For his part, Rabbi Marvin Hier, Dean and Founder of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, spoke about his first visit to the Kingdom of Bahrain last February and his meeting with His Majesty the King during an unforgettable hour.
His visit showed him the Kingdom’s pioneering in peaceful coexistence of all religions and nationalities as a model for the world, with no distinction between a Muslim, a Christian or a Jew in a mutually accepting and respectful society.
Hier indicated that the most exciting part of his visit was listening to His Majesty outline his vision for a new Middle East, one solidly based on the principles of inclusion and human dignity that rejects extremism.
Hier stressed that the experience of the Kingdom of Bahrain under the leadership of His Majesty the King is an important moment in history where a leader of the Arab world urges Muslims, Christians, and Jews to affirm that nothing enduring was ever created by hate, that no future can be made brighter by tyranny, and that no faith has ever been strengthened by fanaticism.
Hier also stressed that the story of mankind must be in the fertile fields that feed the hungry, in the wonders of modern medicine that cure the sick, in the classrooms of our schools and universities that help defeat ignorance, in the pews of our synagogues churches and mosques that can nourish the soul, and in the halls of our legislatures that protect the rights of free men women and children.
He declared that the challenge before us is to find the courage to reverse course, to make this period of our history where nations will choose cooperation over confrontation, and teach reverence for life, rather than for death, which the prophets of old times once spoke of.
For his part, Reverend Johnnie Moore said that the Kingdom of Bahrain Declaration represents an ambitious vision to highlight the best qualities of faith at a time when religion is hideously exploited before the world.
The vision of the Bahrain Declaration calls for religious freedom for all without derogating from any religion, so as to be a living model of Bahraini society’s virtues.
Moore affirmed: “The declaration of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa calls on us to play an active role in building a global world where our belief in God is a blessing for all mankind and a foundation for peace.”
He added: “The Kingdom of Bahrain is blessed with a culture of peaceful coexistence between Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists and Hindus, who have created a unique way to coexist in peace and harmony for decades.”
He pointed out that the Kingdom of Bahrain is constructing the largest Catholic church in the Arab world, in addition to hosting one of the oldest Hindu temples in Manama, which was established 200 years ago.
Moore expressed his optimism that the Bahrain Declaration would be a glimmer of hope for a world of peace and coexistence among all religions. He hoped that Bahrain’s pioneering experience will be a source of inspiration for other nations.
Bahrain’s Ambassador in Kuwait Shaikh Khalifa
Bahrain’s Ambassador to Kuwait, Shaikh Khalifa bin Hamad Al Khalifa expressed his pride to attend the event in Los Angeles as a Bahraini citizen, proud of his country’s rich heritage of multiculturalism and cultural coexistence.
Shaikh Khalifa stressed that His Majesty the King is the biggest supporter of cultural diversity, harnessing all opportunities for dialogue among all religions, civilizations and cultures. This is evident by His Majesty’s visits to the Vatican and his meeting with the last 3 Popes, in addition to hosting the Grand Shaikh of Al-Azhar in Bahrain and senior Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist and Christian religious figures. Shaikh Khalifa stressed that His Majesty’s sincere appreciation for cultural diversity and religious tolerance has become an established policy, clearly reflected in the Declaration of the Kingdom of Bahrain announced today.
“Since 2002, His Majesty the King has issued directives to organise dialogues and conferences between Islam and Christianity, the first of their kind in the Gulf region, followed by the organisation of the Dialogue of Civilizations Conference. The King Hamad Global Centre for Interfaith Dialogue and Peaceful Coexistence is a historic cornerstone for the implementation of His Majesty’s vision based on the inclusive traditions of the Kingdom of Bahrain,” Shaikh Khalifa said.
Moreover, he commended the efforts of His Highness Shaikh Nasser bin Hamad, which represent a true reflection of His Majesty the King’s beliefs in noble values and principles, setting an example for all youth aspiring to a prosperous future.
Secretary General of the Bahrain Federation of Expatriate Associations (BFEA) Betsy Mathieson, said that the Kingdom of Bahrain was blessed with a King holding a wise vision and a firm belief that religious freedom is the key to peaceful coexistence. “His Majesty the King has been keen to promote peaceful coexistence and interfaith dialogue which is unique regionally and globally, believing in wise philosophies based on the possibility of coexistence among all followers of heavenly and non-heavenly religions,” she said.
Mathieson explained that for hundreds of years, Bahrainis have embraced their neighbours from faiths of Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Sikhism and different sects of Islam, and have lived with them in love and harmony, which distinguishes Bahrainis with a special understanding and respect for all religions.
The Bahrain Declaration and the King Hamad International Centre for Interfaith Dialogue and Peaceful Coexistence, she said, are pioneering initiatives of His Majesty the King to promote international support for his unique vision of peaceful coexistence and interfaith dialogue.
The King Hamad Global Centre for Interfaith Dialogue and Peaceful Coexistence will include a museum to showcase Bahrain’s historic heritage, rich in religious freedom and peaceful coexistence for centuries.
Matheson also reviewed the endeavours of BFEA and its international tours, starting from London followed by Berlin, Brussels, Paris, Washington, New York and Rome to highlight Bahrain’s unique experience of peaceful coexistence and interfaith dialogue.