Wien, 26. November 2012 Press release

Spindelegger: "There is no alternative to intercultural and interreligious dialogue"

UN Secretary General and high-ranking political representatives and religious leaders attend the opening of the new Dialogue Centre in Vienna

Vienna, 26 November 2012 – Representing one of the three founding states of the International King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue, Austrian Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger together with the Ministers of International Affairs from Spain, José Manuel García-Margallo, and Saudi-Arabia, Prince Saud Al Faisal symbolically opened the Centre at its headquarters, the Sturany House in Vienna. 

The opening ceremony was also attended by the Secretary General of the Centre, Faisal Abdulrahman Bin Muaammar, and by the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran. The event saw the first meeting of nine members of the Directorate with the representatives of the Conference of the Parties at ministerial level. 

"Clashes and outbreaks of violence in Syria, Nigeria, Egypt, Iraq and in other countries illustrate that the need for systematic interreligious and intercultural dialogue is more urgent than ever in today’s world. I am deeply convinced that there is no alternative to this dialogue. It is therefore with good cause that we are breaking new ground with this Centre that represents the first international organisation to serve as a stable and permanent international platform for dialogue between the world's religions", Spindelegger said before the opening. 

The celebration following the opening took place in the Hofburg Palace and was attended by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, religious leaders, such as the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, the Archbishop of Madrid, Cardinal Antonio Maria Rouco Varela, the Archbishop of Vienna, Cardinal Christoph Schönborn, Chief Rabbi Mark Goldsmith and Rabbi David Rosen; and by representatives from science, the media and the civil society. 

"Dialogue based on respect, mutual understanding and cooperation is of decisive importance for us, today and in future. We have to fight the abuse of religion whenever religion is exploited as a justification for suppression, violence and conflicts", Vice-Chancellor Spindelegger said and continued: "The Centre is a valuable additional asset for Vienna, a city where numerous international organisations are located, and it continues Austria's tradition as a hub of international dialogue and peace. The Centre reinforces the efforts made by various players to enter into a dialogue and makes this dialogue palpable and sustainable." 

The founding treaty of the Centre was signed by the Foreign Ministers of Austria, Saudi-Arabia and Spain on 13 October 2011 and came into force on 21 October 2012. The Holy See has been a permanent observer of the Centre since its foundation. The Centre is managed by a Directorate body consisting of representatives of the five major religions – Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism. The members of the Directorate are appointed by unanimous vote by the Council of the Signatory Parties. Other religious groups are invited to cooperate in a constructive manner. Close cooperation with non-governmental organisations and national and international experts are also planned. The structures of the Centre have been chosen in such a way that no single religion can dominate it or impose its point of view. 

Adhering to the objectives and principles enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in particular the right of freedom of opinion, conscience and religion, the Centre will serve as a platform for regular exchange and networking of representatives of the religions, the civil society, universities, state and non-governmental institutions and experts. 

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