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WikiLeaks: 2008-05-21: 08DOHA398: Another Ray of Light - Doha Interfaith Center Opens; Plans for GOQ "Other Faiths" Committee

by WikiLeaks. 08DOHA398: May 21, 2008.

Posted: Sunday, September 08, 2013 at 01:24 PM UT


Viewing cable 08DOHA398, ANOTHER RAY OF LIGHT - DOHA INTERFAITH CENTER

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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
08DOHA398 2008-05-21 16:11 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Doha
VZCZCXRO9929
RR RUEHDE RUEHDIR
DE RUEHDO #0398/01 1421611
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 211611Z MAY 08
FM AMEMBASSY DOHA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7944
INFO RUEHZM/GULF COOPERATION COUNCIL COLLECTIVE
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 DOHA 000398 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR DRL/IRF JUSTIN W. KERN 
 
E.O. 12958: N/A 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM KIRF KISL QA
SUBJECT: ANOTHER RAY OF LIGHT - DOHA INTERFAITH CENTER 
OPENS; PLANS FOR GOQ "OTHER FAITHS" COMMITTEE 
 
1. (SBU) SUMMARY:  The Doha International Center for 
Interfaith Dialogue (DICID) officially opened May 14 at the 
conclusion of the sixth Doha Conference for Interfaith 
Dialogue.  Former President of Qatar University, Professor 
Ebrahim Saleh Al-Naimi, was appointed the DICID Chairman, and 
will oversee the center's goal of promoting interfaith 
dialogue and finding common ground for understanding among 
the three major monotheistic religions.  The Government of 
Qatar also announced the creation of a permanent committee to 
address non-Islamic faith issues due to increased, 
predominantly Christian-based, religious activity in Qatar. 
Minister of Awqaf (endowments) and Islamic Affairs Faisal bin 
Abdullah Al-Mahmoud meanwhile portrays the increased 
Christian activity in Qatar as a social issue and not one 
directly affecting his work. END SUMMARY. 
 
2. (U) Islamic Affairs Minister Faisal Al-Mahmoud delivered 
the opening remarks for the conference, mentioning that the 
efforts of the previous, fifth conference would be realized 
with the official opening of the DICID May 13.  The Chairman 
of the National Council for Culture, Arts and Heritage, 
Sheikh Meshaal bin Jassem bin Mohammad Al-Thani, officially 
presided over the dedication of the DICID at the conclusion 
of the conference on May 14.  The concept for the center was 
initially conceived and launched in May 2007 during the Fifth 
Interfaith Conference, organized by Qatar University and 
operating under a grant from the Amir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad 
Bin Khalifa Al-Thani.  Professor Al-Naimi said the center 
will neither be a theological nor a religious institute; 
rather, it will serve as an academic and research focal point 
where members of the three monotheistic faiths -- Islam, 
Christianity and Judaism -- can talk constructively.  He 
added that it is not the center's aim to tackle pure 
theological issues or political disputes.  Rather, the focus 
should be on the common aspects and values of the three 
religions and promoting common values and tolerance. 
 
3. (U) During a November 2007 press conference, Al-Naimi 
stated that the three religions face common challenges, such 
as the changes affecting the family worldwide and the ethical 
issues related to scientific discoveries linked to the 
medical sphere, and the center's research would spearhead 
debate around these topics.  In addition, the center will 
also begin work on establishing a database with the goal of 
dispelling misconceptions and misinformation about the three 
religions. 
 
------------------ 
DICID ORGANIZATION 
------------------ 
 
4. (U) The center is headed by an executive committee, which 
follows the directives of an international board, including 
members of the three religions, that meets twice a year to 
set guidelines and review the center's activities.  The 
center's executive committee is comprised of academicians 
Professor Yousuf Al Seddiqi, Vice Dean of the College of 
Sharia and Islamic Studies and one of the founders of the 
annual Interfaith Dialogue conference; Dr Hamed Marawani, 
professor at the College of Sharia at Qatar University; 
Professor Hasan Al Saeed, Dean of the College of Law at Qatar 
University; and Dr Khalid Al Khater, professor at the College 
of Business Administration at Qatar University. 
 
