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Saudi Arabia: A culture of peace and safeguarding religious sites

Emile Amin

Published: Updated:

Saudi diplomacy achieved a major and momentous victory in the past few days when the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the resolution titled “Promoting a culture of peace and tolerance to safeguard religious sites” put forward by the Saudi Arabia.

Read more: Resetting Saudi Arabia’s course into the twenty-first century

The recently adopted resolution calls for promoting a culture of peace and tolerance and protecting religious sites, such as mosques, churches, temples of Abrahamic, Hindu, and Sikh religions and communities, and others. The UN resolution, for which the Kingdom laid the foundations almost a week ago, seeks to redouble the efforts aimed at promoting global dialogue and a culture of tolerance and peace that is built on the respect for human rights and the diversity of religions and beliefs.

This approach comes as one of the many enlightening channels brought about by the Kingdom's Vision 2030, which is patronized by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. This new stage showcases many of the kingdom’s civilizational attributes and demonstrates the moderate and tolerant nature of Islam when interacting with others, regardless of their gender, color, religion, or race.

Houses of worship have a special place in the hearts and souls of humans, especially the followers of the three Abrahamic religions, who were destined to live side by side in the Middle East for thousands of years. Places of worship are held in high regard in Islam, Christianity, and Judaism, as well as other religions and beliefs.

They are where individuals and groups go to pray, and they were built and furnished to help worshippers communicate with their Creator. They provide a space for people to silently reach deep down within themselves and have spiritual experiences in silence.

Read more: Saudi Arabia G20 interfaith forum unites Muslim, Jewish, Christian leaders

Places of worship, particularly here in our region, are also spaces for “spiritual hospitality,” where followers of different religions come together to celebrate special occasions, such as weddings, funerals, and social events. These gatherings are a symbol of what unites all believers without discarding their distinguishing characteristics or creating any discord amongst them.

The important question in this discussion remains, did the Saudi initiative, which was welcomed by more than 30 UN member states, come at a crucial time when it is most needed?

This is indubitable in both actions and words, especially after we witnessed in the past few years the attacks on mosques, like in New Zealand, and churches, like in Sri Lanka. Jewish synagogues in the United States were not spared these atrocious attacks at the hands of evil people who seem to consider places of worship the preferred target to satisfying their blind and sick thirst for violence.

What Saudi diplomacy astutely realized is that these moral and physical crimes are the product of an extremist ideology that does not believe in the right of others to exist and considers them to be an obstacle to its power grab and brutality. It is an ideology that perceives itself as the sole owner of the absolute truth, and everything else as false and astray.

Unfortunately, humanity is at risk of an alarming escalation of this trend in the coming period, whether in the form of the emergence of new racist or sectarian movements, or a recall of chauvinist and anachronistic nationalist movements, similar to the ones the European continent suffered from during the first half of the twentieth century, and pursuant to the Eastern fundamentalisms that were manipulated by countries and agencies well known by all.

What does the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the world aim at as we approach the third decade of the twenty-first century? Basically, out of the Kingdom’s spiritual role as the Mecca of the Islamic world, it seeks to enhance a culture of peace, whether among individuals, groups or states. This will serve as a shield that protects humans against extremism, hatred and violence based on race, religion, and culture.

Nowadays, humanity suffers the plight of dealing with the notorious COVID-19 virus, which has brought suffering all over the world. This pandemic will be over thanks to God’s mercy and wisdom in bestowing knowledge upon humans so they would have the means to fight diseases. However, the real pandemic and plague of our time, the one that the Saudi suggested resolution fights at full force, is hatred and the ruthlessness of hearts and minds, and building walls instead of building bridges.

The Kingdom has had firm and unwavering positions across space and time. They are well-established and based on respect for difference and condemnation of acts of aggression and terror, regardless of the sources or justifications for such acts, which is why this UN resolution was very well received by the whole world.

It is worth mentioning that Saudi Arabia does not merely take part in the planning and on-paper side of things, but it also plays an active role and puts the plans into action on the ground. The Kingdom already has plans in the pipeline to host a global conference to support this resolution and its noble goal. Vision 2030 is most magnificent as it turns dreams into reality.

This article was originally published in, and translated from, the pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat.

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