The Values That Bind Us: A Conversation On Religious Tolerance And The Potential For Inter-Faith Dialogue

Following Pope Francis’ historic and widely acclaimed visit to the United Arab Emirates last week, the Brussels-based policy research centre, The Bussola Institute, assembled a diverse group of senior clerics, theologians and religious experts for a ‘Majlis’ – an open discussion – to consider the issues of tolerance, interfaith understanding, mutual respect and countering extremism. The core aim was to consider ways to maintain momentum at a potentially pivotal moment of change.

Representing the full range of Abrahamic faiths (Islam, Christianity and Judaism), the 20-strong group agreed with the Pope’s view that there are many more areas of shared belief and understanding than religious doctrines that divide.  These included shared values of compassion, mutual respect, tolerance and selflessness.

Asked how the Pope’s message of tolerance and shared respect might be carried more widely across Europe and the Arab World, contributors agreed the need for strong leadership, early education, societal commitment to community volunteering and more regular and widespread interfaith engagement.  It was also argued that there was an urgent need for a wider range of role models and stronger advocates for religious moderation.

Delegates engaged in robust and vigorous discussion of the issues involved.  No-one suggested that interfaith dialogue and religious rapprochement would be easy but by the close of the Majlis there was broad acceptance that Pope Francis’ initiative in Abu Dhabi had been a bold and visionary step that highlighted the many areas of shared belief and understanding, over religious differences that divide communities and frequently sow deep hatreds and deadly enmity. As the Secretary General of Bussola, John Dennehy, observed: “This has been a rich, rewarding, robust and stimulating debate that, more than anything else, has shown that representatives of diverse religious persuasions can find common ground and agree many shared values – values that bind and will hopefully inform future religious discourse across the whole of Europe and the Islamic world.”



  1. The Bussola Institute was founded in 2017 and aims to conduct policy research and promote understanding and stronger relationships between the countries of the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – and the member states of the European Union (EU).
  2. ‘The Values That Bind Us’ Majlis took place on 12th February 2019 at the headquarters of the Bussola Institute, Square de Meeus 28, Brussels 1000.  The ‘Majlis’ was held under The Chatham House Rule.
  3. Follow up questions should be addressed to Angus Taverner – or +44 7976 697290.
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