An Initiative of the Ministry of
Endowments and Religious Affairs
Sultanate of Oman
October 07 through October 14, 2015
In the framework of the Sultanate's adherence to the spreading and strengthening the culture of religious tolerance, mutual understanding and peaceful coexistence between nations, cultures, and people, the roaming exhibition “Oman’s Message of Islam" was launched at the headquarters of UNESCO in the French capital Paris. The exhibition was organized by the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs in cooperation with the permanent delegation of Oman to UNESCO and the Sultanate's embassy in Paris.
The opening ceremony was held in the presence of a number of prominent personages of UNESCO. Among them was H.E. Mr Mohamed Sameh Amr, Chairman of the Executive Board of UNESCO and Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of the Arab Republic of Egypt to UNESCO; Her Excellency Dr. Samira Bint Mohammed Moussa, the Sultanate's Ambassador to the UNESCO; and Mrs. Nada Al-Nashif, Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences on behalf of and as representative of Irina Bokova, the UNESCO General Director. Also in attendance were a number of ambassadors, heads of religious centres and Arab communities, academicians, and a large number of guests from French society.
Her Excellency Dr. Samira Bint Mohammed Moussa welcomed those attending this event, referring to the Sultanate's efforts and responsibility regarding spreading tolerance and avoiding violence. She asserted that: “In 1995 UNESCO member states including Oman collectively pledged their responsibility to promote tolerance and non-violence worldwide." Tolerance is one of the principles of humanity that plays a major role in achieving unity, solidarity, and cohesion among nations, reducing conflicts between individuals and groups. "Tolerance also means respecting the culture and ideology of others, which is a fundamental pillar of human rights, justice and freedom.” She said further: “Encouraging peaceful dialogue and celebrating differences are indispensable in dignifying the human being. Our diversity and pluralism represent an unestimated wealth that ought to be cultivated, through the deepening of our knowledge of one another, the broadening of our visions and mindsets, and the nurturing of our exchanges and interactions. These values complete and feed into each other and they are the ideals by which the Sultanate of Oman stands, representing the path towards peace: by putting tolerance and respect as core values of our societies, and by focusing not only on what unites us, but also on what makes us unique." She emphasised that “Through its protective laws and inclusive socio-cultural practices, Oman actively pursues tolerance and non-violence.“ The Basic Law in Oman prohibits discrimination against individuals on the basis of religion or religious identity and provides for the freedom to practice religious rights so long as doing so does not disrupt public order.”
H. E. Mr Mohamed Sameh Amr, Chairperson of the Executive Board of UNESCO and Ambassador and Permanent Delegate of the Arab Republic of Egypt to UNESCO, made a speech in which he expressed the welcome and pride of the UNESCO executive broad for sponsoring this important event. He said: “Exhibits like this one help to shed light on the diversity of the world’s peoples. It helps to learn just a little bit more about the cultures of The Other, thus progressively moving all towards a rapprochement of cultures." He added: “The inter-connected themes of ‘tolerance,’ ‘understanding,’ and ‘coexistence’ are the building blocks of a true culture of peace, based on a commitment to the universal principles of human dignity and mutual solidarity.This exhibit is an international project that is being shown for the first time here at UNESCO headquarters, and we are truly honoured to host such a fine event.’ He continued: “Considering the context of the world we live in today where culture is targeted for aggression by extremists, this exhibition is most timely... It shows Oman’s strong commitment to the protection and preservation not only of the world’s physical heritage, but also of its historical and spiritual heritage as well."
Mohammed bin Said Al-Mamari, the Scientific Adviser in the Office of the Minister of Endowments and Religious Affairs and supervisor for the exhibition (Oman’s Message of Islam), spoke on behalf of the Ministry, expressing his thanks for UNESCO in hosting the exhibition. He also gave thanks to the staff of the Sultanate in Paris for their fruitful and effective cooperation. In his speech, Al-Mamari announced: "It is my honor to be here in UNESCO to deliver Oman’s message of religious tolerance, mutual understanding and peaceful coexistence." He added: “This exhibition has appeared in more than 70 cities in more than 26 countries. Now we have the honour here in UNESCO to deliver Oman’s message of salam (Peace)." Al-Mamari said “There is nothing better than to spread messages of goodwill to all people. It is our strong belief that peace and stability only can be realised today in any society through dialogue and understanding. And we sincerely believe that by working together, we can achieve the goals of religious acceptance and peaceful coexistence.”
Mrs. Nada Al-Nashif, Assistant Director-General for Social and Human Sciences at UNESCO expressed her thanks to the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs of the Sultanate of Oman for sharing this exhibition on 'tolerance, understanding and coexistence' with UNESCO and its member states. She added that “ a special thank you to the Permanent Delegation of Oman for associating the UNESCO Secretariat with this event. She said: “The theme and focus of this exhibition reflect the long-standing Omani traditions of pluralism and the commitment to an enriching coexistence between peoples and cultures. It is a timely reminder of the need to embrace cultural diversity, which also encompasses religious diversity. She added: "These are very challenging times. We witness the use of cultural and religious diversity as an instrument of division. We see systematic persecution of people on ethnic and religious grounds. We see intentional destruction of irreplaceable landmarks and a systematic and methodical vandalism of ancient sites. This 'cultural cleansing' -- as the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms Irina Bokova refers to it -- also destroys what is fundamental to peoples' lives and constitutes their identity. In this sense, these violent acts are attacks against our common humanity and the values that bind us together as a single human family.“ This calls on us -- with urgency -- " she emphasised, "to find innovative, more impactful and more significant ways to build peace. More than ever, it is time to protect and preserve the progress achieved during the last decades and build new and stronger bridges for dialogue and togetherness. By using the arts and new technologies, this exhibition recognizes diversity as a source of strength, creativity and innovation for all societied.” Nada al-Nashif further stated that “This resonates strongly with our mandate to lead the International Decade for the Rapprochement of Cultures (2013-2022), and UNESCO's mission to achieve peaceful coexistence through dialogue and the acquisition of intercultural competences and enhanced 'cultural literacy.' It is crucial that we harness and learn from the best regional and national examples of inclusive outreach. I am sure that this exhibition will nurture our determination to pursue a more peaceful and just world.”
Omani artists also contributed to the success of the exhibition. The calligraphers and graphic artists Saleh bin Jumaa Al-Shukairi, Anwar bint Khalifa Al-Husainia, and Samah Bint Said Bin Saif Al-Numaniya appreciated this opportunity to showcase their talents and artistic innovations in support of this initiative of the Ministry of Endowments and Religious Affairs.