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Final day of landmark inter-faith conference

Latest update : 2008-07-18

Meeting in Madrid for a three-day inter-faith conference sponsored by Saudi Arabia, representatives of the world's main monotheistic religions called for an international agreement to combat terrorism and prevent "a clash of civilisations".

Representatives of the world's great monotheistic religions Friday called for an international agreement to combat terrorism, at the end of a landmark Saudi-organised conference.
   
The Islamic, Christian and Jewish leaders also appealed for a UN special session to promote dialogue and prevent "a clash of civilizations."
   
"Terrorism is a universal phenomenon that requires unified international efforts to combat it in a serious, responsible and just way," the three-day World Conference on Dialogue said in a final statement.
   
"This demands an international agreement on defining terrorism, addressing its root causes and achieving justice and stability in the world."
   
The conference also called for more "ways of enhancing understanding and cooperation among people despite differences in their origins, colours and languages," and a "rejection of extremism and terrorism."
   
The statement was read to the closing session by Abdul Rahman Al-Zaid, the deputy secretary general of the Mecca-based Muslim World League, which organised the conference from an initiative by Saudi King Abdullah.
   
Around 200 participants attended the gathering in Madrid, aimed at bringing the world's great monotheistic faiths closer together.
   
Among them were the secretary general of the World Jewish Congress, Michael Schneider, and Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, who is responsible for dialogue between the Vatican and Muslims.
   
Tauran said the conference had "stressed the main convictions that we have in common."
   
The participants called on the UN General Assembly to call a special session to support the recommendations of the conference "in enhancing dialogue among the followers of religions, civilizations and cultures."
   
The secretary general of the Muslim World League, Abdullah al-Turki, said more such conferences are planned.
   
"There is a need for continuity in dialogue and not depending only on resorting to the UN," he told a news conference. "This is going to be the first of a series of conferences. We have talked about organising a conference in Japan."
   
The event took place against a backdrop of tensions between the Islamic world and the West since the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.
   
They range from restrictions on the use of the veil by Muslim women in some European countries to cartoons regarded as blasphemous by Muslims and the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
   
The conference opened Wednesday with a speech by King Abdullah in which he called on the world's major religions to turn their backs on extremism and embrace "constructive dialogue."
   
The choice of Madrid, rather than Saudi Arabia, to host the event provoked some debate in Spain.
   
But the Saudi ambassador to Madrid, Saud bin Naif, said the country "is a natural place of this type of dialogue... Spain has hosted for centuries the three major religions, they coexisted in harmony."
   
Saudi Arabia remains the only Arab Muslim country to ban all non-Islamic religious practices on its soil, even though it has a large community of  expatriates professing other faiths.
 

Date created : 2008-07-18

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