2012-11-26 Vatican Radio(Vatican Radio) The King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz International Centre for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue opens in Vienna today. Known as KAICIID for short, the initiative is a joint one of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Kingdom of Spain, and the Republic of Austria. The Holy See is also participating as a Founding Observer and is to be represented at the formal inauguration ceremony this evening by the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran.
In the morning and all through the day, the more than 600 people on hand for the launch will participate in a Symposium exploring “best practices” in a broad array of areas relating to interfaith dialogue: from conflict management, to cultural initiatives, to the hopes and challenges of young people, to religious education as enabler of dialogue. The themes and the small-group, moderated, roundtable format of most of the individual meetings scheduled for the day are organized in order genuinely and effectively to further the mission of the KAICIID Centre, which is, in the words of KAICIID Secretary-General, Faisal Bin Abdulrahman Bin Muaammar, “[A] place of leadership and applied learning; a place where candid dialogue among followers of different religions and cultures can flourish so that we can value and cherish the richness of our diversity and live together as good neighbours.”
Walking through the lobby of the hotel here in Vienna, where the Symposium is taking place and where most of the participants and journalists covering the events are staying, one is struck by the richness of the diversity – religious, cultural and national – that is visibly, palpably present in the great numbers of people milling about, meeting and greeting: some old friends and others new acquaintances. Although – or perhaps precisely because – the city of Vienna is so filled with its specific and peculiar historical memory (it was here in September of 1683 that Polish forces under King Jan III Sobieski broke through and lifted the two-month siege of the city by a great Ottoman army – the last Ottoman army to threaten the West), the breadth of the spectrum of participants is genuinely breathtaking: there are not just representatives of all the great religious traditions, but of the richly diverse tapestry of spirituality and discipline from within each major tradition, and many – numerically – minor traditions as well. To judge by the myriad groups of two, three and four, gathered around tables, tucked into corners, or formed spontaneously in the middle of the open space, and by the earnest, cheerful manner of their exchanges, the conversation has already started.
Listen to the report from Chris Altieri, in Vienna: