Science, arts key to bringing nations together: Saudi culture minister

Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud addressing the 40th UNESCO General Conference in Paris on Nov. 14, 2019. (SPA)
Updated 16 November 2019

Science, arts key to bringing nations together: Saudi culture minister

  • Building bridges of understanding helps create a more solid world, Prince Badr bin Abdullah tells UN conference

RIYADH: Science, culture, and arts are key pillars to promoting dialogue and communication among nations, Saudi Arabia’s culture minister told a UN meeting on Friday.

Addressing the 40th UNESCO General Conference, in Paris, Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud said the success and prosperity of future generations relied on the strength of cultural links between countries.

Heading the Kingdom’s delegation in France, the prince told the gathering that under the guidance of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman his country regarded culture in general as one of the most important foundations of human development.

He pointed out that building bridges of understanding between societies helped to create a more solid world where people of different cultures became interdependent, and he noted the Kingdom’s push for joint action within UNESCO.

“Culture and arts in the Kingdom are among the pillars of the National Transformational Program of the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, and its objective to building a vibrant society, prosperous economy, and ambitious nation,” added Prince Badr.

The minister told delegates that through Vision 2030 the Kingdom was heading “with confident steps” toward a better future and that the reform plan’s effects had “started to positively impact several sectors including education, culture, and arts.”

He reiterated Saudi Arabia’s determination to continue promoting joint action at UNESCO to achieve the goals of the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which were in line with the Kingdom’s own objectives.

“As part of its responsible position as a founding state, the Kingdom had made a big contribution to the UNESCO 1984 budget, and had allocated $25 million (SR93.7 million) to fund UNESCO’s strategic heritage programs and its actions related to protecting heritage through the signing of the letter of intent last July.”

In his speech, Prince Badr said the Kingdom believed that educating and rehabilitating young people formed the basis of any process of building, developing, and promoting culture in societies, coupled with nurturing them with human values.




Prince Badr bin Abdullah said that through Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia was taking confident steps. (SPA)

“This we emphasize on in our work, through a more developed system that is open to different cultures; for this contributes to strengthening social ties and opens wide the doors for peace among nations.

“In Saudi Arabia, we have sought to achieve this, in line with the UN’s sustainable development goals, as part of our strong belief in the importance of partnerships between the nonprofit sector with other sectors, which we consider as a key partner in development,” he added.

The establishment of the National Center for the Development of the Nonprofit Sector aimed to activate and expand the role of culture-sector organizations, particularly in developmental fields, the minister said.

He noted the Saudi Ministry of Culture’s comprehensive plan to boost societal contribution in developing culture and heritage “in order to open the opportunity for the whole world to have an in-depth outlook onto the treasures of humanity’s civilizations and its secrets that have formed societies, and have contributed in this cultural richness that we are proud of, in our country and worldwide.”

Prince Badr stressed the importance of youth and its huge potential in helping to translate the aspirations and hopes of societies and said the Kingdom had launched numerous initiatives to support their creativity and involvement in constructing their country’s future.

Saudi Arabia was keen to back the plans and activities of UNESCO’s Executive Strategy for Youth 2014-2021, he added, noting that artificial intelligence was at the core of future development.

In March 2020, the Kingdom will host the Global Artificial Intelligence Summit, which the prince said was “an annual global forum for exchanging expertise between various local and international actors and companies in the field of data and artificial intelligence, for the benefit of all mankind.”

Prince Badr concluded by encouraging member states to transform their visions into reality. “We are getting prepared, and we intend to elaborate the objectives of this organization for everybody’s benefit, and cooperate hand in hand for a better world.”


Saudis unite in condemnation of US Navy base attack

Updated 16 min 50 sec ago

Saudis unite in condemnation of US Navy base attack

  • The attack, in which a Saudi gunman killed three Americans, is viewed as an act that does not represent Saudi people
  • The OIC has said the attacker did not represent the tolerant Islamic values that distinguish the Saudi people

From the king and top-level Saudi government officials to everyday Saudi citizens, all are united in condemning the attack on a US Navy base in Pensacola, Florida, calling it as “un-Islamic” and barbaric.

The shooting of three Americans by a Saudi gunman was an individual attack that does not represent the Kingdom’s people, it has been widely  stressed. 

