AMMAN — His Majesty King Abdullah called on Christian leaders on Tuesday to help bring an end to sectarian strife in the Middle East threatening both Arab Muslims and Christians alike.
In an address to a gathering of Western and Arab church leaders in Amman, King Abdullah urged clergymen to play a greater role in curbing extremism and sectarian tensions that have emerged across the region.
The meeting came as Christian and Muslim religious leaders on Tuesday started a conference on challenges facing Arab Christians, which was opened by HRH Prince Ghazi, King’s chief adviser for religious and cultural affairs and personal envoy, deputising for the King.
“Our region is undergoing a state of violence and intra-religious, sectarian, as well as ideological conflicts,” the King said in his remarks at the meeting with participants in the event.
“These common challenges and difficulties that we face as Muslims and Christians necessitate concerted efforts and full cooperation among us all to overcome,” he added (see full text of speech).
King Abdullah urged Arab Christians to play a role in combating extremism in the name of Islam and help promote the true image of the faith because they are “the closest to understanding Islam and its true values”.
“We call upon them at this stage to defend Islam, which is subject to a lot of injustice because some are ignorant of the essence of this faith… which rejects extremism and isolation.”
The Monarch called on Christian leaders to promote interfaith dialogue and understanding through joint initiatives similar to those spearheaded by the Hashemite leadership, such as the Amman Message, A Common Word and the UN-recognised World Interfaith Harmony Week.
His Majesty also raised concerns over the fate of Jerusalem, long a symbol of interfaith coexistence and harmony between Christians and Muslims, lamenting its current situation where it is “subject to the worst forms of Judaisation today”.
“Jerusalem… stands witness to fourteen centuries of deep, solid and fraternal relations between Muslims and Christians, enhanced by the Pact of Omar [Ibn Al Khattab], and promoted by my grandfather, Sharif Hussein Bin Ali,” the King said.
“We all have the duty to defend the Arab identity of Jerusalem and protect its Islamic and Christian holy sites… Arab Christians should cling to their identity.”
The remarks came two weeks after the King launched a similar appeal to Muslim leaders to curb sectarian tensions and violence, particularly in Syria, which he warned threaten to “destroy” the Arab and Muslim world.
During the meeting, which was attended by Prince Ghazi, Royal Court Chief Fayez Tarawneh, King’s Office Director Imad Fakhoury and King’s Adviser Ali Fazzaa, Egypt’s former mufti Ali Gomaa underlined the importance of the initiatives launched by Jordan to promote religious moderation, tolerance and good “to confront calls for evil” by certain groups.
Also during the meeting, His Majesty bestowed medals on a group of Christian and Muslim leaders for their role in “spreading a culture of tolerance and contributions to interfaith dialogue”.