King Abdullah’s Vision of
World Peace and Stability
Dr. Mozammel Haque
World Peace and Stability
Dr. Mozammel Haque
Saudi Arabia marks its 79th National Day on Wednesday, 23 September 2009, not only to remember the country’s unification at the hands of King Abdul Aziz to bring peace to the region and to restore the true faith of Islam but also to celebrate the dramatic development in the educational, health and economic sectors. “The National Day of Saudi Arabia is different from other countries. It is not an occasion to remember liberation from colonialists but rather an occasion to celebrate the unity of our people,” said Prince Abdul Rahman, Deputy Minister of Defence and Aviation.
King Abdullah’s vision of world peace and stability was demonstrated in the fields of education, international politics and religion. His quest for world peace drives him to establish a university which will bring world scholars and scientists in a platform to bring world peace and solidarity. Similarly, in order to bring conflict-free world, King Abdullah gave an Arab Peace Initiative which can be a the basis to bring peace and permanent solution to the Middle East conflict. Thirdly, King Abdullah’s first historic initiative to bring world peace through interfaith dialogue and understanding makes the Saudi National Day something which the country can feel proud of.
King Abdullah’s gift to the nation: KAUST
On Wednesday, Saudis are celebrating the double booms: because of National day, a day to commemorate the unification and establishment of Saudi Arabia and the second is the inauguration of a high tech multi-billion King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) outside of Jeddah in September 2009. A dream came true when the Custodian of the Two Holy mosques inaugurated the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). “I have been thinking and dreaming about it for the last 25 years,” the king has said many times. The new university is King Abdullah’s dream project.
King Abdullah said, “Undoubtedly, scientific centres that embrace all peoples are the first line of defence against extremism. And today this university will become a House of Wisdom.”
Speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony for the establishment of the SR10 billion university in Thuwal on Oct. 21, 2007, King Abdullah said, “As a new Bait Al-Hikma, KAUST will be a beacon for peace, hope and reconciliation, and shall serve the people of the Kingdom and benefit all the peoples of the world in keeping with the teachings of the Holy Qur'an, which explains that God created mankind in order for us to come to know each other.”
He added, “Throughout history power has attached itself after God to science. And the Islamic nation knows too well that it will not be powerful unless it depends on after God, science. For science and faith cannot compete except in unhealthy souls and God has graced us with our minds, which we use to understand and recognise God’s laws of nature.”
“We hope that the university carries out its noble humanitarian message in a pure and clean atmosphere, taking the help of God and then that of enlightened intellectuals all over the world, without any bias or discrimination,” he added, desiring that the new university serves as a bridge between cultures and nations.
The launching of KAUST was nothing short of historic. It will serve as a lighthouse of knowledge for all mankind. The new university has been described as the King’s gift to the nation, but it develops and sets out as an international centre of research excellence where students and their professors have been selected purely for academic qualities and potential. Thus it will also be the King’s gift to the world. Already KAUST is working on joint research projects with other academic powerhouses such the National University of Singapore, the Institut Francais du Petrole, Cambridge University in the UK and Stanford in the United States.
The establishment of the new university with a $10 billion endowment has created huge excitement in the world academic community. The university received more than 7,400 applications from potential students. To date, KAUST has registered 817 students representing 61 countries; of this group, 374 postgraduate students began classes this month (September), while the rest will enrol at the beginning of 2010. Incoming students in the inaugural class represent 116 undergraduate institutions from many regions of the world including China (14 percent), Mexico (12 percent), Saudi Arabia (11 percent) and the US (8 percent). The university’s aim is to expand to 2,000 students within eight to 10 years.
Consider another fact: KAUST personnel represent 45 countries. These accomplished research scientists and educators hail from around the world. The top countries of origin are the US (14), Germany (7), Canada (6) and China (6). By all accounts, KAUST is a unique graduate research university that has brought the world to Saudi Arabia — and Saudi Arabia to the world.
King Abdullah’s Arab Peace Initiative
The other source of pride for the Saudi nation is King Abdullah’s contribution in the field of international politics to bring fair, comprehensive and permanent solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His Peace Initiative for the Middle East conflict is worth-mentioning. King Abdullah’s Arab Peace Initiative remains the foundation of all efforts to bring justice to the Palestinian people.
In 2002, King Abdullah proposed Arab Peace Initiative, considered by many as a promising Saudi attempt to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This Arab Peace Initiative, proposed by the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah during a 2002 Summit in Beirut, was adopted in Beirut in 2002 and reconfirmed by other Arab Summits, including the 2006 and 2007 Arab Summits in Riyadh. The plan offers full normalization of relations in exchange for an Israeli withdrawal from all Arab Territories occupied during the 1967 War, including Jerusalem.
Recently, Abdullah has visited Egypt, Syria, and Jordan in what the Saudi Arabian government calls “an attempt to restart the stalled Middle East peace process and promote Arab unity and cooperation.” Saudi Arabian efforts, including the hosting of Palestinians factions at a meeting in Makkah in February 2007 played a pivotal role in the stabilization of internal politics in the country and the commitment to form a national unity government.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal held bilateral talks with US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton in Washington to emphasize the Kingdom’s determination to move forward with the Middle East peace process. “A bold and historic step is required to end this conflict and divert the resources of the region from war and destruction to peace and development,” Prince Saud said.
