Bridges Of Understanding
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By Dr. Khalid Al-Seghayer – Saudi Gazette 27-Mar
Building bridges of mutual understanding between the West and Muslims is possible and within reach. The first thing that we should do as members of the Muslim world is to open our hearts and minds and overlook the position of some influential and key leaders, particularly in the Vatican, who are reportedly against building bridges of dialogue with the Muslim world. From their perspective, allowing such dialogue would lead to Islam being put on a par with Christianity. We should also disregard the fact that Pope Benedict downgraded the office responsible for dialogue with Muslims to a clerical level.
We need to act accordingly simply because we have a clear message we are striving to convey to the entire world—that is, that we are determined to work hard to foster understating, tolerance, and peaceful coexistence. We are more than willing to extend our hands and open our hearts to people of other religions in the world and to followers of Christianity in particular.

I hope that there will be some moves and messages from the Pope and a readiness on the part of the Muslim world to open a new chapter toward engaging both worlds in constructive dialogue to overcome the barriers and build bridges of understanding with mutual cooperation from both sides. Peaceful coexistence and eventual long-lasting harmony are the consequences of mutual understanding and respect.
The key to allowing such hope to materialize is to identify common goals and values. Then, we need to move on and identify objectively and comprehensively the causes of the negative images on both sides and the ways to overcome them. Both worlds are also in need of finding common ground on which the bridges of understanding can be built for a better future for humanity.

The Muslim and Western worlds have realized that it is in the interest of both worlds not to escalate any further the already existing misunderstanding, misperceptions, suspicions, and bigotry on both sides. They are also awakening to a new belief that the time is ripe for both Christianity and Islam to join hands in cooperation and understanding, not clench fists in confrontation and prejudice. As stated earlier, building bridges of understanding with mutual cooperation between the Muslim world and the West is within our reach; once there is a genuine will from the Muslim and Western worlds, there will be a way to overcome the climate of pessimism and mutual distrust.

There is still hope at the end of the tunnel in the current global society that makes us strongly believe that generating an atmosphere of new optimism and understanding between the Islamic world and the West is indeed possible, especially building those bridges at the human level — people-to-people bridges.

Riyadh aids Sanaa with 2-month fuel
By Agencies 28-Mar

JEDDAH: The Kingdom, which is to host a summit of potential donors to Yemen in May, will give the country refined oil products to cover its needs for two months, the Yemeni state news agency Saba said yesterday.
Saba announced the grant in its report of a meeting between Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah and Yemeni President Abd-Rabuh Mansour Al-Hadi.
King Abdullah instructed his government to give Yemen a grant of petroleum products enough for two months, to help Yemen overcome its current difficult situation, Saba said, quoting sources.
In December, the king gave instructions to provide Yemen with urgent aid, especially petroleum products, shortly after the formation of a unity government.
Yemen, suffering from multiple security and humanitarian challenges, produces 300,000 barrels per day of crude, of which 105,000 bpd is exported. But supplies have been interrupted by sabotage attacks.

900 new schools will soon open in the Kingdom
Saudi Gazette 27-Mar
The education of the children in the Kingdom is at the forefront of the Custodian of the two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah’s concerns and future plans.
In response to the King’s emphasis on improving the physical structure and the quality of education of the nation’s schools, the Ministry of Education (MoE) recently approved 900 girls’ and boys’ schools, proposed to be completed for the year 2012/2013 at a total cost of SR 6 billion.

Some of the projects are new school buildings which are to be designed and built from scratch, others involve renovation and revamping while some will add new adjacent buildings to the schools that are in good condition but overcrowded with children. The Minister of Education, Prince Faisal Bin Abdullah Bin Muhammad, revealed in a press release earlier this week that the ministry is moving in the direction of transforming the nation’s schools into environments that foster learning, are more attractive to students, meet thei eeds, and accommodate highe umbers of students. A company specialized in school designs has been created under the umbrella of Education Development Holding Company, which is a governmental body set up to implement strategies that will bring a wide range of improvements to the nation’s schools. A major portion of the new school plans include the installation of grass fields, gyms, large halls that could be used for a multitude of purposes, and auditoriums.
The MoE has adopted a new strategy to maintain school buildings and properties in good condition. It has announced that any student, boy or girl, who deliberately damages, spoils, or vandalizes any part of the school property, will be obligated to cover the expenses of repairing the damage.
Additional improvements include installation of fire extinguishers in every school and routine inspections to make sure that the fire extinguishers are functioning.
Regular inspections will also ensure that fire safety exits at schools are available, easily accessible, and are not blocked or closed. Recommendations also state that the entrances to staircases and corridors should not be congested with too much artwork or any other obstacles that may impede movement in case of an emergency. To be partners in solving the water scarcity problem in the country and to preserve this valuable source of life, the MoE also educated school administrations on the importance of implementing basic water conservation practices and creating awareness among students and teachers. _

