“Ignorance is the enemy of peace”.
These are the words of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa, in an opinion piece he had written in “The Washington Times” dated 10 October 2017.
He said this during the launching of Bahrain’s declaration which shows the country’s commitment to religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence.
And now, as we become aware, that The King Hamad Global Centre for Peaceful Co-existence will be officially launched on March 14 at the Isa Cultural Centre (ICC), I am reminded of those words again.
The words effectively reflect not only His Majesty’s vision for a peaceful and prosperous land that is free of strife, but also for a global initiative that aims to dispel ‘ignorance’.
The fact that this centre will house a museum – where visitors can find examples of different houses of worship, witness their rituals, and learn their history and philosophy – tells me that Bahrain is really moving ahead, in the areas of international peace and understanding.
This centre will become an extremely rare and unique centre in the Middle East and North African region as it hosts international dialogues, seminars, conferences, workshops, educational programmes and research programmes.
After living in this country for nearly four decades , it is with immense pride that I write these words. My personal experience has taught me that the beauty of Bahrain, when it comes to religious tolerance, is simply beyond description.
Bahrain is, in a way, an Oasis of peace constantly striving to not only attract people of diverse nationalities to its refreshing doorstep, but also to provide them with an environment of tolerance and understanding, that is rare to find in many other countries in the neighbourhood.
And I have many times highlighted, in this column, the uniqueness of Bahrain, in this region. It is mainly here that you will see, alongside mosques, many churches, temples, gurudwaras and even a synagogue.
Bahrain’s unique initiative should really serve as a model for many others around. And I hope and wish that this centre will successfully promote inter-faith understanding and tolerance.
Never in our modern times have we seen the need for this more. And never in this region has an action been taken to start a centre such as this.
There were inter-faith dialogues in Bahrain earlier. And the regional office of the International Peace Institute for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has also started in Manama. But the establishment of a centre, such as this, is unique.
Offering best wishes to the centre, I conclude not with my words but with His Majesty’s words, from his opinion piece in ‘The Washington Times’:
“We believe that “ignorance is the enemy of peace,” and that true faith illuminates our path to peace. For this reason, we decided to compose the Kingdom of Bahrain Declaration, calling for religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence throughout the entire world”.
“As Bahrainis, we drew from our national heritage as a beacon of religious tolerance in the Arab world during a time when religion has been too frequently used throughout the world as a divine sanction to spread hate and dissension”.