Dialogue a must to resolve conflicts, head of Saudi-led interfaith dialogue center tells G20 forum

KAICIID Secretary-General Faisal bin Abdulrahman bin Muammar speakinga the G20 Interfaith Forum in Tokyo on June 9, 2019. (Twitter)
Updated 11 June 2019

Dialogue a must to resolve conflicts, head of Saudi-led interfaith dialogue center tells G20 forum

  • Religion should be seen as ‘part of solution’, interfaith forum told
  • 84% of world’s population professes a religious faith or tradition, majority of whom are encouraged by their values to do good, says KAICIID chief

TOKYO: The secretary-general of the King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID), Faisal bin Abdulrahman bin Muammar, has stressed the importance of focusing on common values and ethics to resolve various issues in the world.

In his keynote address at the opening ceremony of the G20 Interfaith Forum in Tokyo on Saturday, he highlighted the importance of dialogue to resolve conflicts and ensure global peace.

The KAICIID chief expressed his pride in his organization’s contributions to and support of previous G20 Interfaith Forums held in Argentina and Germany.

He stressed the importance of the forum in bringing to light the vital work and contributions of religious communities, leaders and organizations, and stated the main goal of the forum was to bring religious insights to the attention of political leaders during the G20 Summit to be held on June 28–29 in Osaka.

Bin Muammar said in addition to wars, violence and climate change, the world is faced with new challenges that need to be addressed, such as technological revolution, digital currency, artificial intelligence and trade disputes.

We cannot achieve peaceful and cohesive societies without engaging religious communities in the dialogue about the problems.

Faisal bin Muammar, KAICIID secretary-general

He pointed out that 84 percent of the world’s population professes a religious faith or tradition, and that the vast majority of these people are encouraged by their values to do good. 

“The desire to achieve peace, equality and justice are common to all religions,”he said.

Bin Muammar said: “We must allow religion to be seen as a key part of the solution, and not, as is often the case, the cause of the problem. There can be no more excuse for blaming religion or religious leaders. 

“We need to encourage policymakers to embrace the tremendous force for good that the faith community, faith actors and faith-based organizations represent in our world.”

He also urged the UN, governments and the international community to include faith-based organizations in the decision-making process.

“We cannot achieve peaceful and cohesive societies without engaging religious communities in the dialogue about the problems and potential solutions,” he said.

KAICIID, he said, had established sustainable dialogue platforms to help combat hate speech and other forms of incitement to violence, and shaped policy on reconciliation and peace processes through interfaith dialogue in the Central African Republic, Nigeria, Myanmar and the Arab world.

He said KAICIID’s journey showed that when societies are faced with conflict, solutions lie in focusing on common values and ethics, to which religion paves the way.

The annual G20 Interfaith Forum in Tokyo was launched under the title “Working for Peace, People, and Planet: Challenges to the G20,” with the participation of three former prime ministers of the UK, Ireland and New Zealand, representatives of the UN, international organizations, academics, and a recorded message from Pope Francis, the head of the Roman Catholic Church. As many as 2,000 participants attended the conference’s sessions to exchange experiences and prepare appropriate recommendations.


A Saudi app that promotes Arabic reading

Updated 1 min 4 sec ago

A Saudi app that promotes Arabic reading

  • Lamsa was launched in Saudi Arabia in 2012
  • It provides an innovative way of motivating children to learn

DUBAI: The most crucial year in a child’s education may be the age of 8, or third grade, according to a study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.The organization, which focuses on improving the wellbeing of American children, found this to be the developmental phase when children transition from “learning to read” to “reading to learn.”

The research also established that third graders who lack proficiency in reading are four times as likely to become high-school dropouts.

The significance of this pivotal point in early childhood development is what drives Badr Ward, CEO of Arabic edutainment app Lamsa, to develop innovative ways of motivating kids in the Arab world to read and learn in their language.

“If we don’t encourage reading at that age, we could be taking the risk of them having a life-long issue with catching up,” Ward said.

Since children already spend a considerable amount of their time on connected devices, Ward is convinced that edutainment — media designed to educate through entertainment — is the best way to make screen time “relevant and meaningful.”

Badr Ward, CEO of Lamsa. (Supplied Photo)

Launched in Saudi Arabia in 2012, Lamsa provides an ad-free platform featuring animated literature, rhymes, songs, interactive games and educational videos in Arabic for children aged between 2 and 8.

Ward said: “We have to face reality. Education systems across the world are legacy systems. Whether we like it or not, technology has changed the way we consume information. Children today have access to devices from the moment they are born. So whether it’s reading on paper or e-books or interactive storytelling, we need to look at encouraging them to read, and to love to read and learn.”

Ward explains that much like a favorite teacher impacts a child’s interest in a subject, edutainment has a significant effect on their curiosity about a topic.

He modelled the characters in the edutainment app after his daughter Joory and son Adam, whose lack of interest in reading prompted him to start Lamsa.

Ward sought advice from his friend Leonard Marcus, an author, historian and expert on English language children’s literature. Marcus recommended taking the kids to a comic book store and letting them explore without forcing them to buy anything.

“So I did that,” Ward said. “We went to the comic book store, and I let them roam around. They were fascinated by the images.”

“Arabic is not just a language. It’s so important for children to understand their heritage and culture.”

Badr Ward, CEO of Arabic edutainment app Lamsa

He then asked his kids if they wanted anything, and they asked to have some of the comics. “In the evening, I found my children opening the comic book and just laughing,” he said.

“Because of that start three years ago, they can’t let go of books now.”

Ward said seeing the power of images and illustrations has made him support using pictures to captivate children.

The lack of quality and culturally relevant educational material in Arabic remains a challenge, he said. For this reason, Lamsa’s content library has been developed to celebrate Arabic not just as a language but as a source of heritage, culture, literature, music and food. The app team works in partnership with Arab authors, illustrators and organizations.

“Arabic is not just a language,” Ward said, adding that for Arab children everywhere, understanding cultural context is crucial to their values, beliefs and identity.

“It’s so important in the development of children to have a clear understanding of where they come from. In order to establish understanding of other cultures and learn tolerance, you need to start with your own. It’s fundamental to confidence, identity and heritage.”

 

 The Middle East Exchange is one of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Global Initiatives that was launched to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai in the field of humanitarian and global development, to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region. The initiative offers the press a series of articles on issues affecting Arab societies.