ABU DHABI, A group of 50 religious leaders and policy makers from 11 different countries will gather in the UAE capital, Abu Dhabi, on Monday, 12 November, to discuss how to promote ''inclusive citizenship'' in the region and develop a new universal framework for members of different religious groups to live together as equal citizens, respecting each other's rights and existence, as a priority for peace in the Middle East.

The Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies will bring together prominent Muslim, Christian and other religious scholars from the Middle East, along with a number of policy makers, with the aim of developing a common interfaith understanding and definition of inclusive citizenship in the Middle East as well as exploring how this might be implemented in order to help tackle exclusion and discrimination and address the root causes of violent extremism. Two further Dialogues on this theme will be held next year to enable the delivery of legislative and practical change to promote inclusive citizenship across the region.

The Dialogues are hosted by Wilton Park, an Executive Agency of the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office and by the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, based in Abu Dhabi, and in partnership with the Rashad Center for Cultural Governance of Adyan Foundation, based in Lebanon.

Opening speakers include Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon, the UK Prime Minister's Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Shaykh Dr Mohammed bin Abdul Karim al-Issa, Secretary General of the Muslim World League and Souraya Bechealany, Secretary General of the Middle East Council of Churches.

The President of the Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies and Chairman of the Fatwa Council of the United Arab Emirates, Shaykh Abdullah bin Bayyah will open the meeting.

He said:"Peace is the primary goal of our actions, as without peace no other virtue can be secured. The crises facing the Middle East have fallen heavily on religious minorities, but harm to minorities harms the majority also. Addressing this challenge is a duty of our time. The Marrakesh Declaration, acclaimed by 250 Islamic scholars in 2016, laid the spiritual and intellectual ground for this endeavour. These dialogues will build on that effort and seek the establishment of its principles in law. We don't want a world in which only Muslims feel safe. We want a world in which everyone feels safe."

Rev Dr Fadi Daou, President of Adyan Foundation, said:"To overcome the destructive impact of Daesh on the region and its diverse population, we need a new framework for living-together in Arab societies. We believe that the future of these societies depends on their capacity to implement Inclusive Citizenship that helps in rebuilding trust and social cohesion, while ensuring the equal participation of all Citizens. Religions are also needed to contribute to this reform process."

Lord Tariq Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State, UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, said:"As Minister for Human Rights in the UK government and Prime Minister's Special Envoy on Freedom of Religion or Belief, I'm deeply committed to defending the freedom of religion or belief for everyone, everywhere. Standing up for religious freedom is not only the right thing to do, it also creates safer, more prosperous and peaceful societies. I am looking forward to participating in this dialogue to identify practical changes to promote integration of all citizens."

The Forum for Promoting Peace in Muslim Societies, based in Abu Dhabi, aims to serve as a platform for dialogue and tolerance, encouraging Islamic scholars to disseminate an understanding of Islam that is rooted in peace.

Source: Emirates News Agency