The Inevitability of Dialogue among the Three Monotheistic Religions and the Dangers that threaten it

Interfaith Conference
ADIC – La Sorbonne, Paris
13 June 1994

Preliminary remarks by Dr. Ali El Samman President of ADIC

Dialogue. I never heard a word that has been so brought into disrepute. Even if it is true that according to general principles holding a dialogue helps to avoid negative forms of confrontation, the definition of the word dialogue and a decisive commitment to it still need to be worked on and thought out. Why do this at a round table for the three monotheistic religions? To answer this I will begin with the story of ADIC.

With the efforts of the remarkable Dr. Adel Amer, ADIC started as a Muslim-Christian dialogue association. ADIC then began to include dialogue with members of the Jewish faith. Today, we are blessed with three great authorities who have the experience and the legitimacy to guide us with their wisdom, to show us the place of dialogue in their respective religions. What an honor it is to be associated with the men presiding over our gathering today.

Cardinal Franz Koenig is the father of the dialogue with non-Christian who has guided its destiny at the Holy See for many years. He was the first cardinal invited to give a lecture at al-Azhar in the sixties and has the privilege and trusting relationship with the grand imam of al-Azhar. Since their fruitful meeting in Bern last May, doors have opened to a higher level for the Muslim-Christian Dialogue. My meeting with the cardinal in Venice two years ago, when he accepted the honorary chairmanship of the ADIC, represented a turning point for us in the history of our association.

As for Chief Rabbi Rene Samuel Sirat I will be brief as his radiance already made him internationally known. This man, even in difficult moments of conflict which affected us most, was able to keep his serenity and congeniality, earning everyone’s esteem.

With all due respect, it is no surprise that the ADIC has chosen Rabbi Sirat for our first dialogue with representatives of Judaism. A man born in an Islamic country, Algeria, who spent his life in the land of Christianity, he conveys the message of humanity and peace in perfect harmony.

The renown of Dr. Mahmoud Hamdy Zagzoug comes not only from his being dean of the Department of Theology of al-Azhar with its thousand years of history, but from the fact that around the world, he has been able to reconcile objectivity, faith, and clarity of style with ease and nobility of mind. He is also the man closest to the grand imam of al-Azhar: they have always been united through their similarity of thought.

In the world in which we live, we are equally aware that dialogue is the target of destructive forces. We must therefore talk about this menace, which above all else is the danger of deformed ideas which sow trouble, doubt, and hatred.

During the course of the day, other individuals- journalists, generals, ambassadors, ministers – are going to speak to you about the various manifestations of this danger. That is the theme; the men have but to speak for themselves.

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