The United Arab Emirates Ambassador to France, Hend Al Otaiba, hosted a “majlon” – a combination of the traditional Arab majlis and Parisian salon – at the UAE Embassy in Paris, during the month of Ramadan. Project Aladdin’s Baron Eric de Rothschild; Chems-eddine Hafiz, rector of the Paris Grand Mosque of Paris, and Father Xavier Gué of the Paris Catholic Institute took part in a panel discussion that focused on the three monotheistic religions’ attitudes towards tolerance, diversity, and the place of faith in society.
Ambassador Al Otaiba opened her remarks with a reminder that the UAE hosted Pope Francis in what was the first visit by a Pope to the Arabian Peninsula. “He came with a message of peace—in his words, he came as a brother to write together a page of dialogue and travel together on paths of peace,” the ambassador said. She noted that the Abrahamic Family House in Abu Dhabi “will have a church, a mosque, and a synagogue in the same area and will serve as a platform for exchange to encourage dialogue and co-existence between the three Abrahamic religions.” Ambassador Al Otaiba described the reasons that led the UAE to join the Abraham Accords, and expressed hope that through these agreements, new paths to peace will be opened in the whole region.
For his part, Eric de Rothschild noted the significance of the Abraham Accords, not just as a diplomatic breakthrough, but as a conduit to people-to-people contacts among ordinary Israelis and Arabs that would lay the foundation for a genuine peace and an end to hate and violence. He spoke about the common and yet distinct approaches of the three monotheistic faiths to spirituality, theology, and religious practice. He recommended the members of the audience to read Project Aladdin’s book, “Know the Religion of Thy Neighbor,” which lays out these different approaches in a succinct manner. Baron de Rothschild noted that interfaith dialogue, to most people, means a group of religious leaders getting together and agreeing on what they have always agreed on, without talking about their differences. It would be much more useful if they focused on the differences of approach, opinion, and values, and to show how these differences enrich our common civilization, he said.