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Remarks by President John J. DeGioia

Opening of Day Two of "A Common Word Between Us and You" Conference

October 8, 2009
Gaston Hall

Thank you John for that kind introduction, and—again— thank you for all of your extraordinary work as co-host of this conference, you and our other co-host, His Royal Highness Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal of Jordan have provided a great service through your leadership. This gathering could not have happened without your vision and your service…

It’s a pleasure to again welcome all of you to Gaston Hall, and to the second day of A Common Word Between Us and You: A Global Agenda for Change. We are grateful to our distinguished panelists for joining us today, and I know that their discussion on Religious Pluralism in the 21st Century will prove to be informative and insightful.

As I noted at yesterday’s Global Leaders Forum, we live at a time when nations are increasingly interdependent, people more interconnected, and humanity less divided by narrow domestic walls. We also live in a global community too often mired in conflict, with interactions between faiths too often characterized by mistrust. In such a world, we deny, or fear, others whose beliefs, or faiths, or religions, are different than our own at our own peril.

We must overcome the distrust and fear that we may feel when we encounter those who are different than ourselves…those who may not share our culture, or faith, our ideas and ideals. But it’s not simply a matter of doing this to avoid conflict. When a society, a global community, embraces everyone in its midst, it becomes stronger.

Distrust and fear—whether between individuals or groups—too often stems from a lack of engagement, interaction, and understanding. That’s why it’s imperative that, above all, we reach out—that we engage—those whose faiths and cultures are different than our own. And that’s why events such as this conference are so important—particularly as they seek to find ways to bring the Islamic and Christian communities closer together…and to help build bridges of understanding.

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov—one of the founders of the Hasidic movement in Judaism—wrote in the nineteenth century that there is a narrow bridge between connection and identity which we all must walk. We must walk the bridge with care—yet without fear. We must work for connection—and that is the purpose and guiding principle of our gathering here this week.

To present the purpose of our conference in a deeper context, it is my pleasure to introduce Dr. Ibrahim Kalin. Dr. Kalin is the Chief Advisor to the Prime Minister of Turkey, and is currently on leave from Georgetown where he serves as an Assistant Professor in our School of Foreign Service, as part of the Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding. He is a broadly trained scholar of Islamic studies, and has published widely on Islamic philosophy and relations between Islam and the West. One of his works, Islam and the West, won the 2007 Writers’ Association of Turkey award for best book. We are grateful to have him with us today, and it’s now my pleasure to introduce Dr. Ibrahim Kalin…

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