Bridging cultural gap – Oman

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Wed, 06 February 2013

UN official hails Oman’s human rapprochement efforts -
By Hasan Kamoonpuri -

MUSCAT — The Sultanate is taking a leading role in alliance of civilisations and interfaith harmony, thanks to wise leadership of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, said former Portuguese President, Dr Jorge Sampaio, who is now the United Nations Secretary-General’s High Representative for the Alliance of Civilisations.

Sampaio pointed out that the efforts of the Sultanate will promote the international plans that the United Nations seeks to implement through alliance of civilisations and rapprochement among peoples.

One of the aims of Oman’s annual Rapprochement and Human Harmony Week and United Nations’ Alliance of Civilisations is to bridge the cultural gap between the West and the Islamic world.

This was one of the key points at the 'Symposium on the Rapprochement and Human Harmony Week' (February 2-6) held here yesterday under the auspices of Dr Abdullah bin Mohammed al Saeedi, Minister of Legal Affairs.

In his welcome address, Dr Habib bin Mohammed al Riyami, Secretary-General, Sultan Qaboos Higher Centre for Culture and Science, said: “In response to the Royal Orders of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos, we are organising the second edition of the annual Human Harmony Week aimed at enhancing communication among cultures to build greater understanding for peace, and harmony”.

Dr Al Riyami stressed that at the very core of Islam and Islamic and Arab culture is to always promote dialogue among civilisations and to support peaceful coexistence and harmony.

In his keynote address, Sampaiosaid it is no coincidence that this symposium takes place at a time when “We are celebrating the World Interfaith Harmony Week, established by UN General Assembly.

The UN Resolution on World Interfaith Harmony Week reaffirms that mutual understanding and dialogue between all religions, and beliefs constitute important dimensions of a culture of peace, he added.

Sampaio, formerly the President of Portugal (1995-2006), said one of the aims of the UN Alliance of Civilisations is to “focus on improving relations within and among Western and Muslim societies and on addressing persistent tensions and divides”.

There is a growing recognition that the success of peace processes in many parts of the world depends on the effective engagement with religious communities, who have a great deal of influence over large constituencies, he said.

“Religion can act as a positive force for peace. The fact that religion is a factor in many contemporary crises does not necessarily mean that it is the trigger that initiated them,” said the UN High Representative for the Alliance of Civilisations.

The positive influence of religion can be felt through the core values and common ideals of the of the great faith traditions, which urge their believers to respect both the most fundamental human value — the right to life of all — and the right to dignity.

Sampaio lamented the fact that “the role of Muslim leaders in supporting peace efforts and condemning terrorism is often overlooked.

Again and again, in every corner of the world, Muslim leaders have come out strongly to denounce violence as antithetical to Islamic teachings”.

He underlined the need for political and religious leaders to join further their forces against extremism so that religion is not diverted from its humanistic path.

Meanwhile, the second Rapprochement and Human Harmony Week is set to conclude today.

The five-day event stems from His Majesty Sultan Qaboos' vision, which aims at enhancing principles of the religious and cultural understanding and harmony.

It also aims to enhance the cultural and religious affinity and mutual understanding among human beings of different cultures and religions.

It also serves to facilitate communication among human cultures to achieve the affinity and emphasises the role of dialogue in supporting international peace and stability through raising public awareness about related issues.