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from issue no. 05 - 2008

A meeting with Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani

Seeds of hope from Qatar

A solid foreign policy, amicable relations with all countries, openness to dialogue with other religions: “So there would be nothing to prevent a visit by the Pope to our country”. Our director interviews the Emir of Qatar after the inauguration in Doha of the first Catholic church

Interview with Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani by Giulio Andreotti

Emir al-Thani is greeted by applause after agreement between 
the various Lebanese groups was reached, Doha, 21 May

Emir al-Thani is greeted by applause after agreement between the various Lebanese groups was reached, Doha, 21 May

Your Highness, our international magazine steadily covers inter-religious dialogue, a field in which you have been well known for many years for your sincere interest and for many important initiatives. How did this admirable predisposition arise? Also, what future awaits those involved in this dialogue?
HAMAD BIN KHALIFA AL-THANI: Our orientation springs from the tolerant teachings of our Islamic religion that came to complement the human virtues advocated in the heavenly religions that preceded Islam. From this point, our vision of dialogue between religions evolved; as a means of communication with the other and of knowing the other and to look for opportunities of convergence through which we can overcome discrimination between humans and draw the signposts of the road to life in its various fields on the basis of the common principles between religions. This embodies our vision of the importance of a meaningful dialogue between religions because it will lead us to have a future of love and harmony.
Your country stands out for its very considerable economic growth and strong international dynamism. Today many foreign workers, expatriates of different origin and religion, find work in Qatar. What do you do to favor the integration of these people in your country? Does not the development of Qatar also depend on the long-term prospects offered to immigrant workers?
AL-THANI: Normally, the integration of the expatriate in any society outside of his homeland comes as a result of his feeling of security, and the guarantee of rights. This is what Qatar offers expatriates working in it. This has become tangible and part of everyday life through the participation of the expatriates in various events organized by the State. Furthermore, Qatari have a tendency by their nature for tolerance, love, honoring the guest, and appreciating the contributions of expatriates.
Qatar already has diplomatic relations with the Holy See. In what fields do you think effective relations with the Holy See can today generate positive shared initiatives which may also be an example to other countries?
AL-THANI: The diplomatic relations between the State of Qatar and The Vatican have consolidated the ties of cooperation, dialogue, consultation and exchange of opinions between officials of both sides. We believe that this will promote the chances of making common initiatives to enhance dialogue between religions and civilizations, especially that there have been contacts and coordination between both countries in previous inter faith conferences, several of which are hosted in Doha every year.
The visit of the Saudi King Abdullah to the Holy Father Benedict XVI was a symbolic and concrete gesture at the same time. Do you believe that it will be possible one day for the Pope to be invited to visit countries in the Arabian Peninsula?
AL-THANI: The visit of my brother, the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, to the Vatican confirms the tolerance of Islam towards all religions. This visit also comes as a means of increasing convergence between Islam and Christianity. With respect to whether the Pope will ever receive an invitation to visit some of the countries of the Arabian Peninsula, this is something that concerns those countries. As for my country, the State of Qatar, and based on its firm foreign policy of establishing good relations with all the countries of the world without discrimination and its call for dialogue and tolerance between different civilizations and religions finds nothing that could prevent the Holy Father’s visit to the State of Qatar.
The Emir of Qatar with Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, Patriarch of the Maronites, in Doha, 5 May

The Emir of Qatar with Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, Patriarch of the Maronites, in Doha, 5 May

In March, the first Catholic church was inaugurated in Doha. What is more, on land that we believe was donated by you, Your Highness! In the wake of that longsighted benevolence, do you think it will someday be possible for the Catholic Church to promote the development of Qatar more directly? For example, in the health, educational and charitable spheres, at least for immigrants?
AL-THANI: The State of Qatar is witnessing a massive development boom due to our exploitation of our natural resources, such as oil and gas. We have opened the door to friends from various countries of the world to contribute and participate in achieving the developmental programs and projects we plan in accordance with the laws regulating this field. The State has directed a11 its efforts to improve the level of education and health services and to make them available to citizens and non-citizens alike.
In a world of rapid and sometimes unforeseen change, of instability at various levels, what does it mean, in your opinion, to be a faithful Muslim?
AL-THANI: As I have mentioned before, our vision of what is happening in our world today stems from the principles of our true religion. We are sure that all the dilemmas and problems in today's world can be solved if there are sincere intentions in respecting the other's views on thought and beliefs; and if constructive dialogue is adopted in dealing with our world's problems.

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