Tags: vatican | saudi | faith | center

Vatican Backs Controversial Interfaith Center

Tuesday, 27 Nov 2012 02:44 PM

By Bill Hoffmann

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The Vatican is helping promote a new Saudi-backed interfaith center in a bid to advance religious freedom around the world.

The King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Center opened Monday in Vienna with the foreign ministers from the facility’s founding nations — Saudi Arabia, Spain, and Austria — in attendance, along with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

"[This is] another opportunity for open dialogue on many issues, including those related to fundamental human rights, in particular religious freedom in all its aspects, for everybody, for every community, everywhere," said Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

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“The Holy See is particularly attentive to the fate of Christian communities in countries where such a freedom is not adequately guaranteed."

The Vatican is assisting the project as a "founding observer,’’ according to the Catholic News Service, which reported the story Tuesday.

The center is highly controversial because Saudi Arabia forbids the practice of any religion except Islam.

"We are facing some criticism here, we are facing some criticism in Saudi Arabia,’’ said Faisal bin Abdulrahman bin Muaammar, a former Saudi education minister who is the center’s secretary general. “But dialogue is the answer for this.’’

According to the New York-based Gatestone Institute, a non-profit international policy council, the center’s primary focus enter will be “to promote a work program called "The Image of the Other," which will examine stereotypes and misconceptions about Islam in education, the media and the Internet.’’

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