OSLO: Dr. Mohammed Bin Abdulkarim Al-Issa, Secretary General of the Muslim World League (MWL) and Chairman of the Muslim Scholars Association, has received the Norwegian Bridge Builder Award at a ceremony in Oslo.
He was one of three recipients of the award in 2021, which is given to people who have helped to build bridges between individuals, nations and societies. The other two were Rev. Prof. Dr. Ioan Sauca, acting general secretary of the World Council of Churches, and Michael Melchior, Chief Rabbi and leader of the Religious Peace Initiative in Israel.
The award committee described Al-Issa as a leading global force in moderation, saying that he is a clear and distinct voice for peace and cooperation between nations and religions. “This accolade is a recognition and encouragement to continue his great efforts in promoting tolerance, respect and love.”
Al-Issa received a cable of congratulations from a number of Norwegian and European officials.
“This is the first time that the Norwegian capital has witnessed a meeting of high-level representatives of Islam, Judaism and Christianity to highlight respect and tolerance among themselves, and to express a clear ambition for greater interfaith cooperation,” the committee said at the ceremony.
In his speech after receiving the award, Al-Issa explained that talking about “building bridges” is to talk about actively participating in the process of establishing peace.
The MWL Secretary-General warned of the unfair distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, saying: “It is a shame that only the rich can get the vaccine, while the poor have to face the pain of poverty, the pain of disease, the pain of cruelty of disregard and injustice. Just as the disease does not differentiate between anyone, treatment must not differentiate between anyone.”
On conflicts resulting from religious, cultural, political and other divides, Al-Issa said: “Distancing ourselves from each other builds walls of fear, suspicion and misunderstanding.”
Al-Issa called for dialogue that effectively addresses problems, not formal or courtesy dialogue. He also called upon the followers of religions and civilizations to join forces, discarding accusations and combating hate speech and acts of violence.
He said: “The choice of the wise after examining the painful chapters of history is to look forward, instilling tolerance, coexistence, love and cooperation, for the events of history are in the hands of their owners and in the hands of those who came after them.”
Al-Issa reiterated his call for peace, saying: “We want a sincere and sustainable peace, made by a true will of peace, a peace that embraces history. This peace can only be achieved when it comes from the depths of the soul with its sincerity, purity and love for good for all.”
He said that sincere love in its full sense is the greatest peacemaker, stressing in this context the responsibility of the family and education, from childhood to the early stages of youth. “The educational process needs to focus on teaching shared values in an interactive way.”
Past recipients of the Bridge Builder Award include former US President Barack Obama and the current head of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus.