Rabbi David Rosen, writing in Huffington Post, explains the importance of the launch on Monday of the King Abdullah Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue. The initiative was launched jointly by Austria, Spain, and Saudi Arabia, as well as an international organization headed by a nine-member board. Saudi King Abdullah played a key role in its founding including the enlistment of the Vatican as a partner in the center.
What makes this interfaith initiative so special is not just that it has been established by three governments or that it has a multifaith board. Rather, it is the fact that this initiative has come from the very heart of the Muslim world — from the custodian of the two holiest shrines of Islam. This gives it a unique standing and, hopefully, the potential to contribute globally.
While the center seeks to be a hub for interfaith work internationally and to provide state-of-the-art technology to help empower this work, it also explicitly seeks to address situations where religion is abused and exploited for violence and conflict, and to ensure that religion is part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
In the end, “the proof of the pudding is in the eating,” and time will tell whether this venture lives up to its expectations. Nonetheless, this initiative provides a remarkable opportunity. Skepticism here is not misplaced, but it must not lead us to spurn the outstretched hand. To do that would be to allow distrust to vanquish hope, good will, and the possibility of constructive change for the good of society as a whole.
The King Abdullah Center and similar initiatives are engaged at the cutting edge of the interfaith religious movement, which is connected to groups such as the Parliament of the World’s Religions and The World Council of Churches. The interfaith movement is an important precursor to the World Spirituality movement in that it helps to lay the groundwork for peaceful cooperation; however it is definitely not to be confused with World Spirituality which goes beyond religion to integrate perspectives from modernity and postmodernity.
The distinction between interfaith spirituality and World Spirituality is a topic visited regularly on this blog including our recent post of Marc Gafni’s “All Religions are Not the Same!”