On August 1, I attended the Gala Dinner at the Beverly Hilton Hotel for the inaugural King Hamad Award for Peaceful Coexistence under the patronage of His Majesty King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa of Bahrain, sponsored by The King Hamad Global Center for Peaceful Coexistence and This is Bahrain.
It was an uplifting and inspiring evening, especially at this moment of struggle and strife, including our beloved Israel. If this interfaith movement could take off — after centuries of battles between religions — and fulfill his Majesty’s declaration on religious freedom that “every person has the right to pray as he or she sees fit,” then anything is possible for our people. It’s an optimistic vision in this moment of despair and hostility, where brother is rising against brother, and where many concerned that the dispute over the role of Israel’s Supreme Court has irremediably damaged Israel’s unity. The King is determined to create the most comprehensive interfaith movement ever undertaken, to bring peace and harmony among people through religious freedom.
The evening began with a video showing meetings between Jewish, Christian, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Bahai and other faith leaders coming together on the initiative of the King of Bahrain.
The chairman of the King Hamad Global Center for Peaceful Existence, Dr. Sheikh Abdullah bin Ahmed Al Khalifa talked about the search for peace and harmony through religious freedom, a recurrent theme in Bahrain’s history and culture. Peaceful coexistence is possible and is reachable, he said, and King Hamad’s vision is to fulfill this promise.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Marvin Hier’s speech blended a keen sense of humor (his first connection with the King was their mutual admiration of Frank Sinatra), spirituality (his Jewish blessing for the King), and pointed biblical references. Rabbi Hier spoke of the rewarding experience of working with the King, of how the King had denounced the Arab boycott of Israel and of the Wiesenthal Center’s work to make “The Abraham Accords a historic reality.”
He introduced Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, one of the principal architects of the Accords, as the keynote speaker. Secretary Pompeo believed that “there was a place for every nation to prosper through their friendship and shared cooperation.” He said that the idea of “peace through strength” made the Abraham Accords possible. He explained thart “we know strength deters wars, and weakness invites them” and that Israel “is not the problem in the Middle East,” and received the loudest applause of the evening.
“We know strength deters wars, and weakness invites them … Israel is not the problem in the Middle East.”- Mike Pompeo
Betsy Mathieson, Deputy Chairperson of “This is Bahrain,” said the evening conveyed the King’s spirit and vision of harmony brought about by freedom of religion.
I left the event inspired, hopeful and believing that anything is possible. It just requires people like the leaders present at this evening to work with courage, heart, and vision.
Gina Ross, MFCT, is the Founder/President of the International Trauma-Healing Institute USA (ITI-Israel).