Speech of Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger in the King Abdullah Center
Your Royal Highness,
Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure and honour for me to speak to you on the occasion of the signing of the Agreement for the Establishment of the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue. I thank His Royal Highness Prince Saud Al Faisaland Her Excellency, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Spain, Ms Trinidad Jiménez García-Herrera for participating in this eminent signing ceremony here in Vienna.
I am also grateful for the presence of His Eminence, the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran and His Excellency, Archbishop Celata.
At the outset, let me quote former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan who said on the occasion of the proclamation of the Year of Dialogue among Civilisations in 2001 the following. He said: "In our globalised world the peoples of the world are more united by common fate than they are divided by their separate identities." This phrase still rings true, especially on this important day.
We are very thankful for the initiative of His Majesty King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz to establish an International Centre dedicated to the dialogue between religions. Austria as one of the three founding states is particularly pleased that this important permanent platform for international dialogue will be based in Vienna.
The Centre’s main objective is to foster dialogue between religions and cultures on all levels. Thus, it complements and reinforces Austria’s long standing tradition in interreligious and intercultural dialogue. For many years, Austria has continuously worked to become a hub for international dialogue thereby contributing to stability and peace worldwide.
Today, I would like to share with you my thoughts on two topics – firstly, the growing need for interreligious and intercultural dialogue in our modern pluralistic societies and secondly, the important role the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue can play in this context.
Let me start by underlining our firm commitment to dialogue on all levels. New realities come upon us with breath-taking speed. Dialogue is the indispensable fabric which holds each society together. We consider it the prerequisite for the peaceful co-existence of different cultures and religions.
We share the responsibility of creating the everyday life of cultural diversity in a realistic way: at school, in housing, in exercising religious beliefs, but also in acquiring a sense of community and responsibility. Lack of mutual understanding must be overcome by dialogue. And there is no alternative to dialogue! From an Austrian point of view, an honest and open dialogue is based upon the respect for diversity and on human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of religion and conscience.
Dialogue also needs structures and continuity. This brings me to my second point – the future role of the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue. It is our ambition that it will provide a continuous platform to openly discuss the potential of religious communities to foster conflict resolution, peace and reconciliation as well as social cohesion and development. The personalities of different religious communities, civil society and the scientific community will enable the Centre to work in a truly interreligious and interdisciplinary way.
At the same time, all efforts to promote the dialogue between cultures and civilizations must reach out to a wider public. The task we as governments, religious leaders, writers and journalists share is to give people a fair chance to understand and appreciate different cultures and civilizations. Therefore, I am positive that the Centre will also serve as an important meeting place for people of different backgrounds.
In conclusion, let me state once again that I am firmly convinced that there is no alternative to an open and sincere dialogue between cultures and civilizations. Therefore, I wish the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue all the best for the challenges ahead. Let me assure you that we will do our utmost in supporting the Centre in its endeavours.