RIYADH: Saudi Minister of Islamic Affairs Sheikh Abdullatif Al-Asheikh on Tuesday lauded the Kingdom’s humanitarian and global response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic during its G20 presidency year.
He was speaking at an interfaith forum — organized by the King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz International Center for Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue (KAICIID) and its partners around the world — to discuss international efforts to tackle the virus outbreak and other issues threatening communities.
The minister told conference delegates that the Kingdom had taken firm and decisive steps to fight the global health crisis, actions that had been inspired by the principles of Islam.
He began his address by conveying the greetings of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to participants in the five-day conference, being attended by leading international government figures and scholars.
He said the world was living through one of its worst-ever pandemics which was having major health, humanitarian, economic, and social repercussions. The COVID-19 outbreak had prompted governments, religious institutions, and international organizations to join forces in mitigating its effects on individuals and communities, he added.
Al-Asheikh pointed out that the Kingdom had dealt with the pandemic in a humanitarian, responsible, and professional manner.
It had taken proactive measures such as closing land, air, and sea borders at an early stage, imposing social distancing rules, requiring people to wear face masks, having curfews where necessary, closing malls and shops, suspending Umrah, workplace attendance, and public transportation, as well as sports, social, and recreational activities.
He noted that religious institutions in Saudi Arabia had also been supportive of Saudi government policies.
Al-Asheikh reviewed precautionary measures taken by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs in coordination with other governmental authorities and the Saudi government, which he said had been highly appreciated by the World Health Organization.
He added that the communique of the G20 virtual conference held to discuss the pandemic and its negative effects, had adopted successful Saudi initiatives aimed at ending hunger and joined with efforts to continue implementing sustainable development programs in countries throughout the world.
Concluding his speech, Al-Asheikh called for united efforts to fight hate speech, racism, and Islamophobia which he said were promoted by extremist organizations that did not reflect society’s humanitarian values and culture of moderation and tolerance through educational systems and media outlets.