Prince Saud called for a “comprehensive approach” addressing final status issues during the negotiating phase. “The whole world knows what a settlement should look like – withdrawal from all the occupied territories, including Jerusalem, a just settlement for the refugees, and an equitable settlement of issues such as water and security.” Prince Saud stressed the necessity of Israel doing its fair share by agreeing to a complete settlement freeze and providing necessities for Palestinians.
US Secretary of State Clinton reiterated the need for the Kingdom to take a leadership role facilitating peace negotiations between the Palestinians and Israelis. Saudi leadership is “absolutely vital to achieving ....lasting peace,” she said.
King Abdullah’s Interfaith Dialogue
In the field of religion, The Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah also initiated an interfaith dialogue as a way to boost tolerance and understanding, in particular between the Muslim, Christian and Hindu cultures to strengthening world peace and stability.
On the occasion of the fourth interfaith conference, which opens in Geneva, Switzerland on 30 September 2009 with the participation of as many as 166 religious leaders, academics and other prominent personalities from several countries, the Secretary General of the Makkah-based Muslim World League, Dr. Abdullah Mohsin Al-Turki, said the Geneva conference is a continuation of efforts that began in Makkah to promote interfaith dialogue. “King Abdullah’s interfaith dialogue initiative aims at disseminating human values, promoting coexistence of the people of different faiths, spreading the values of peace and security, fighting evil in the world and promoting cooperation between communities,” Al-Turki said.
The two-day conference at Geneva InterContinental would discuss a number of papers under the banner “The Impact of King Abdullah’s Initiative in Disseminating Human Values.” Religious leaders, academics and other prominent personalities from around the world, including the US, the UK, China, Italy, India, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Japan and the Philippines, take part in the event, which is scheduled to be opened by the President of Switzerland on Wednesday, 30 September, 2009.
King Abdullah began this journey of his interfaith dialogue three years ago in the Holy City of Makkah, when he called on all 57 Muslim heads of state to meet in Islam’s holiest city to ponder the issues of extremism and call for a Muslim renaissance. The King traveled to Vatican and met Pope Benedict offering him peace and friendship on behalf of the Muslim world. The visit heralded a new era in the relations between two Abrahamic faiths that have so much in common yet have seldom been at peace with each other. Abdullah’s mission to Vatican was perhaps the strongest message of peace and good will to emanate from Arabia since the dawn of Islam in Makkah.
King Abdullah hosted the first historic interfaith dialogue conference in Makkah in 4 June 2008. The Makkah conference brought together about 500 Muslim leaders from around the world in order to set an agenda for the building of better relations between Muslims and followers of other faiths. King Abdullah called on Muslims to counter challenges of rigidity, ignorance, narrow-mindedness so as to make the world accommodate the concepts and prospects of the message of Islam. “We are the voice of justice and moral values, we are the voice of rational and just co-existence and dialogue, the voice of wisdom and admonition, and dialogue with the best way possible as Allah says in the Holy Qur’an, ‘Invite all to the way of thy Lord with wisdom and beautiful preaching and discuss with them in ways that are best’,” the King said.
Kind Abdullah also said, “It is therefore incumbent upon us to declare to the world that difference must not lead to conflict and confrontation, and to state that the tragedies that have occurred in human history were not attributable to religion, but were the result of extremism with which some adherents of every divinely revealed religion, and of every political ideology, have been afflicted.”
The second conference on Dialogue was held in Madrid on 16 July, 2008, which was attended by around 300 eminent personalities and representatives from among the followers of the three revealed religions, Islam, Christianity and Judaism, as well as by representatives of Oriental philosophies, cultures and civilizations. Among the attendees were the Secretary General of the World Jewish Congress Michael Schneider and Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, in charge of dialogue between the Vatican and Muslims and the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair. “If we want this historic encounter to succeed, we must look to the things that unite us: Our profound faith in God, the noble principles and elevated ethics that represent the foundation of religions,” the king told the Madrid conference.
Then King Abdullah took his battle of hearts and minds to the global centre-stage at the UN. A Two-day interfaith conference titled “High-Level Meeting on Culture of Peace” was held at the UN headquarters from 12-13 November 2008 to promote the culture of peace and dialogue among the followers of various faiths. UN General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann invited leaders of 192 member countries and observers, including the Vatican, to attend the conference. Many world leaders including US President George W. Bush, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Lebanese President Michel Suleiman, Israeli President Shimon Peres, King Abdallah of Jordan, Philippine President Gloria Arroyo, UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al-Nahyan and Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference attended at the conference.
In the field of economy, Saudi Arabia is playing an important role. Being the world’s largest oil exporter, it has become a member of G20 and is the largest economy in the Middle East. “Saudi Arabia is a major player on the world economic map, in terms of its contributions to the capital of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and (other) development banks and in terms of providing financial assistance to the less-developed countries,” said Finance Minister of Saudi Arabia, Ibrahim Al-Assaf.
I would like to conclude with a quote from King Abdullah who points out the core values established by his father three-quarters of a century ago:
“The late King Abdul Aziz founded and united this state on the basis of Islamic Shari’ah. Consequently, unity replaced division; love replaced enmity and cooperation replaced antagonism. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a peace-loving country that respects human rights and works to utilise its wealth to achieve the aspirations of its own people as well as those of Arab and Islamic countries within a joint humanitarian concept, just as all the world’s peace-loving countries do. In conclusion, let me appeal to Allah Almighty to preserve our country and let it continue to enjoy security and stability.”