5. (U) Members of the international board are Professor Aisha 
Al Mannai, Dean of the College of Sharia and Islamic Studies 
at Qatar University; Professor Din Mohammad Sahib, assistant 
dean of the college; Professor Winston Cornell, director of 
the King Fahd Center for Islamic Studies in the United 
States; Father Vittorio Ianari, theologist of the Society of 
Sant'Egidio, Italy; Bishop George Saliba, Syriac Orthodox 
Archdiocese of Mount Lebanon; Johan Taylor, United Nations 
representative of the International Society for Religious 
Freedom, Switzerland; and New York-based Rabbi Rolando 
Matalon. 
 
------------------------------------- 
"OTHER-FAITHS" COMMITTEE FORTHCOMING 
------------------------------------- 
 
6. (U) During a May 8 meeting with Ameena Al-Meer, Assistant 
to the Prime Minister/Foreign Minister Hamad bin Jasim 
Al-Thani, Poloff learned the Government of Qatar intends to 
create a permanent intergovernmental committee to address 
other religious faith issues given the surge in Christian 
religious activity in Qatar.  The committee would regulate 
requests for legal incorporation from religious groups 
seeking permission to congregate and practice, oversee 
sponsorship issues for religious leaders, and serve as the 
 
DOHA 00000398  002 OF 002 
 
 
single source, "one-stop-shop," for all "other-faith" issues. 
 
7. (U) There are plans for the committee to be established in 
late 2008.  Religious organizations requesting official 
recognition will require at least 250 signatures, 
documentation on the organization to include a brief 
overview, history, local particulars and a general outline of 
plans in Qatar.  If the organization desires to build a 
worship facility, then full design schematics would need to 
be submitted for approval. 
 
8. (U) Al-Meer and local Catholic lay leader Renato Casiraghi 
both maintained that the Amir had been committed to allowing 
open Christian worship and the construction of a church for 
over ten years, but internal disagreements among the 
different denominations themselves delayed the Amir's 
initiative.  Al-Meer further stated that the creation of the 
"Other-Faiths" Committee was a natural extension of the 
Amir,s long-standing commitment to religious tolerance and 
dialogue.  It was also an outgrowth of establishing new 
church buildings on the out-skirts of Doha in an area 
referred to locally as "Church City." 
 
--------------------------------- 
ISLAMIC AFFAIRS MINISTER COMMENTS 
--------------------------------- 
 
9. (U) During his opening remarks to the Interfaith Dialogue 
conference, Minister Al-Mahmoud said many debates on 
religious values among the three principal religions reflect 
growing concerns over contemporary issues.  Thanks to 
technical progress, he said, people are experiencing 
"disorder," and the progress achieved in the fields of 
medicine, economy, engineering and ecology seem to have 
eliminated society's moral values.  During a May 4 meeting 
with Poloff, the Minister said interfaith issues and 
establishment of non-Muslim religious institutions in Qatar, 
specifically Christian churches, should be viewed as a social 
issue, and are not under his purview of Islamic issues.  He 
would continue to participate in interfaith discussions as 
the Amir,s advisor on Islamic Affairs, but hinted that the 
"church" issue is a progressive social initiative instigated 
by the Amir for the many foreign guest workers in Qatar. 
 
-------- 
COMMENTS 
-------- 
 
11. (SBU)  Religious freedom is another example of the 
progressive, top-down changes in Qatar directed by the Amir. 
In the past ten years Qatar, has seen unprecedented and 
tremendous growth in religious dialogue among Muslims, Jews 
and Christians.  The recent March public unveiling of a 
Catholic church in Qatar brought Christian worship even more 
into the public sphere.  Conspicuously absent in both 
dialogue and established places of worship are 
representatives of the eastern religions such as Buddhism and 
Hinduism, both of which are heavily represented in Qatar's 
large population of expatriate Asians. "Other-faith" 
translates to monotheistic faiths only. The real test of the 
full effectiveness of the committee will be the inclusion of 
all religions in dialogue, not just the three monotheistic 
faiths.  Thus far, Qataris are not prepared to take that 
step, as evidenced by Ameena's having no plans to engage east 
Asian communities in faith dialogue. 
RATNEY

 



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