|Royal Palace |
16 August 2004
Your All Holiness,
It is with great pleasure that I received your kind letter inviting me to participate in the inter-religious conference on the theme of Religion, Peace and the Olympic Ideal to be held under the auspices of His Excellency President Constantine Stephanopoulos of the Hellenic Republic, on 10 & 11 August 2004. This conference being an integral part of the activities and ceremonies initiating the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.
Unfortunately, and due to pressing previous commitments, I will not be able to attend this promising gathering. I completely agree with Your Holiness and the organizers that the timing of this meeting and its theme are of great importance. We are living in a world that is becoming increasingly less stable by the day, and security both, soft and hard, has became scarce.
As we watch the flow of athletes to Greece, I feel very saddened that we live in times that make it necessary to hold an event that embodies the message of peace, friendship, knowledge, harmony, honor and competitiveness for all humanity, under the shadow and protection of armies and very tight, and unprecedented security arrangements. The Joy of witnessing the homecoming of the Olympic flame is the only balance for this sadness.
With this heavy, yet hopeful spirit, I express to you my friend, my full support, encouragement and endorsement to this initiative of holding this inter-religious conference, not only to bring back life and meaning to Olympics through emphasizing the cultural dimension of an essentially multicultural process that aims at enhancing the values of peace, freedom and above all justice and equality. But also to help revive a tradition more than 3500 years of moderation and coexistence that seems so far fetched these days.
My hope is that this revival would lead to more positive and productive cultural and religious encounters elsewhere, as it has always been the case with initiatives blessed with the true Olympic spirit.
While most of the world’s cultural and religious traditions acknowledge, respect and encourage, the need and importance of sports and structured physical activities and encounters as means to the building of a proper healthy and sane individuals that constitute the basic elements in our human society. Closures, divides, suspicions and fear of the different others, is unfortunately the prevailing rule of the times.
With the Olympic Ideal, we must continue to work together to emphasize over and over again the importance of our cultural and human diversity, and that the richness of our shared human civilizational heritage comes from the diversity and differences in our historical, cultural and religious traditions.
I congratulate your Holiness for this very important action at this very difficult time; your wisdom and guidance in striving to achieve the good things in the worst and most difficult junctures of our times will not go unappreciated. I would like to use this opportunity to call, on the occasion of the cultural Olympics of 2004 and in the Olympic spirit, for the continuation of this process by encouraging the holding of such similar meetings and cultural festivities with other interested partners, in other parts of the world.
It would be indeed a great achievement if this cultural Olympic flame, were still lit by the time of the next Olympics in 2008. What we need is more direct people Olympics.
As for Jordan, in this same spirit and towards the same ends, I am pleased to announce that I will be hosting the Second World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies (WOCMES 2), in Amman, Jordan in June 2006. This major event will be organized and managed by the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies (RIIFS), an inter-faith and inter-cultural academic research institute that I founded in Amman ten years ago, to provide a venue in the Arab World for the Interdisciplinary study and rational discussion of religion, culture and all issues related to cultural and religious diversity.
WOCMES2 promises to be another rich cultural and academic festival that will bring together for the first time experts on the Middle East, and the region, drawn from all over the world and all branches of humanities and social sciences in the region to share and exchange their research, experiences and ideas, and to discuss the challenges of methodology, theory, practice, politics, solutions and resolutions, and all matters of inquiry related to the Middle East at large.
I wish to ascertain to Your Holiness, that I shall keep you informed of the planned activities and developments, as much as I look forward to receiving information about the outcome of the inter-religious meeting.
My warmest personal greetings and best wishes.
Yours very sincerely
El Hassan bin Talal
His All Holiness
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
Archbishop of Constantinople and New Rome