Austria: Creation of an Inter-religious Center in Vienna

November 11, 2011
centrereligieux_vienne_2An inter-religious center promoted and financed by Saudi Arabia will soon be realized in Vienna.  According to the Moroccan newspaper Le Matin, such was the content of an agreement signed on October 13, between Austria, Saudi Arabia and Spain, who is sponsoring the project.  The center, which will be named after its initiator, King Abdallah Bin Abdelaziz, will be financed through a foundation that is “independent of all political influences,” promised the Saudi Arabian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Saoud al-Fayçal.  “Saudi Arabia will pay whatever it takes, for she believes in this center,” he added.  For his Austrian counterpart, Michael Spindelegger, this new inter-religious center that should open in mid-2012, represents an “important contribution to the prevention and mastery of conflicts, and to the consolidation of peace.” The Vatican has shown an interest in having an observer's status in this structure.  According to Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, who assisted at the signing of the agreement, “we cannot but appreciate the fact that States want to encourage religious liberty, but I believe that we must also be careful to make sure that this religious liberty is echoed from the base up.”  In an interview with Radio Vatican, on October 14, the prelate recalled that “ the goal of this center is first and foremost to favor respect and mutual confidence, to make it so that the religions are at the service of society; and this is something very important, on which we insist very much.  Inter-religious dialogue is not only for internal use, it is a dialogue between believers who see that they are together, and the common values that they share, and who try to see together what they can place at the disposal of society.  The religions should favor harmony and peace, and not oppositions and wars.” Reminder: The Saudi Arabian government does not allow non-Muslim religious to enter into the country to exercise their ministry; they are therefore obliged to exercise their functions in secret.  In Saudi Arabia, non-Muslim proselytism, such as the distribution of Bibles, is illegal.  Thus it is that customs officers are authorized to open mail regularly, in search of products and contraband connected with religious practice.  Under the auspices of the Ministry of Muslim Affairs, the Saudi State invites foreigners living in the country to convert to Islam by means of 50 centers that employ about 500 persons. (sources: lematin.ma/Radio Vatican – DICI #244, Nov. 11, 2011)