WASHINGTON, Feb 6 (KUNA) -- A two-day conference aiming to develop and build mechanisms for promoting peace that involves faith leaders from the Abrahamic communities gathered in Washington Tuesday.
The conference entitled Alliance of Virtue for the Common Good intends to help faith leaders from Muslim, Christian and Jewish religions encourage their fellow members to amicably engage with individuals and groups from other faith communities to help cultivate sentiments of goodwill and empathy to counter and remove feelings of hostility and hatred.
The alliance, held with the participation of Chairman of the International Islamic Charity Organization (IICO), Adviser at Amiri Diwan of Kuwait and Special Adviser to UN Secretary-General Dr. Abdullah Al-Maatouq, focuses on holding productive discussion of peace through the lens of religion.
In his opening remarks, President of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Bayyah stressed that the foremost objective of the Forum is to reaffirm all the "critical" work done that embodies "peaceful coexistence and building of bridges and love between the religious leadership of Abrahamic faiths."
He added that the Forum is a platform to discuss how to turn the "positive consequences of our work thus far into a paragon of perpetual practice that is not limited to the followers of our specific faiths so that others might contemplate the spirit of our faiths that compel us to such actions and led us to share our ideas and calls of faiths that this might become a model for the followers of all religions and philosophies."
He stressed the importance of presenting religion "as a means for peace, love and reconciliation not as a means for conflict," saying love, peace and friendship "remain out message to all of humanity and continue to be our maxims."
During the Forum, Bin Bayyah announced the "Give Food" initiative that seeks to feed the hungry "from every race and creed."
He said that this initiative, in addition to being a "good deed," is also the "embodiment of our forefather Abraham's practice ... given that he used to feed the guest."
In conclusion, Bin Bayyah asked if it is possible to "revive an idea such as this alliance (Alliance of Virtue) in our modern societies? Can we come together to spread such goodness?
"I sincerely believe that we are indeed able to do so as long as we do not despair from either the grace of God or from one another," he remarked.
The newly appointed US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback called religious freedom "the most important foreign relations topic today."
He pledged to deliver "initiatives to foreign governments at the highest levels and to my own government. This and similar initiatives are critical and we will do whatever possible to be supportive. This administration has made it clear that this a foreign policy and national security objective. I look forward to hearing from you how we can collectively and collaboratively achieve this shared objective.
"Your initiative serves as a model for what can be achieved when people from the Abrahamic faith backgrounds join together in a common cause," he indicated.
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Finland Timo Soini called the Alliance of Virtue conference in Washington "a great opportunity to mobilize mediators working inside traditional and faith oriented groups.
"It seems there is a need for creating a multi-religious body consisting of prominent religious actors to support mediation and reconciliation," Soini said.
"Such a body would stand ready to intervene in the constructive manner when political crisis or other disputes arise ... in accordance with solid values and engage in mediation-oriented peace-seeking and fundamentally dialogical action, he said.
"If religion is part of the problem, it is also part of the solution. Both religious and political actors share the moral responsibility to make sure that this rings true," he added.
Dr. Mohammad Al-Issa, Secretary General of the Muslim World League, called the gathering "highly commendable." He emphasized the need for a "wise response to the phobia of religions and the call for an effective dialogue to differentiate between understanding and conviction."
Hundreds of people from across the world of different religions are attending the conference that includes panel discussions focusing on the role of religious virtue and the common good as well as an affirmation of the Washington Declaration, set to be issued at the end of the conference. (end)