I was invited to participate as a delegate to Saudi King Abdullah’s Geneva Interfaith Dialogue last week. We noted that the conference is mainly being covered by media in the Middle East thanks to Nathan Cowan’s request on Facebook for Christian response as well. I am happy to offer my perspective on the event.
It is important to realize that King Abdullah holding an interfaith conference is a huge breakthrough for spiritual reconciliation. Saudi Arabia is the home of Wahhabism, which has created an insulated, isolated and non-communicative atmosphere for Saudi culture for years! Please remember that seventeen of the nineteen 9/11 terrorists were Saudis and Bin Laden himself is Saudi as well.
Considering that history and context, this repeated effort to arrange major interfaith conferences on the international level signifies a huge opening and shows they are engaging on a new level. The king is reaching out to the world to help counteract extremism in his own country.
The formal dialogue itself was not revolutionary, but it is a beginning and allows for new relationships to begin forming. We were asking for divine appointments while at the conference and definitely received them! We had remarkable meetings with leaders from Oxford in England, Spain, Lebanon, India, Pakistan, several other Middle East countries and with top Saudi officials as well. We were able to meet Dr. Al-Turki, of the Muslim World League, who expressed interest in Saudi scholars reviewing the ideas and approach shared in A Deadly Misunderstanding. Meetings that allow such organic connections to take place in a global intersection of faith must certainly continue, and not diminish.
For a few other reportings on the conference, please see these sources: