Strains credulity, but it’s the UN:
Saudi Arabia to Lead U.N. Faith Forum
Saudi Arabia, the oil-rich Islamic kingdom that forbids the public practice of other religious faiths, will preside Wednesday over a two-day U.N. conference on religious tolerance that will draw more than a dozen world leaders, including President Bush, Israeli President Shimon Peres and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown.
The event is part of a personal initiative by Saudi King Abdullah to promote an interfaith dialogue among the world’s major religions.
Dialogue, but from different tables:
The Saudi leader agreed for the first time to dine in the same room with the Israeli president at a private, pre-conference banquet Tuesday hosted by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. But Ban hinted that the two leaders — whose governments do not have diplomatic relations — were not seated at the same table.
Seeing the moral equivalence glass half full instead of totally empty, Ban Ki-moon finds that encouraging:
“Normally, in the past, they have not been sitting in the same place like this. That is very important and encouraging,” Ban said.
Another enabler: Catholic priest and General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto, whose blind spot extends well beyond the walls of the UN building,
“Humanity is in moral bankruptcy, and we are in need of being bailed out,” d’Escoto said. Asked whether Saudi Arabia had the moral standing to preside over the event, d’Escoto said: “I never conceived the United Nations as an organization of saints. We are in the world a community of sinners . . . and we should accept warmly any brother who wants to join forces to resolve” the most pressing problems.
At least a Saudi national, who may have a lot to lose, condemned Saudi Arabia
“Saudi Arabia is not qualified to be a leader in this dialogue at the United Nations,” said Ali Al-Ahmed, a Saudi national who serves as director of the Washington-based Institute for Gulf Affairs. “It is the world headquarters of religious oppression and xenophobia.”
Amen to that.
Further Saudi news, via Dan,
Beware this Saudi deal to help bail out Britain. It comes with a devastating IOU. Go read every word.