Saudi reforms detour through new Vienna interfaith dialogue centre

November 21, 2012

(Sturany Palace on Vienna’s Ringstrasse boulevard, 27 March 2008/Erich Schmid)

The road to reform in Saudi Arabia is long and winding. In the rigidly restricted field of religion, the path is so circuitous that part of it even runs through traditionally Catholic countries like Austria and Spain.

Next Monday, a pioneering Saudi-backed centre for worldwide interfaith dialogue will open in a baroque palace on Vienna’s elegant Ringstrasse boulevard. Riyadh paid for the building and will foot the centre’s budget for the first three years.

Such largesse from a country often ranked as one of the most religiously repressive has stirred suspicion and protest in Vienna, where critics accuse the Saudis of everything from hypocrisy to plotting to spread radical Islam in the Alps.

But the centre has supporters in unexpected places, most notably in Israel. Rabbi David Rosen, the Jewish member of the centre’s multifaith board of directors, says it presents an opportunity the world’s religions cannot let pass.

“This is the first multifaith initiative from a Muslim source, and not just any source, but from the very hardcore heartland of Islam,” said Rosen, International Director of Interreligious Affairs of the American Jewish Committee (AJC).

“It is an essential stage in King Abdullah’s efforts to change Saudi Arabia itself,” the Jerusalem-based rabbi said. “If there are possibilities of good things coming from this, we have to give it a try,”

Read the full story here.
.
Follow RTRFaithWorld via Twitter Follow all posts on Twitter @ RTRFaithWorld

rss button Follow all posts via RSS

One comment

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

Buying a palace in Vienna and sponsoring pleasant seminars is one thing, but allowing Christians to worship on Saudi soil is quite another task, one that seems beyond the reach of Saudi officials.

Posted by bluepanther | Report as abusive