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Conference on religious violence starts in Vienna - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Delegates attend a session of the 'United Against Violence in the Name of Religion' conference at the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, in Vienna, in November 2014 (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Delegates attend a session of the ‘United Against Violence in the Name of Religion’ conference at the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, in Vienna, in November 2014 (Asharq Al-Awsat)

Vienna, Asharq Al-Awsat—A three-day conference to tackle religious violence and address the plight of minorities in the Middle East began on Tuesday morning at the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue in Vienna, with the participation of over 100 religious figures, policymakers and diplomats from the Middle East and beyond

The conference, ‘United Against Violence in the Name of Religion: Protecting Religious and Cultural Diversity in Iraq and Syria,’ aims “to highlight existing initiatives and sketch out new responses to . . . [religious] violence,” especially focusing on Iraq and Syria, where groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) currently operate, “threatening the survival of religious minorities [and] the social and religious fabric of relations between religious communities, as well as Muslim religious institutions and communities.”

The event is being attended by a number of religious figures from the region including the Grand Muftis of Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, and the Patriarchs of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church and the Chaldean Catholic Church, as well as the Patriarch of the Syriac Catholic Church in Syria, and representatives from the Coptic Church in Egypt and the Syriac Maronite Church in Lebanon.

The center’s secretary-general, Faisal Bin Abdulrahman Al-Muammar, said during his keynote address opening the conference that religious, cultural and ethnic diversity were “sources of strength for societies and not sources of conflict and strife.”

He accused religious and political extremist groups and terrorist organizations of failing to realize this, and of hiding behind “religious slogans to achieve political ends.”

He also accused these groups of bringing increasing turbulence to the Middle East and the wider world through their actions, which increased polarization and enmity between people of different faiths around the world. In addition, he denounced their efforts to change the historic religious, cultural and ethnic makeup of the region, singling out the actions of extremists in Syria and northern Iraq as particular examples.

The conference will discuss a host of proposals to counter the extremist ideologies driving sectarian violence, including the use of social media and encouraging citizenship and interreligious education in the region, and the of role of religious institutions and religious education in countering religious violence and fostering peace between different communities.

Also present at the conference are Nasser Al-Nasser, a representative for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Adama Dieng, the UN’s special adviser on the prevention of genocide.

The King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue is headquartered in Vienna, Austria, and was opened in 2012 to build and foster relations between different faiths and cultures.