This past week saw a two day meeting at the United Nations promoting dialogue on religion and culture. This interfaith event was attended by seventeen heads of state and government, including Israel, the US, Britain, and several Arab countries. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia organized the conference. The big news was that Israeli President Peres Shimon and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia managed to eat dinner together in the same room.
Not the same table mind you, the same room. And hey, that IS big news. If you want the in depth reasons as to why, I happily direct you to “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Middle East Conflict” by Mitchell Bard, Ph.D.. Hopefully you’ll have better luck wrapping your brain around it than I did. However, to sum up, in case you didn’t know, traditionally Arabs and Jews don’t get along.
There was criticism as to how legitimate this conference could be when it was put together by Abdullah, Saudi Arabia not being known for its tolerance of other faiths. Many organizations who I deeply respect spoke out about this, such as Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director for Human Rights Watch. That’s why it pains me to say this….shut up. I’ve spoken out against Saudi Arabia for its lack of what we here in America call First Amendment rights, but you know what? Israeli President Shimon and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia ate in the same room. Anyone who really thinks that human rights will be protected by these guys NOT interacting raise your hand. If you’re hand is up, than to you I also say, shut up. If not for this event, I never would have had the joyful opportunity to read this:
When Mr. Peres took to the floor, he broke off from his prepared speech to address King Abdullah directly.
“Your Majesty, the king of Saudi Arabia,” he said. “I was listening to your message. I wish that your voice will become the prevailing voice of the whole region, of all people. It’s right. It’s needed. It’s promising.
“The initiative’s portrayal of our region’s future provides hope to the people and inspires confidence in the nations.”
Did you see that? They listened to each other. No, there won’t suddenly be peace and all the religious freedom a gal could want in the middle east, but moments like this remind us all, that all governments, religious movements, and organizations are at their heart comprised of individuals. And that lurking inside every individual is the capacity for love, forgiveness, and respect. Except for me, I’m a bitch.
But to prove that even I am capable of forgiveness and respect, I present to you our President.
“Today, the United States is carrying on that noble tradition by making religious liberty a central element of our foreign policy. We’ve established a Commission on the International Religious Freedom to monitor the state of religious liberty worldwide. We strongly encourage nations to understand that religious freedom is the foundation of a healthy and hopeful society. We’re not afraid to stand with religious dissidents and believers who practice their faith, even where it is unwelcome.”
Amen George, Amen.