On November 26th 2012, world leaders, religious leaders and ministers from all over the world gathered for the launch of the King Abdullah Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID).
A global initiative by Saudi King Abdullah, a neutral centre for interfaith and intercultural dialogue was launched, the king convened representatives from all segments of the Muslim world in Mecca to support his call for Islam to engage the other world religions in addressing the global challenges of our time.
Saudi King Abdullah visited Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican in 2007; where he came up with the idea of having such a center where Christians and Muslims could promote messages of peace to the world. In 2008 this idea was followed up with an interfaith meeting in Mecca and another one in Madrid where Jews were invited. Finally in 2009 in Vienna, all parties agreed on the basic setup of the organization.
To truly make this a credible venture, the king enlisted various leading religious institutions as partners’ starting with the Vatican, which was enlisted as partner in founding the interfaith center. Many around the world raised eyebrows with the leading Christian leaders cooperating with the Saudis in an interfaith dialogue, when their Christian communities have trouble worshipping openly in Saudi Arabia.
However, top Christian leaders felt that they needed to be involved in this project for that very reason. To ensure that religion is a source of blessing and not abused for conflict and violence. That’s why KAICIID was established by the three equal nati
onal partners; Austria, Spain and the leading nation Saudi Arabia as an international organization under Austrian law. Its directorship is constitutionally managed by a nine-member board consisting of three Christians; the Vatican, the Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarchate, and the archbishop of Canterbury, three prominent Muslim scholars; two Sunni and one Shiite, one Jew, one Hindu and one Buddhist. It will also consist of 100 representatives that include religious leaders, professors, and civic leaders of other faiths in addition to the faiths of the governing body.
Michael Spindelegger, Foreign Minister of Austria, stated that the structure of the center ensures that no religion dominates the organization and it remains open for membership to all interested nations. On its site itself KAICIID states “Located in Vienna, the Centre is an independent, autonomous, international organization, free of political or economic influence”.
The site also states that its mission is to act as a hub, facilitating interreligious and intercultural dialogue and understanding, to enhance cooperation, respect for diversity, justice and peace. 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.
Even though this initiative come from the very heart of the Muslim world and the country that serves as custodians of the two holiest shrines on Islam, where other religions are known to not be given much importance. This move is being welcomed, as a gradual change in attitude is being seen. This desire for maintaining world peace is what makes this interfaith initiative very special.
This organization has gained prominence in the arena of interfaith dialogue, with the United Nations tying up with them for various initiatives, like peace conferences and special interfaith day etc. Only time will tell if interfaith dialogue or one world religion is the answer to conflicts around the world.