x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Leaders urged to confront violence and extremism

The Ruler of Fujairah urges world leaders to confront violence, extremism and terrorism at an interfaith summit.

NEW YORK // The Ruler of Fujairah, speaking at an interfaith summit that has been widely praised for advancing the Middle East peace process, urged world leaders to confront violence, extremism and terrorism. Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed, a member of the UAE's Supreme Council, was among dozens of heads of state and government officials to attend the summit at UN headquarters, convened on the initiative of Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah. During the event, King Abdullah spoke from the same stage as Israel's president, Shimon Peres. Both expressed abhorrence for war and the need for more tolerance.

In a written address to the UN General Assembly, Sheikh Hamad called for a "culture of peace, non-violence and peaceful coexistence... to protect our communities from violence, extremism and terrorism". "We emphasise that diversity in beliefs, cultures and civilisations among nations and peoples forms a valuable human heritage which must be preserved through the upholding of our noble human and moral values," he said.

"This should be done within a framework of mutual understanding and co-operation in order to achieve our common goals, including the combatting of injustice and oppression, and the advocacy of justice, prosperity and peace." He said the Government sought to "promote harmony and peaceful coexistence among various ethnic and religious groups, and ensure their freedom to perform their religious rites in the UAE".

Sheikh Hamad was joined in New York by a delegation from Abu Dhabi that included Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Reem Ibrahim al Hashimi, the Minister of State. Sheikh Hamad had been expected to read his speech to the General Assembly, but he was removed from the speakers list at the last minute because of time constraints. He met with the Lebanese president, Michel Suleiman.

The two-day interfaith conference in midtown Manhattan lured substantial international support, including attendance by the US President George W Bush; Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the Philippines president; and Gordon Brown, the British prime minister. Muslim nations supported the project, with heads of state from Kuwait, Bahrain, Jordan, Pakistan and Lebanon joined by high-level delegations from Qatar, Morocco, Djibouti, Egypt, Oman and Yemen.

King Abdullah has sought to bridge the gulf between religions and cultures by meeting Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican last year and arranging for leaders of different religions to meet in Madrid in March this year, and for Sunni and Shia clerics to travel to Mecca in June. The conference this week was hosted by Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, the president of the UN General Assembly and a Nicaraguan priest. jreinl@thenational.ae