MADRID – King Abdullah, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, arrived in Spain Tuesday on the eve of an international conference in Madrid to promote dialogue between the world’s main religions. He was welcomed at Madrid’s Barajas airport by Spanish King Juan Carlos.
The two monarchs will speak at the opening session of the three-day conference which gets underway Wednesday at 2:00 p.m. (1200 GMT).
Earlier, speaking in an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, King Abdullah said he initiated the unprecedented global inter-faith conference so as to bring peoples together for the greater common good of mankind, which is the gist of all divine revelations, beliefs and cultures.
“We can remove mistrust and suspicions from our minds through the principle of dialogue – a dialogue that underscores human commonalities that find expression in all religions, beliefs and cultures,” the King said. “They all call for good in all its forms, and reject evil in all its manifestations. We will then realize that values and principles that unite us are more than those dividing us.”
King Abdullah said the broad positive response to his call for dialogue, both from inside the Muslim world and from various other religious and cultural circles around the world, makes him optimistic about the outcome of the conference.
Around 200 participants are expected to attend the conference at the Auditorium Hotel and Convention Center, including representatives of the world’s major religions: Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism. Among them are the secretary general of the World Jewish Congress Michael Schneider and Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, in charge of dialogue between the Vatican and Muslims.
Abdullah Al-Turki, the secretary general of the Muslim World League which organized the conference, said its aim “is for us to get to know each other and to look for ways to cooperate.” He said the conference will avoid theological issues and focus instead on “human issues”.
In the La Repubblica interview, King Abdullah, referring to the International Islamic Conference in Makkah held earlier this year, in which he entered the Conference Hall holding the hands of the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, and the former Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani , said the Madrid conference has the support of Sunnis and Shias.
The King dismissed Al-Qaeda’s denunciation of the Madrid dialogue, saying the forces of terrorism “know that dialogue in the effective way to abort their evil plans that are contrary to all religions and human beliefs, and inherent human nature.”
The interview was wide-ranging, covering also moves for an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and Saudi Arabia’s efforts and proposals to rein in rising oil and food prices and to combat climate change.