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Wed 03-05-2017 00:55 AM

Abu Dhabi hosts American Caravan for Peace

ABU DHABI, 2nd May 2017 (WAM) - The Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies received the first American Caravan for Peace, as the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers hotel in Abu Dhabi welcomed today a first of its kind visit by an American peace caravan consisting of clergy men from all Abrahamic religions.

The Caravan, hosted by the President of Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, included over 30 prominent Muslim, Christian, and American Jewish clergy, from ten different American states to develop new models and action plans that will promote coexistence and mutual respect.

The visit comes in line with the approach adopted by the UAE’s leadership in promoting tolerance, fraternity, and coexistence among all humans.

The visiting caravan will get a chance to view the UAE’s model in enhancing co-existence and promoting tolerance, supported by a clear legislative frameworks, such as the Anti-discrimination law.

The visit also highlights the important role being played globally by the Forum for Promoting Peace, an institution that works on supporting dialogue and understanding, utilizing scriptural reasoning as an approach to build trust among Abrahamic religions to form a holistic approach in combating hatred and Islamophobia, and eradicating much of the conflagration we see today.

Shaykh Bin Bayyah in his framework speech highlighted that ‘Abrahamic religions have a lot in common, and our duty is to highlight the unified will to build peace and foster tolerance.

Shaykh Abdallah Bin Bayyah welcomed the guests to the UAE, highlighting that a meeting in a land that aspires towards tolerance and peace in Abu Dhabi, helps to create a positive environment for enlightened thoughts and active initiatives that will help overcome the current crisis that humanity faces.

The president of the forum also indicated that this visit follows a trip he made to the USA, where he was invited by the Congress Committee to the National Prayer Breakfast.

The National Prayer Breakfast, along with other meetings Bin Bayyah held in Washington DC, formed a chance to appreciate the will and efforts exerted to build co-existence and mutual respect among religions.

This experience, Bin Bayyah continued, reaffirms the need for immediate action to create a sustainable and faithful focus on issues that join different religions, and replace dividing approaches that have lead humanity away from the values of goodness, love, and mercy preached by all prophets.

In this context, Sheikh Bin Bayyah commended the initiative of the caravan, noting that it shows hope for tolerance and fraternity, a message that will be carried by the Imams, Rabbi’s, and Priests in attendance today, to their parishes and communities.

Shaykh Bin Bayyah commented: "We have a lot in common, and our duty is to highlight the unified will to build peace and foster tolerance".

He also called to capitalize on this caravan’s model, and transform it into an efficient approach for fostering tolerance and co-existence, making it a tradition to be followed.

Commenting on the framework on which this event is held, the President of the Forum recalled the Marrakesh Declaration which was issued the by the Forum in January 2016. In the conclusion of the conference on "Protecting the rights of religious minorities in predominantly Muslim countries".

Shaykh Bin Bayyah explained that the principles of the Marrakesh Declaration imply co-existence and equal citizenship, and usher the way for a new era of mutual understanding and building on heritage to enhance the present and future.

The Marrakesh Declaration, he explained, was a monumental event in history, as it represented a clear understanding of how the Matrix of Islam can be utilized as a power for goodness.

The declaration also highlights the duty of clergy men to study their theological texts, and find a strong ground on which co-existence and equal citizenship can be built.

In his welcome note, Sheikh Bin Bayyah said: "Protestantism has always been proud of tolerance, as ‘tolerance is the Protestants gift to the world’. But all Abrahamic religions carry fundamental teachings that promote co-existence and peace, and the universal quality of human dignity. These teachings can form powerful antidotes to extremism, and an effective approach to counter hatred, Islamophobia, and religious extremism together".

Supporting this idea, Bin Bayyah recited verses from the Torah, The Bible, and the Holy Quran. He called upon the audience to take part in building a strategy for their journey towards peace and coexistence, and transform the caravan into a modern day Alliance of Virtue that draws inspiration from the real essence of teachings in Abrahamic religions to instill the values of co-existence, peace, and goodness, and combat extremism and sectarianism, as well as all sorts of discrimination.

"The day where stereotypical views and hatred-filled sentiments are replaced with fraternity and the spirit of giving would be a glorious day in the history of humanity," he added.

The President of the Forum added that Abrahamic religions have a great potential to foster peace in the world, once they bridge their differences. Shaykh Bin Bayyah concluded that this meet-up among Abrahamic religions does not imply exclusion of other religions and sects, as it forms a basis for a wider engagement to enhance common qualities and values shared by all humans, and interacted with philosophies and and religious beliefs.

Dr. Mohammed Matar Al Kaabi, Secretary General of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, welcomed the caravan in the UAE, a land of tolerance and peace, and an important contributor to human-wide fraternity, with residents from over 200 countries around the world and people of various ethnicities and races co-existing in peace and harmony with local communities.

Al Kaabi noted that this was the approach established by late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the nation, who instilled the values of love, tolerance, and moderation among its people.

In this context, it is historically remembered when Sheikh Zayed assumed the responsibility of rehabilitation works at the Church of the Nativity, highlighting that places of worship are places to be respected, regardless to the religion or their followers.

This work has been continued until today by the sons of Sheikh Zayed in their continuing efforts to support peaceful coexistance.

Al Kaabi also highlighted the pioneering step the UAE took by issuing the Law on Combating Discrimination and Hatred, concluding by a reference to the Ministry of Tolerance and its important role in today’s turbulent world.

Reverend Bruce Lustig, a prominent Rabbi in Washington D.C, reaffirmed the true voice of religion: that humans come from a single origin, and that all humans are a fraternity. He noted the tenth psalm of the Torah, which reminds humans of their creation on the image of God, which poses a serious responsibility for people to follow the highest values and standards. This, Reverend Lustig noted, is in common among all Abrahamic religions.

Pastor Bob Roberts from Texas, reaffirmed the importance of union in the face of extremism and terrorism, stressing that not being united in this combat has weakened the rational side of the struggle.

Being united, he noted, is the mutual goal which we all need to work for. Roberts commended the exceptional efforts of Sheikh Abdallah Bin Bayyah, both in the Marrakesh Declaration and also at the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies and highlighted the proceedings by saying that the voice of Shaykh Bin Bayyah is a voice that needs to be heard globally.

The caravan, convening for three days at the capital Abu Dhabi, will run a number of workshops, discussion boards, and brainstorming sessions on the following topics: mutual visions among followers of different religions and their impact on peace; challenges facing co-existence and opportunities on enhancing it; the pivotal role of including peace concepts in religious sermons in mosques and churches; and the role of religion in public life. The workshops will be accompanied by a cultural program, including visits to prominent monuments in Abu Dhabi and beyond.

WAM/bashir