New Vienna international interfaith dialogue center opens with Saudi help

November 26, 2012

(Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal  talks to journalists upon his arrival in front of the ‘King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue’ (KAICIID) in Vienna November 26, 2012. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger )

A Saudi-backed center to promote interfaith dialogue worldwide began work in Vienna on Monday by bringing hundreds of religious activists together to discuss how to promote understanding among different beliefs.

Named after Saudi King Abdullah, the center is a welcome boost for bridge-building between faiths in an era of financial austerity but has drawn criticism because Saudi Arabia enforces a strict Islam and bans non-Muslim religious practice.

The Centre, launched by Saudi Arabia as an international organization with multifaith oversight, aims to help religions contribute to solving problems such as conflicts, prejudice and health crises rather than be misused to worsen them.

“The prime purpose is to empower the active work of those in the field, whether in the field of dialogue, of social activism or of conflict resolution,” said Jerusalem-based Rabbi David Rosen, representing Judaism on the nine-seat board of directors.

“We want to empower you,” he told an opening session where dialogue projects from Europe, the Middle East and Africa reported on how they worked to foster inter-faith understanding.

The center plans to work first on improving how religions are presented in media and schoolbooks, involving faith leaders in children’s health campaigns in poor countries and hosting religious leaders for fellowships at its Vienna headquarters.

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