Jordan Times Newspaper News 12/4/97

Dignity fundamental to Islam, Christianity - Crown Prince

AMMAN (J.T.) - His Royal Highness Crown Prince Hassan Wednesday opened a three-day conference in inter-faith dialogue stressing that "the right of human beings to dignity - to full and equal dignity, regardless of difference in social, economic or political standing - is one question on which Islam and Christianity are in total agreement."

"The basis for the concept of human dignity is the same in both religions: the concern of God for mankind which, in corollary, enjoins the loving concern of people for the full good of one another, and of humanity at large," said the Crown Prince in his address to the meeting organized by the Royal Academy for Islamic Civilization Research (Al al Bait Foundation) in conjunction with the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue (the Vatican).

"We do not assemble to speak at each other, we assemble in the spirit of conscience to speak to each other to identify what aspects of tradition are relevant to each other while retaining our particular identity," the Prince said.

Prince Hassan called on the delegates to the meeting "to be courageous in looking afresh at each other's text, heritage and history to develop a framework for disagreement. If we claim to be living at the end of this millennium and the beginning of the new century, let us develop a respectful framework for disagreement to accept responsibility for words and for actions at all levels and to recognize the political and economic dimensions of inter-faith dialogue.

With reference to Islamic alms and the need for Islamic countries' cooperation in providing aid to the poor, the Prince said: "I would like to emphasize the importance of alms. I depart shortly for Tehran for the Islamic summit and it is there that I hope that we can emphasize once again the importance of an international Islamic alms-Zakat Foundation."

"It is crucially important that Muslims as with Christians, are seen to be offering charity and to be doing good work in difficult times."

May I just point out that in view of the fact that the coming year, l998, will mark the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, it seems fitting that the international community should devote part of its work to promoting a wider and a more specific humanitarian ethic.

"The re-introduction of the New International Humanitarian Order may also give a boost to southern contributions to a reformulated humanitarian law. Over the years I have been led to the realization that all laws that govern refugees and situations of human displacement are generally concessions of the law of war. There is no law of peace. It is indeed ironic that in comparison to the four carefully prepared Geneva Conventions, very little international legislation exists to contextualise peace making or peace building processes."

Referring to an International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) meeting in Jordan in l98l the Prince said that he had the opportunity of addressing the delegates on the fact that "everything to do with refugees and situations of human suffering in law is generally a concession from the laws of war. But, there is no law of peace."

"As many of you are undoubtedly aware, in l98l, at the initiative of this small country the U.N. General Assembly Resolution 36136 called for the promotion of a New Humanitarian Order. I would like to say that the work of this commission of 20 nationalities working as a lobby for the powerless, the NGOs should not become the powerless lobby for the powerless and I would like to entreat you once again to bear in mind how much alike are the Muslim and Christian equations between the cause of the feeble and oppressed among people and the cause of God."

"We have come to know each other. Please feel free to continue to build on this common achievement in these very difficult days in which we live together in the Middle East."

Referring to prospects of a visit to the region by His Holiness the Pope, Crown Prince Hassan said: "Many of us enthuse at the suggestion that the Holy Father may consider a visit before the end of the millennium. If that materialises or even if it does not, I do hope that we can emphasize the links and ties, the like mindedness that we have developed at least in the service of common good and of human dignity."

The head of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue Msgr. Francis Arenzi delivered an address in which he stressed that the shared and similar ideas between the two faiths with regards to human dignity, rights, and duties can pave the way for a better understanding and closer cooperation between Muslims and Christians.

He said that the importance of this dialogue lies in the fact that it offers representatives of the two sides an opportunity to share and experience principles and stands that join the two faiths in the question of human dignity.