Jordan's King Abdullah II to address key forum on state visit

Inter-Religious Organisation youth leader Mohamad Saiful Md Anuar taking a wefie with President Halimah Yacob, who was flanked by IRO president Ben J. Benjamin and Venerable Kwang Phing, the IRO's vice-president, as well as other participants yesterd
Inter-Religious Organisation youth leader Mohamad Saiful Md Anuar taking a wefie with President Halimah Yacob, who was flanked by IRO president Ben J. Benjamin and Venerable Kwang Phing, the IRO's vice-president, as well as other participants yesterday. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF COMMUNICATIONS AND INFORMATION

King a global leader in promoting interfaith understanding, dialogue: President Halimah

King Abdullah II of Jordan will make a state visit to Singapore in June, and deliver the keynote address at the inaugural International Conference on Cohesive Societies, President Halimah Yacob announced yesterday.

She noted that the King is a global leader in promoting interfaith understanding and dialogue, and said she was confident that participants will benefit tremendously from his sharing.

The conference, which the President had mooted as a high-level forum involving religious leaders akin to the annual Shangri-La Dialogue on security issues, will take place from June 19 to 21.

Around 700 international delegates from academia, government, religious groups and civil society will gather at the Raffles City Convention Centre for the event, which aims to strengthen cohesion within societies and drive global collective action for peace and harmony.

There will also be a Young Leaders' Programme (YLP) on June 18 and 19 to empower youth to initiate efforts to build trust.

"The social fabric of many communities is stressed by extremism, exclusivism and polarisation," said Madam Halimah.

"It is important for us to grow trust across communities. This will always be a work in progress, so it is an effort we must constantly invest in."

FUTURE LIES IN UNITY

A dialogue of respect is the rock-bed of all societies. Attacking and excluding others, insulting other peoples and their faiths and convictions - this is no way forward. The future lies in unity and respect, not division and stereotypes.

KING ABDULLAH II OF JORDAN, in a statement on the International Conference on Cohesive Societies released yesterday, emphasising the importance of interfaith efforts.

Last night, Madam Halimah attended the first Untitled Conversations organised by Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) Youth Group at the IRO's office in Maxwell Road.

The session is a space for youth to have a no-holds-barred conversation on delicate issues pertaining to religion, and to foster friendship among youth of different faiths.

Madam Halimah said she hoped to see more such robust discussions at the YLP, adding that it is an important opportunity for youth leaders to have deep conversations on matters pertaining to race and religion, in an environment of mutual respect, tolerance and trust.

"Through such deep and open conversations, they can share ideas, experiences and perspectives on enhancing and strengthening societal cohesion," she said.

"This is something that we cannot underestimate the importance of.

"We have seen terrible loss of life in recent acts of terror in Sri Lanka and New Zealand," she added.

She also said in a Facebook post after the session: "Issues relating to race and religion can sometimes be sensitive, as they touch on fundamental facets of our identity. But that makes it even more critical for us to have open and candid dialogue on these issues."

In a statement on the conference released yesterday, King Abdullah II also stressed the importance of interfaith efforts.

"A dialogue of respect is the rock-bed of all societies. Attacking and excluding others, insulting other peoples and their faiths and convictions - this is no way forward. The future lies in unity and respect, not division and stereotypes," he said.

The conference theme is Many Communities, One Shared Future, and it will examine the role of inter-religious relations in preserving social harmony, as well as ways to deepen bonds by countering extremist narratives and promoting shared values across communities.

It is organised by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), with the support of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.

Said RSIS executive deputy chairman Ong Keng Yong: "In this age of global disruption and turmoil from technological change and identity politics, there is a constant need for more dialogue and mutual understanding across communities. Improving social cohesion is critical to addressing many global challenges."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 26, 2019, with the headline 'Jordan's King Abdullah II to address key forum on state visit'. Print Edition | Subscribe