“The organization hopes to prevent conflict through interfaith dialogue,”
writes Spencer Kimball for the German news site Deutsche Welle.
<http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,15459243,00.html> “The foreign
ministers of Austria, Saudi Arabia and Spain signed the founding treaty of a
new international organization designed to foster dialogue between the
world’s major religions on Thursday.”
“The thesis is valid that world peace cannot exist without peace between the
world’s major religions,” Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Saud
al-Faisal said during the signing ceremony in Vienna, according to Deutsche
The King Abdullah Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue,
initiated and financed largely by Saudi money, is set to have its seat in
Vienna. Plans envision an organization with a governing body composed of 12
representatives from the world’s five largest religions.
The governing body is set to be staffed by two Muslims (Sunni and Shiite),
three Christians (Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox), a Buddhist, a Hindu and
a Jew. The organization will also have a consulting body with 100
representatives from the five world religions plus other faiths as well as
academics and members of civil society.
Austria’s Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said that the organization’s
structures are designed to ensure that none of the represented religions
dominates the organization. The three founding states are also open to the
membership of other countries, according to Spanish Foreign Minister
Trinidad Jimenez Garcia-Herrera.
Saudi King Abdullah initiated the idea for the center after visiting Pope
Benedict XVI at the Vatican in 2007, the first Saudi monarch to do so.
Shortly thereafter, King Abdullah stated that Christians and Muslims should
offer a common message of peace to humanity.
Abdullah then initiated an interfaith dialogue in Mecca in 2008 followed by
a second meeting in Madrid with Jewish representation. A third meeting took
place in Vienna’s Hofburg in 2009, where the concept of the organization was
The Initiative of Liberal Muslims protested Thursday’s signing ceremony in
Vienna, saying that the center was an attempt by Saudi Arabia to spread a
conservative form of Islam.
The idea is not new. In 2003, the Christian Broadcasting Network reported on
a UN-sponsored summit of the world’s religions.
“A one world government and a one world religion – it may just sound like
fiction from the popular Left Behind novel series,” reported Wendy Griffith
for CBN News. “But some Christians say this scenario may be closer than most
people think. Earlier this fall in Geneva, hundreds of spiritual and
religious leaders met for a peace summit. And although all the major faiths
were there, including some who claim to represent Christianity, it was clear
that Jesus was not invited.”
To say that many Christians do not welcome the notion of a one-world
religion would be an incredible understatement. Just in recent weeks,
longtime TV prophecy preacher Jack Van Impe ended decades of broadcasting on
the Trinity Broadcasting Network – charging that popular author and pastor
Rick Warren has been too cozy with Muslims. Van Impe charged that the intent
is a merger of Islam and Christianity – Chrislam. Warren scoffs at the
notion, saying that he supports a Christian-Muslim dialogue – and that
Christians are required to love all Muslims and win them to Jesus.
In 1997 another conference raised alarms.
“Nearly 200 delegates wrapped up a week-long interfaith meeting at Stanford
on Friday, predicting they had given birth to a movement as well as a
spiritual institution: the United Religions,” reported the California
newspaper San Jose Mercury’s religion and ethics writer Richard Scheinin.
“The ‘spiritual United Nations,’ as some have referred to it, would be a
world assembly for humanity’s myriad spiritual traditions. The international
‘summit conference’ brought together delegates from every continent to
inaugurate formal efforts to figure out the organization’s structure and
mission and launch a charter-writing process. After several years of
talking, the initiative’s planners had finally gotten down to business.
“‘You are deputized!’ the Rev. William E. Swing, bishop of the Episcopal
Diocese of California, told delegates as they prepared to go home. ‘Tell the
people that there is a United Religions, and that somewhere in the world, it
is beginning to happen: that the religions are going to have an oasis where
they can talk about peace.'”
So, will it happen this time?