News Release

Church Leader Shares Common Values in Saudi Arabia

Visit of Elder Anthony D. Perkins represents a historic first

On May 11, 2022, a representative of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints joined nearly 100 leaders of major world faiths and government ministers of religion gathered in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, for a groundbreaking conference entitled Forum on Common Values Among Religious Followers.

The visit by Elder Anthony D. Perkins, president of the Middle East/Africa North Area, is the first by a senior Church leader to an interfaith religious conference inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke at the G-20 Interfaith Forum hosted by Saudi Arabia in 2020 but that event was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Based in Riyadh, the forum was organized by the Muslim World League, led by Secretary-General His Excellency Sheikh Dr. Mohammad bin Abduikarim Al-Issa. In November 2019, Dr. Al-Issa visited the Church’s headquarters in Salt Lake City, Utah, and he recently visited the Washington D.C. Temple during its open house.

In addition to Elder Perkins, other participants in the forum included:

  • Muslim leaders, including Grand Muftis, Ministers of Endowments and Religion, or their equivalents, from dozens of Islamic nations.
  • Jewish rabbis from prominent congregations or national organizations in the U.S. and European nations.
  • Christian leaders, including a Catholic cardinal, the Ecumenical Patriarch of the Eastern Orthodox Church, and representatives from national U.S. organizations of Evangelicals, Methodists and Baptists.
  • Hindu leaders from the world’s most prominent temples in India and elsewhere.
  • Buddhist leaders from Sri Lanka and other countries.
  • Religious scholars from several nations.

Elder Perkins said the forum focused on the importance of religion and the good it can do in society.

“One of the key messages of the conference was that religion is a basic human right for billions of believers. Religious voices should not be removed from the public square by secular forces,” Elder Perkins said. “Each religion has a responsibility to promote common values shared by all religions, while respecting different beliefs. This helps reduce hate speech and extremist actions that can lead to oppression and violence.”

Many of the speakers commented on the importance of this conference being held in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Mr. Bharam Vihari Swami, a founder of Akshardham Mandir (Hindu Temple in New Delhi) said, “This is a signal from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, that matters. This location amplifies a message of interfaith tolerance.”

Mr. Abubacarr Marie Tambadou, Assistant to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, from The Gambia, attended. He said: “This conference in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia sends a very powerful message from the birthplace and heart of Islam. It is consistent with the United Nations’ objective of peace and human dignity.”

Elder Perkins said: “Speakers at the forum emphasized that religions can be a powerful force for good in the world by partnering with governments, secular institutions and others to address the key issues of our day. This includes reducing hunger and poverty, providing basic health care, improving livelihood through education (especially for youth and women) and preserving the planet through sustainable development.”

Conference participants talked about the importance of going beyond mere words. Rabbi Michael Bruce Lustig of the Washington [D.C.] Hebrew Congregation said, “We must couple faith with action.”

In his conversations during the event, Elder Perkins shared about global actions The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is taking to be a force for good by working with others in areas discussed during the forum.

Elder Perkins highlighted some of the Church’s efforts in these areas, including poverty relief and health care through its humanitarian outreach, livelihood and education resources such as self-reliance and BYU–Pathway, and teachings and practices for environmental stewardship.

Elder Perkins also shared how the Church is working for interfaith understanding, such as its Muslims and Latter-day Saints pamphlet and conference, and multicultural understanding with the NAACP.

At the beginning of the forum, Dr. Al-Issa commented on the wisdom of the Creator in forming diversity of race, language and religion. In his closing remarks he noted that reformers within each religion are our hope for a better global future. This sentiment is consistent with the desire of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to work with leaders of all faiths in blessing God’s children around the world.

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