Kingdom pays tribute to victims of Japan quake
Arab news: 23 Mar

RIYADH: The Japanese Embassy in Riyadh commemorated the Great East Japan Earthquake that occurred last March at a solemn ceremony held in the presence of Riyadh Gov. Prince Sattam in Riyadh on Thursday.
“A year has passed since March 11, 2011 when the earthquake hit the east of Japan. Impacts left by the unprecedented earthquake and tsunami are still too extensive and deep to be contained. Japan is currently working very hard for reconstruction,” Japanese Ambassador Shigeru Endo said at the commemoration at his residence.
The function was largely attended by senior government officials, members of the diplomatic corps and well-wishers of Japan.
“The ceremony is organized to reiterate our deepest appreciation for the support and encouragement extended by the government and people of Saudi Arabia and numerous countries around the world. We would also like to reaffirm our unwavering resolution to overcome the formidable challenge,” the envoy said.
The ambassador revealed that 160 countries and 40 international organizations offered assistance following the natural disaster.
After a moment of silence, representatives from Saudi Arabian Oil Company and the Alwaleed Bin Talal Foundation received certificates of appreciation from the ambassador.
Photos showing Japan’s efforts for recovery and reconstruction were displayed. The exhibits included pictures of Sedai Airport which was damaged and flooded by tsunami waters but was repaired and put back in service in a month as well as a completely disrupted motorway which was mended in a week.
Deputy Foreign Minister for Protocol Affairs Alauddin Al-Askar expressed the Kingdom’s sentiments on the tragedy in which more than 20,000 people died and 340,000 became homeless.
Earlier, Endo said that the supply chain for the manufacturing sector has been completely restored. “Production levels in the mining and manufacturing sectors have now recovered to levels prior to the disaster,” he said, adding that 80 percent of disaster-stricken local governments have completed formation of a reconstruction plan. It includes ambitious targets to become global models for the introduction of renewable energies and development of hubs for advanced medicine.
“Through the realization of these plans, it is our aim to generate reconstruction-led demand in a tangible way.” He pointed out that at the end of the last year, a state of cold shutdown of the nuclear reactors was achieved in the process to their decommissioning.
“Japan will continue to give first priority to food safety and the health management of residents in the vicinity of the power station. Nearly all regions have returned to normalcy. We hope that people will come to Japan for work, tourism and study with peace of mind,” he said, hoping foreign investments will follow from Japan’s partners in the reconstruction work.
The envoy said his country is prepared to share the knowledge and lessons learnt from the disaster with the rest of the world and leave this knowledge for posterity. “We remain committed to making information available to all countries with a maximum degree of transparency, particularly in areas such as enhancement of nuclear safety and disaster prevention.”

Prince Salman Chair brings Arab history into spotlight

Arab News 23 Mar

RIYADH: Defense Minister Prince Salman recently launched an academic chair for historical studies at King Saud University in Riyadh during a ceremony attended by intellectuals and academics in this particular field.
Following a seminar organized by Dr. Noura Al-Asheikh, dean of the College of Arts and Community Service, Princess Hussa bint Salman spoke about her father and his penchant for history.
“I am really impressed by my father, who used to talk to us during the weekends about the history of Arabs and Islam, politics and world history. He spoke about the Arabian Peninsula without any partiality and referred to the stands taken by kings, princes and tribal chiefs and the poems they recited during battles.”
She added: “My father used to talk a lot about the role of women in the Kingdom’s progress and their educational and scientific progress. Women have made a lot of achievements in various fields with the support of higher authorities. Dr. Dalal bint Mukhallad Al-Harbi is one who received support to publish her book titled ‘Famous Women from Najd,’ which was published by King Abdul Aziz Foundation for Research and Archives in 1998, on the occasion of the Kingdom’s centenary.”
Princess Hussa said Prince Salman’s thoughts were not at all isolated from contemporary cultural and intellectual movements. “He has deep knowledge of history, lineage, tribes and their branches, which has made him an authority and reference on the subject,” she added. He often emphasized the importance of preserving history, she said. According to Prince Salman, tribes are part and parcel of society. Allah has said in the Holy Qur’an: We made you into nations and tribes so that you know one another.
The princess said she and her siblings had learned a lot of good qualities from their father. He has been a model for us, ever since we were children. He taught us how to behave with others without being tainted by arrogance or boasting.”
Dr. Maha Al-Rasheed, associate professor at the department and coordinator of the chair, stressed the importance of Prince Salman Chair and said many students have shown an interest in conducting research on the history and culture of Arabian Peninsula. The chair encourages students by offering them scholarships. The chair also invites foreign universities interested in the history of Arabian Peninsula to attend its seminars. “An Oxford University professor was one of the speakers in a seminar organized by the chair recently,” she pointed out.

Social Services Day to target care providers, psychologists
Arab News March 28, 2012
In cooperation with the Saudi Association for Social Science and Social Services and to mark the International Day for Social Services, Prince Sultan Humanitarian City will host on April 10 the 1st Scientific Forum on social services and the rights and care provided to the disabled.
The forum, held under the support of Secretary-General of Sultan Bin Abdul Aziz Foundation Prince Salman bin Sultan, targets social service providers, psychologists and others in the field to enhance the quality of social services offered to patients.
The forum, according to the CEO of the Prince Sultan Humanitarian City Abdul Aziz Al-Shamikh, focuses on evaluating social services and reviewing existing practices when dealing with disabled patients with regard to their rights and care.
It aims to provide specialists and experts in this field with the skills and theories to increase their knowledge and understanding of the different types of care and rights, as well as equipping social services specialists and staff in the field of providing care to the disabled with the necessary skills to build specially-tailored programs for this particular section of society and ensure they are successful.
Al-Shamikh said the forum will present a number of major papers, including one on a scientific framework to protect the rights of the disabled and improve their role in society, the obstacles they face at present and the new directions and social facilities in dealing with them.
“The forum will also discuss current social needs and problems, the foundations for personal and psychological support of the disabled, the scientific frameworks to protect their rights and the importance of training and developing the skills of the social worker,” said Al-Shamikh. On the sidelines of the forum, two workshops will be held focusing on communication skills and the importance of teamwork when working with the disabled.

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