The workshop on “Common Values in Facing Extremist Thought” was launched in Amman this morning, Friday 16 December 2016. It is organized by the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, with the participation of a number of youths from various governorates, representing a number of organizations.
Dr. Majeda Omar, Director of the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies, said in the opening session that “the environment which sponsors extremism of diverse forms is in reality an environment that is opposed to human values and dialogue between cultures which focuses on shared values and dialogue between the adherents of religions that is based upon mutual respect and recognition of the other.”
Dr. Omar added that extremist thought which is based on excluding the other “who is intellectually or ethnically different conflicts with the concepts and values which constitute the linchpin of any society and modern state that is viable and sustainable, namely: citizenship; democratic empowerment; common living; diversity and pluralism; and shared values.”
Dr. Omar emphasized that “it would be possible to confront extremist thought through underscoring the respect for religions and religious freedom whilst deploring the discourse of hatred and accusations of apostasy, and also underlining the importance of promoting dialogue and communication between adherents of religions as relates to issues of a social dimension, while also encouraging effective participation in formulating initiatives and implementing joint practical projects that lead to a perpetuation of the fruits of dialogue and achieving sustained communication between the representatives of religions.”
Dr. Omar stated that we are “in need of striving to entrench shared values to confront extremist thought, based on dialogue which derives from recognizing the other at the existential and epistemological level and which is based on shared human values, leading to accepting the other who is culturally and religiously different.”
Dr. Omar said that “holding deep dialogue and producing spaces for constructive criticism and independent thought lead to the achievement of stability, peace and co-existence living in society regardless of the diversity of religious or ethnic or cultural components; for irrespective of the diversity of cultures and beliefs in some aspects, respect for pluralism and diversity is imperative. In effect diversity is the solid and entrenched foundation of shared values.”
Dr. Omar indicated that the mission of the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies aims to “promote a culture of mutual respect, understanding, coexistence, peace and mutual acceptance by the components of the single society, and to bolster dialogue between the adherents of religions and cultures given that it is an effective tool for confronting the manifestations of extremism, fanaticism and exclusivist thought.”
Mr. Hussam Irhayel, the coordinator of the Jordan Project at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, said that “dialogue, which is what we are today engaged in, is an effective tool for societal conciliation because when the representatives of religious groups are convinced of the significance of this dialogue, will lead their coreligionists to love, tolerance and discovery of the other.”
He added that we in Jordan live a beautiful state of religious coexistence, tolerance and integration, which is sometimes marred by some practices which do not represent the general state of things. Thus we in Jordan are a model for mustering shared values to confront extremism, and we as youth must build on the efforts exerted here in Jordan, such as the Amman Message, and this is the reason for being here today in this training workshop, namely to avail of our mission as youth to confront extremist thought.
The first discussion panel of the workshop pivoted around “Religious Pluralism and Acceptance of the Other” with the participation of Dr. Amer Al-Hafi, the academic advisor at the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies, and Samer Azar, the Pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land.
Azar said that “disagreement is healthy. It fosters analytical thinking of the researching mind, of the mind seeking the attainment of truth or at least drawing near to it.. But the danger lies in a situation where difference becomes rancor, hatred, rejection of the other, and perhaps considering the other as an unbeliever.”
Azar added that the world “is in need of the critical and analytical mind which views matters with comprehensiveness rather than in a compartmentalized partial manner, with a broad view rather than a narrow view, with openness rather than fanaticism. God created the mind for this purpose, to investigate the universe with its secrets and greatness, and to also know Him through reason.”
Priest Azar said that “love, mercy, humanity, righteous deeds, the public interest, care for creation, and love of homeland are all firmly shared elements which urge loving, respecting and interacting with the other in order to attain the highest levels of spirituality and humanity which God enjoined.”
Dr. Amer Al-Hafi, the academic advisor at the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies, said that the failure of pluralism at the political, cultural and ethnic level in many Arab countries has considerably contributed to undermining the foundations of religious pluralism.
Dr. Al-Hafi added that giving primacy of exegesis over the original religious texts produced a very negative impact in terms of distorting the spirit of religion and its essential values; stating that extremism which is connected to religion in Muslim societies is a reflection of social, economic and political problems more than being merely a natural product of religion.
The second session, which is a training session, revolved around the art of expression of identity, the method of formulating the message of youth towards extremist thought led by the trainer Imad Abu Saleh. The sessions of the first day of the workshop were facilitated by Yazan Al-Azzam, from the Center for International Private Enterprise.