For decades, many Saudis have lived in the US for work or attended universities across many states, becoming their own ambassadors. 

Nedda Akhonbay, a communications professional working in Jeddah, expressed her sadness when she heard the news.

“My condolences go out to the families of the victims as I hope they find peace in their lives after facing such a tragedy. As a Saudi-American and having spent many formative years in the US and made friends who became like family, I thought this attack was very close to home and I hope both people work together to get past it.”

“As a student who lived in the States, I never faced any problems for being a Muslim,” said Alaa Sendi, an American-Saudi lecturer working in Jeddah University.

Having obtained a PhD in electrical engineering, Dr. Nazih Al-Othmani lived between the states of Michigan and Pennsylvania for ten years in the late 1990s and was in the US during the 9/11 attacks. He recalled how Americans understood that such atrocious attacks never represented a community, and this one was no exception.

“The tragic event that took place yesterday does not represent us, this attack is unacceptable regardless of any reason and no sane person can ever accept it,” he said. “I lived in the States for many years, I was also there on 9/11, and made many American friends throughout my time there. They stood by us, they helped us, protected us and our relationship was very civil and courteous. We need to stand together to combat this dangerous tendency that can be found in every community.”

The attack at the US naval station in Pensacola, Florida, was the second incident at an American military base in this week, following another shooting at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Wednesday. (AFP)

Many Saudis are angered over the actions of this one individual. Dr. Al-Othmani expressed his concerns about those who would take advantage of the situation and try to point a finger at Saudis.

“Though right-wingers will take advantage of the event and attack Saudi Arabia, I don’t believe many Americans will see it that way. Americans are aware enough to differentiate between the nationality of an individual and his actions,” he said.

Al-Othmani recommends that Saudi students communicate, cooperate and extend a hand of friendship to their respective communities.

In the decades of friendship and cooperation between the US and Saudi Arabia, many Americans have come to work in the Kingdom and some have made it their home. 

Dr. Alia Mitchell, vice dean of the Faculty of Humanities and Director of the Teaching and Learning Center at the Prince Sultan University in Riyadh, is an American citizen who has been a Muslim for more than 30 years and has lived in the Kingdom for more than 20 years. She has chosen to live in the Kingdom as she sees the beauty of the religion interwoven into society, one that she believes is not represented by the shooter. 

“When something tragic that happens like this, it’s on the individual,” she said. “it doesn’t go back to the community or the society.

“I’m still sickened and mostly very, very saddened with this tragedy,” said Melanie H. “I’ve a son the same age as the shooter and can’t imagine what the pain and grief his actions would do to me as a parent. To learn that your son has caused so much hell… that he has taken others’ lives.”

She said: “I lived in Saudi Arabia for over 10 years and I have experienced Saudi’s hospitality, warmth — nothing like what I imagined or expected before arriving. It isn’t perfect but then what country or nation is?” 

“Now that the country has opened its doors to the world, people really shouldn’t judge the book by its cover especially when criminals like this shooter make such a false, misleading cover.” 

Melanie H continued: “Do not judge a people by an individual — that’s what we Americans are all about. No judging.”


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“This crime does not represent us as Saudis,” said Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Sheikh, minister of Islamic Affairs, on his personal Twitter account. “We reject such criminal acts and we sympathize with the injured and the families of the victims. It is a horrible crime and a dishonest act.

“We condemn crimes anywhere and anytime, and we stress our complete rejection of such horrible criminal acts which Islam forbids.”

Saudi scholar and Imam of Quba Mosque in Madinah Saleh Al-Maghamsi shared the same notion. He said: “This incident should be stripped away from religion and from the country to which whoever committed this criminal act is affiliated. The Shariah does not approve of this act for it violates the texts of the Holy Qur’an and the teachings of the Prophet, which is based on the principle of no bloodshed. Logic also does not approve of this action.” 

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The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) said the aggressor did not represent the tolerant Islamic values that distinguish the Saudi people and all Muslims who believe in tolerance, moderation and coexistence.

The General Secretariat of the Council of Senior Scholars in Saudi Arabia also condemned the shooting incident in Florida and called it a heinous crime. 

Describing it as a crime against humanity, the senior scholars stressed that such actions were against the true teachings of Islam. They said that the Saudi people will continue to uphold their noble values and contribute to the progress and prosperity of the world and humanity.