Speech for the KAICIID Secretary General
First Cordoba Forum
“In the name of the partners”
Wednesday, 15 May 2019
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Good evening ladies and gentlemen. It is truly heart-warming to see you all gathered here, more than 100 guests from around 40 countries in this extraordinary city, and an honour to be able to address you on behalf of the partners of the Cordoba Forum.
Cordoba is a place which represents both the struggles and rewards of achieving convivencia. This is a region where one civilization after another has left their imprint, through conquest and through collaboration. Although no period in history should be idealized, the ‘convivencia’ of the caliphate of Cordoba was a remarkable moment when different religions rubbed shoulders and prospered side by side. What better place to celebrate the United Nations International Day of Living Together in Peace, to draw upon the spirit and colour of the history of this city, and use it to create visions for a better future.
Personally, it is also a great pleasure to be back in Spain, one of KAICIID’s founding member states. Throughout the years we have seen how Spain’s leaders are committed to interreligious dialogue, especially through their continuous support to the organization I represent, the International Dialogue Centre, or KAICIID.
I thank the Cordoban, Andalusian, Spanish and international officials who have welcomed us so hospitably, particularly the Municipality of Cordoba, which hosts us in this elegant building tonight. It is my great hope, and one I share with many here, that if this Forum is deemed a success, this will not be the last time we work together.
From among this exciting company it will sadly not be possible to mention everyone. Since April 2018, Fundacion Paradigma Cordoba has led 21 founder organizations to organize this Forum. Partners such as Fondation Oessimi and AISA International developed this idea many years ago. The Nicholas Puech Foundation galvanized the preparation process, Initiatives for Change International and the Scouts brought teams of young members and boundless enthusiasm, and have been joined by Salam for Cultural Communication, which is supporting an international event for the first time. Thank you all!
And why was it that all these different partners came and stayed? Firstly, I think it is because we see a shared need. We are fortunate to live in a peaceful century with much technological and social progress.
But this situation is very fragile. Worldwide, more people than ever before are displaced. The society and politics are changing. People are afraid for their safety, their jobs, their identities and values, and that they will lose them in mixed, globalized societies. Some are beginning to believe that convivence simply doesn’t work, that it is better for us to separate into our own countries, ghettos, and social media echo chambers. As knowledge and trust erode, fear and conflict grow.
There is an urgent need to demonstrate that convivence is more than just a dream; and that world trends do not casually cast it aside.
The partners working on the Forum are all dreamers, but also activists and peace-builders. Many have worked for decades to protect minorities, to counter stereotypes, support reconciliation, and enable people to live together with integrity.
My own organization believes that the key to such work is dialogue- deeply listening and seeking to learn from and understand one another. KAICIID is the only international, intergovernmental organization whose mandate is to promote dialogue. As an organization with a governing structure combining states in our Council of Parties – Austria, Saudi Arabia, Spain and the Holy See as the founding observer; and religious leaders in our Board of Directors, we bring both sectors together to find solutions to common challenges facing their communities.
In the Arab Region, the Central African Republic, Myanmar and Nigeria, where religion has been manipulated for political and economic purposes to divide communities, KAICIID-supported platforms are working to foster inclusive peacebuilding. In Europe, the Muslim Jewish Leadership Council enables rabbis and imams to advocate jointly for minority rights and promote trust between their communities. Dialogue, and convivence, are needed everywhere.
Another conviction the Cordoba Forum partners share is the need to engage with youth. The UN has called for increased youth participation, as equal and respected partners, in peacebuilding initiatives.
The partners decided to begin this Forum with a Youth Seminar to bring young people to the heart of our work on convivence. Over the last two days, KAICIID has worked with 30 outstanding young people from many organisations to equip them with the knowledge and skills to deliver their initiatives even more effectively. These people are some of the most impressive activists we know. We will hear from shortly. I trust that they will enrich us with their vision, and we will be able to support them with our experience.
Ladies and gentlemen, I trust that you can see why I am so proud to be part of the partnership which has brought us all together. The process itself has been a demonstration of extraordinary commitment, imagination and tolerance among actors of very different ages, cultures and approaches. I hope it is a tribute to Cordoba that a united and coordinated vision from Europe, the Middle East, Africa and far beyond has been able to take shape, where Abrahamic faiths and cultures worked together in the past. The convivence we work for is not limited to particular faiths and cultures: it is global, it is intergenerational and it must last.
I hope you will join us in this venture, and dream boldly.