The two day closed-door meeting 3-4 May was organized by the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue and included Christian and Muslim delegates. His Royal Highness, as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Royal Institute of Interfaith Studies (RIIFS), headed a delegation of men and women involved in interfaith dialogue.
RIIFS is a non-profit, non-governmental organization which offers a space for the interdisciplinary study of intercultural and interreligious issues with the aim of reducing tensions and promoting peace at regional and global levels.
Prince El Hassan was one of thirty members of RIIFS received in audience Wednesday by Pope Francis. In speaking to them, the Pope recalled “with great joy” his visit to Jordan and said the group’s work “is a task of construction” that comes at a time “in which we are accustomed to the destruction wrought by war.” And, he urged them to continue on the “journey” of dialogue “and of bringing people together” which “always helps us to construct.”
A journey of Interfaith dialogue
“I believe that rising to the higher values referred to by His Holiness Pope Francis on Wednesday is my expectation of this dialogue. To rise to constructive values …simply put. Broadly put: psychological and physical rebuilding of our mindset towards the issue which is an issue of territoriality, identity and migration worldwide as I see it, is the challenge that we face: how to look at human dignity without discrimination and without silos,” he said.
“What I mean by silos,” Prince El Hassan added, “is that there are international organizations that deal on a binary basis with this organization or that organization, with this group of beneficiaries, migrants, refugees, stateless persons – we’ve even now entered into the immoral reference to some groups of people as ‘un-people.’”
“And I think in this regard, stripping people of their nationality is not going to improve the chances of losing large numbers of young people who join radical groups simply because they feel they do not have any other option or because they feel that the incentives are the way they are. So I think that this dialogue – and we announced a decalogue of dialogue in 2014 in Amman – is actually achieving certain objectives. And among those objectives is the practical work being done by the monitoring facilities of academics who are looking at the Arab Christian and Muslim image vis-a-vis the world in which we live and correspondingly, asking those who are concerned with projecting the European concerns or the Western concerns: how can we meet in a middle ground whereby we look at liberties in the context of a good neighborhood policy on the one side, and the Eurasian policy on the other?”
Asked if enough is being done in the region to foster citizenship and diversity, His Royal Highness stressed:
“In the case of Jordan we were supposed to be 2 and a half million people in 1991. Today we are over 9 million people. We’ve had a war practically every decade since 1948, ’56, ’67, ’73 and the list goes on to include the Iraq wars and the Iraq-Iran war. And every war has meant that Jordan and Lebanon for example, have paid the price with the forced migration and of course before that, the Palestinian forced migration. So the question of citizenship is a question of pluralism, a question of recognizing the identity of the other on the basis of respect.”
“The question of identity is one of recognizing the other, recognizing that the Christian population is dwindling in the region as a whole which is quite alarming…” added the Prince.
Jordan shelters hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees
Jordan has generously offered refuge to hundreds of thousands of Syrians who fled the war in their country. Asked if the international community has assumed its fair share of the burden, Prince El Hassan said he looks “forward to the realization of the pledges and the delivery of those pledges as they were made in the [recent] London conference – on assisting the countries that have suffered the consequences of the Syrian debacle and the Syrian civil war.”
The 4 February 2016 conference set itself ambitious goals on education and economic opportunities to transform the lives of refugees caught up in the Syrian crisis – and to support the countries hosting them. Over US$ 11 billion was raised in pledges – $5.8 billion for 2016 and a further $5.4 billion for 2017-20.
“These consequences, I believe – whether in infrastructure, education, jobs, economy -should be looked at in terms of a regional stabilization plan. In that regard, I am quite impressed by the statement of [U.S.] Senator Lindsey Graham calling for a Marshall Plan. I hope he is taken seriously as indeed I hope that the Bretton Woods, the World Bank and the IMF are taken seriously in their call for a stabilization fund. But to be pro-active, I think that a regional bank for reconstruction and development should be encouraged. I can’t understand why our region is the only region in the world where we don’t have a regional bank where we have to respond to the initiative taken by others beyond our region,” stated His Royal Highness.
“I think that a time may come when we begin to recognize refugees as they truly are: as victims rather than as perpetrators of violence. I think it’s too much to ask of the poorest countries in the region, the non-oil producing countries in particular, to bear the greatest burden of the folly of others.”