Written by Nayla Barakat
Manama, May 31 (BNA) The vision of His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in building bridges and roads for peaceful coexistence and religious freedom took center stage on the second day of the first conference between the European Union and Bahrain in Manama.
In his keynote speech, Dr. st. Khalid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, President of the King Hamad Global Center for Peaceful Coexistence, highlighted the Kingdom’s model of religious tolerance in “Expanding the Tent: Freedom of Religion and Belief”.
“Our goals and mission at the King Hamad Global Center for Peaceful Coexistence are derived from the Declaration of the Kingdom of Bahrain, which is inspired by the vision and wisdom of His Majesty the King.”
“His Majesty the King humbly laid out all his visions to be a roadmap for peaceful coexistence and religious freedom in the world, which resonates in the Center’s unique and distinguished programs such as Interfaith Leadership and the e-Academy in both New York and Oxford, all of which have opened to everyone in the world.”
“Scholarships offered by the King Hamad Chair for Interreligious Dialogue and Peaceful Coexistence at Sapienza University in Italy, sponsored more than 250 university students from all programs and academic levels, and from different countries in Europe and the world, with the aim of creating a generation of world ambassadors for tolerance and peaceful coexistence.”
Bahrain has also enjoyed respect for all religions and ideologies, and all races have been welcomed, respected and treated as equals ever since. He added that respect for religious diversity is an essential component of any peaceful society.
Sheikh Khalid said he was honored to brief the conference attendees on Bahrain’s rich history.
200 years ago, the world hardly heard of freedom of worship or religion. In fact, even in Europe 200 years ago, some countries did not allow the practice of certain religions or even the presence of certain races.
While in Bahrain two hundred years ago, specifically in 1819, the ruler, Sheikh Salman bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, granted the Hindu community the right to establish a temple that still exists in the center of Manama. The temple remained the only Hindu temple in the area for over a century.
He added that in 1892, Sheikh Isa bin Ali Al Khalifa granted the license of the American mission to establish a chapel, a hospital and a school. They are also in operation today and are very popular places. He said that throughout the nineteenth century until today, the rulers of Bahrain have granted hundreds of places of worship to all religions without exception.
In 2021, His Majesty King Hamad inaugurated Our Lady of Arabia Cathedral, the largest cathedral in the region. It extends over 9,000 square meters of land donated by His Majesty.”
In 1931, a synagogue was established, which is considered one of the oldest in the area.
In 1920, Sheikh Isa bin Ali Al Khalifa issued a law to organize the elections for the members of the Manama municipality, and this was the first election in the region. This law did not distinguish between Arabs and non-Arabs, Muslims and non-Muslims. It was not only the ruler who treated all his subjects as equals, but even the people of Bahrain had the same spirit. They elected a well-known Jew (Ibrahim Nonoo in 1924), Sheikh Khaled said.