Excellencies, Distinguished Panellists, Honourable Participants,

  • This conference is being organized jointly by; i) the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan in Austria; ii) KAICIID; iii) the Geneva Centre for Human Rights Advancement and Global Dialogue, and; iv) the Baku International Centre for Interfaith and Inter-Civilizational Cooperation.


  • I will moderate the opening and the first plenary sessions.


  • Excellencies,

I’ll make three points:

A: “Never Again”

  • After World War II, we all said “Never Again” when contemplating the devastation wreaked by exacerbated ethnicity. For the sake of this “Never Again,” the acute socio-economic disruptions of the world that we now witness must not be allowed to fester on. The Berlin Wall was demolished in 1989. Yet, we are witnessing the erection of new walls. Walls keeping out the Other and intended to divide world society in “Us versus Them.” Physical walls that separate people, countries and nations and more redoubtable virtual walls that separate minds.


  • We must overcome ignorance or arrogance feeding the rise of xenophobic populism and white supremacists in advanced societies on the one hand and a wave of extremist violence sweeping all parts of the world on the other. For violence and social fragmentation ensue.


  • It is one of the greatest paradoxes of the contemporary world that major world faiths and creeds that all preach human fraternity are being perverted to justify hatred and exclusion.

B: From June 2018 to June 2019, an auspicious year: Four pivotal meetings upholding one goal “the celebration of diversity”

  • During less than one year, four major international events have been held to harness diversity to become a force for social progress.  


  • First, there was the initiative of the Geneva Centre and partners to organize on 25 June 2018 a World Conference on religions and equal citizenship rights under the Patronage of HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan. It received a strong message of support by the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Its outcome was a Ten-Point Declaration entitled “Moving Towards Greater Spiritual Convergence Worldwide in Support of Equal Citizenship Rights”.


  • Second, the holding of the 2018 World Tolerance Summit, held from 15-16 November in Dubai, which led to the adoption of the “Dubai Declaration on the World Tolerance Summit.”


  • Third, the Joint Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together signed on 4 February 2019 by His Holiness Pope Francis and the Great Imam of Al-Azhar His Eminence Sheikh Ahmad Al-Tayyib during Pope Francis’ historical visit to the UAE.


  • Fourth, the Fifth World Forum on Intercultural Dialogue was held in Baku on 2-3 May 2019 to examine the critical role of intercultural dialogue as an actionable strategy for building human solidarity.

These four initiatives serve as important building blocks to enhance inter-faith dialogue, counter violent extremist narratives and promote peaceful and inclusive societies.

C: The Vienna Declaration will crown this auspicious year

  • The time has come to promote awareness of both the commonality of values and the specificities of practices of diverse faiths as expressions of enrichment through pluralism. Abrahamic religions and other major creeds altogether have some 90% theological similarities and perhaps 10% differences. Let all people of good will become more aware of commonalities and express tolerance if not empathy for the 10% diversity margin. Let today’s conference in hospitable Vienna become the ultimate standard-bearer for future endeavours to tap into the mobilizing potential of faith in the pursuit of harmony, empathy and world peace.


  • It was indeed our Creator that proclaimed his support for diversity when he says: “O mankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another” [Holy Quran, 49:13]. With the present outcome declaration of today’s conference, we have the opportunity to make a difference and achieve durable unity which has to be unity in diversity.


  • I thank you for your attention.