|Your Royal Highness,|
We greet you with love and joy from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the first See of the Orthodox Church, and we extend our blessings. May all who have gathered here, and who participate in the works of this International Center for Interreligious dialogue in the years to come, be blessed with a lifetime of harmony and good will.
We are very thankful to God for the honor of being here at this inauguration of the King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue. This evening is a powerful statement to the world that concord is more desirable in resolving issues than conflict.
We would also like to express our gratitude to His Majesty Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King of Saudi Arabia for his vision and commitment to the initiative of establishing this Centre; and to the countries of Austria and Spain for their contributions as parties of council; to the Vatican for their support as a founding observer; and to all the representatives of each and every religion and culture whose constant support and encouragement helped make this possible. All of you are true ambassadors of good will, and your work in this endeavor will leave a legacy of hope for the coming generations.
Today, we are inaugurating this Centre with great hope. We are joining together to develop an institution which will foster opportunities “to know that every human being is our neighbor.” This is the essential message of our age. At a time in history when various religious factions are tearing apart peoples and nations, on this night religion has brought us all together. Perhaps, this gathering is a prophetic witness to the world that this experience of cooperation and dialogue should expand. Indeed, it must; for if we transfer these ideals from the leadership of our religions to the local pulpit and minbar; and from there to the streets of every city, town, and village, a new way of approaching each other can become a reality.
It has been the dream of King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz and other religious leaders to see this day: the opening of a centre which can help the world turn away from violence and turn toward mutual trust and shared vulnerability. May we move from prejudice to good will; from good will to knowledge; from knowledge to understanding; and from understanding to a place where we recognize the breath of God in every human life, and feel love for each individual. We believe all humanity is called to choose to live in harmony whether they are Buddhists, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Muslims, Taoists or from any other religion or philosophy.
In seeking a peaceful coexistence exemplified by love and service to others, honorable economic and social policies can be embraced, and mutual understanding and freedom from fear of the other can be cultivated. For many religious people, our kingdom is not of this world but of the next.
Therefore, all oppression and destruction of the other is counterproductive because violence never moves us closer to our God, but farther from the divine.
Because we believe in peace, we take this step to formalise our commitment to love the other and cease from violence because of differing religious, cultural, social, or political beliefs and embrace the vulnerability of opening ourselves to the other in truth. Before us remain many obstacles to mutual respect and brotherly love. We are most concerned that humanity has not fully developed the capacity to honestly dialogue with others, and to selflessly love those who are different from ourselves. There exists a fear in journeying too far into this yet unknown place of trust and vulnerability. Once overcome, the path toward peace will shine brighter and brighter until love prevails.
Our respective critics will say we are merging, diluting, tainting, or abandoning our true faith by being together here tonight. This is not so. Peace is not achieved by acquiescing to another’s convictions, nor is it achieved through the domination of another, or dictating what another must profess.
Peace is something greater than fusing our collective consciences into one religion or culture for the whole world. Harmony is promoted by allowing each person to be guided by their own conscience to worship as they have come to believe without the coercion or control of others. Good will is developed through recognising we are all equally and fully human. Anything called ‘peace’ which violates another’s personhood – their conscience, their bodies, their families, their moral choices, their sustenance--is not peace, but a useless counterfeit.
We pray and hope for the day when every church, mosque, temple, and holy place can be experienced by those who are afforded the freedom of conscience by the Creator to choose whom to worship. We long for the day that hatred, death, and destruction are superseded by respect for human dignity and peaceful interactions.
We offer our congratulations to King Abdullah Bin Abdullaziz and all leaders of the world’s religions represented here for initiating this important portal through which leaders of all peoples and nations can work together. The ideals for this Centre are lofty, especially in light of the recent, tragic events in the world. Yet, we must never forget: “War in the name of religion is war against religion.” We will live in harmony when we recognise that killing our neighbor also kills a part of ourselves.
May all who come here be filled with good will, seek harmony, and have the courage and wisdom to go into all the world and share the light of love.
Thank you for your kindness and love. May God bless you all.