Last week, the Muslim World League hosted a historic event both for its content and its location: The Forum on Common Values among Religious Followers drew some 100 leaders from several faiths together in Saudi Arabia, making it the first multi-faith event hosted in the kingdom.

Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist religious leaders gathered to “explore shared values and a common global vision for interfaith cooperation,” according to a press release from the event. 

The event was the brainchild of Sheikh Mohammad Al-Issa, secretary general of the Muslim World League.

“We reject any wrong or deliberate interpretation that undermines coexistence between followers of religions,” said Al-Issa.

A prominent and influential Muslim religious leader, Al-Issa has been promoting the Charter of Makkah (commonly spelled Mecca in the West) – a pan-Islamic set of principles which promotes anti-extremism, religious and cultural diversity and calls for legislation against hate-motivated crimes and violence. 

Al-Issa – a founding member of the Advisory Board for ALL ARAB NEWS – led the first-ever delegation of Muslim leaders to visit the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp in Poland in recent years.

He heads the Muslim World League (MWL), the world’s largest non-governmental Muslim organization based in Mecca. The organization aims to counter the teaching of radical Islamists and violent extremists, and to encourage Muslim clerics in Saudi Arabia and around the world to teach only moderate Islam.

Since taking the helm in 2016, Al-Issa has also been on a mission to “build bridges” with Jews and Christians.

At the conference in Riyadh this month, Al-Issa drew together influential religious leaders in order to “build humanitarian partnerships for a more cooperative and peaceful world and more harmonious communities.”

“This conference tackles some of the major issues of our day. As the world’s largest Islamic NGO, headquartered in the birthplace of Islam in Saudi Arabia, we have a special responsibility to do this work,” Al-Issa said. “Whether it is to tackle climate change, to support refugees and vulnerable communities around the world, or simply to spread messages of peace and co-existence, the kind of interfaith trust and cooperation this event is fostering is desperately needed to support those real-world goals.”

Sessions focused on human dignity, building bridges and moderation and understanding.

Christians of several denominations – from Evangelical to Catholic – 15 rabbis and other religious leaders agreed on the need to “respect religious diversity and the unique characteristics of every religion/sect,” the enforcement of human rights through international law and the need for more dialogue and engagement with other faiths in order to counter extremist ideologies.

Patriarch Bartholomew I, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and New Rome, said that religion preserves human values and that followers of different faiths must cooperate and apply their knowledge of peace. 

“Religion is not only related to human fears, but to the identity of peoples and civilizations,” he said.

This week we will feature columns from a few of the conference attendees. 

Here are the recommendations that emerged from the conference:

·  Relevant national institutions and United Nations organs must do more to confront all forms of discrimination and exclusion against religious, cultural, and ethnic minorities; And work to create strong and effective legislation in doing so.

·  Various platforms of influence; especially the media and social media platforms must remain mindful of the moral responsibility entrusted upon them.

·  We appeal to all countries and the international community to do all they can to provide adequate protection for places of worship, to ensure free access to them, to preserve their spiritual role, and to distance them from intellectual and political conflicts and sectarian strife.

·  Launching of a global forum called: “Religious Diplomacy Forum for Building Bridges” based on the influential role of religions in human societies, and the important role of religious followers in bridging the relationship between religions and cultures for the purpose of peacebuilding. 

·  To work on issuing an international compilation under the name: “The Encyclopaedia of Common Human Values”.

·  Inviting the United Nations General Assembly to adopt an international day for “Common Human Values” that celebrates the commonalities between religions and cultures around the world

Among the conference’s key goals are the following:

·  Establish a set of values common to all major world religions, and a vision for enhancing understanding, cooperation, and solidarity amongst world religions.

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