Every global challenge in the 21st century demands that countries and people resist hatred and exclusion, said Jordan's King Abdullah II, who yesterday made the call for a joint effort to tackle the world's "single most" important threat - the attack on interfaith harmony, mutual respect and trust.
"Economic growth, peacemaking, protecting the environment, global security, inclusive opportunity - all these critical goals require that we cooperate and combine our strengths to our common benefit," he said in a keynote speech at an international conference on deepening social cohesion.
The King, a global leader in promoting interfaith understanding and dialogue, spelt out three areas which warrant special attention: Gathering together those who seek peace and harmony, taking advantage of modern technology and connectivity, and making a commitment for the long term.
He was at the inaugural International Conference on Cohesive Societies at the Raffles City Convention Centre, organised by Nanyang Technological University's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies with the support of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.
Around 1,000 academics, officials and members of religious and civil society groups from close to 40 countries are attending the three-day event, which ends today.
King Abdullah noted that the recent "murderous attacks on houses of worship in Christchurch and Sri Lanka" and elsewhere showed the evil that extremists will do to drive people and societies apart.
NETIZENS HAVE A PART TO PLAY
Solutions are not exclusively the job of governments and big companies. In a very real way, the Internet belongs to its users. Moderate, positive voices need to reclaim this space and redirect the dialogue away from misinformation, insults and fear, and towards understanding and respect.
JORDAN'S KING ABDULLAH II, on dealing with hateful and extremist content posted online.
"But we must also see, clearly, the tremendous power we have, as a united world, to defeat these evils and secure the future our peoples deserve," he added before an audience that included President Halimah Yacob, who opened the event on Wednesday night.
The King noted that world religions command compassion and respect for others, and called on the billions of people who seek peace and harmony to rally together.
He cited two Jordanian initiatives, The Amman Message and A Common Word, that have inspired positive exchanges globally. The first underlines the key principles of tolerance, moderation and dialogue that Islam teaches, while the second promotes peace and cooperation between Muslims and Christians.
He also cited the Jordanian-sponsored United Nations initiative - the annual World Interfaith Harmony Week - which encourages dialogues of mutual respect - and congratulated Singaporeans on their participation over the years.
To defend cohesion globally, he said, people should take advantage of the tools of the modern world.
"Now, extremists have manipulated today's global connectivity to plot, recruit, arm and publicise their dark atrocities. We must do better," the King added, noting two recent measures on the issue.
The Aqaba Process is a multinational meeting Jordan mooted in 2015 to strengthen cooperation against terrorism and extremism, and the Christchurch Call to Action was mooted by New Zealand this year to rally governments and firms to deal with hateful and extremist content posted online.
"But solutions are not exclusively the job of governments and big companies. In a very real way, the Internet belongs to its users," said the King. "Moderate, positive voices need to reclaim this space and redirect the dialogue away from misinformation, insults and fear, and towards understanding and respect."
"Young men and women have a vital role in speaking up on social media and social networking sites, and using their talent for innovation to promote mutual understanding and hope," he added.
The world, the King said, faces a complex and evolving threat to cohesion, adding that tackling it requires a long-term commitment.
"Meeting it demands a holistic approach (in) addressing security and also the issues that extremists exploit," he said. "And that means investing in inclusive, sustainable development so that all people - especially the young people - can share in opportunity, fighting the war of ideas to combat divisive ideologies, and then responding to the world's unprecedented refugee crisis."
The King also called for the resolution of conflicts, including the Palestinian-Israeli conflict which has fuelled global discord and radicalism.
"We all need a lasting peace, meeting the need of both sides: A viable, independent, sovereign Palestinian state, on the 1967 lines, with East Jerusalem as its capital, but living side by side with Israel, in peace and security," he said. "And we must safeguard Jerusalem, a holy city to billions of people around the world... Jerusalem should be, and must be, a unifying city of peace."
Ending his speech, the King said: "People speak these days about the challenges facing multicultural societies. The truth is, we are all part of the one great multicultural society that is our world. So, your work here, together, can help all humanity thrive."