Washington : Bahrainis have grown up with neighbours of all faiths, all cultures and all ethnicities for centuries, in a multicultural, multi-faith society, recognising this diversity as a natural and normal way of life in the country, His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa said in an article published in The Washington Times yesterday.
“Our noble ancestors began this Bahraini tradition of churches, synagogues and temples being built next to our mosques, so there is no ignorance about others’ religious rites or practices,” HM the King wrote in the opinion piece.
“We all live together in peaceful coexistence in the spirit of mutual respect and love, and we believe it is our duty to share this with the world. We believe ‘ignorance is the enemy of peace,’ and that true faith illuminates our path to peace. For this reason, we decided to compose the Kingdom of Bahrain Declaration, calling for religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence throughout the entire world,” HM said. The King said that Bahrainis drew from their national heritage as a beacon of religious tolerance in the Arab world during a time when religion has been too frequently used throughout the world as a divine sanction to spread hate and dissension.
“Yet in Bahrain, religious diversity is a blessing to our people. We welcome our Catholic, Orthodox and evangelical church communities. We are proud that our Hindu nationals can worship in a 200-year-old temple complete with their images, just around the corner from the Sikh temple and the mosques,” HM the King said.
“We celebrate our small — but precious — Jewish community, who feel free to wear their yarmulke and worship in their own synagogue, which, we are informed, is the only one in the Arabian Peninsula. In fact, our Jewish community plays a very active role at the highest levels of society, including an ambassador from Bahrain to Washington in 2008, the first Jewish diplomat to the United States from an Arab country. We wanted to protect our religious pluralism for future generations, so we have enshrined this in law, which guarantees everyone the right to worship unhindered in safety and to build their houses of worship.
“Bahrain is stronger because of our diversity, and I believe our world will be more secure and more prosperous when we learn to recognize the beauty of these differences and how they can teach us many lessons,” HM said.