A Church general authority visited an interfaith conference inside the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the first time earlier this month.
Elder Anthony D. Perkins, General Authority Seventy and president of the Church’s Middle East/Africa North Area, joined nearly 100 leaders of major world faiths and government ministers of religion on May 11 for the Forum on Common Values Among Religious Followers.
The groundbreaking conference was based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and organized by the Muslim World League, led by Secretary-General Mohammad Abdulkarim Al-Issa.
Elder Perkins said the forum focused on the importance of religion and the good it can do in society, according to a report on the Church’s Middle East Newsroom.
“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.”
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 key issues, said Elder Perkins.
“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.”
During the event, Elder Perkins shared ways The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is working to be a force for good around the world by working with others.
Those ways include humanitarian outreach such as poverty relief and healthcare, education resources through self-reliance and BYU–Pathway, environmental stewardship, interfaith understanding like the Muslims and Latter-day Saints pamphlet, and multicultural understanding with the NAACP.
Dr. Al-Issa commented on the wisdom of the Creator in forming diversity of race, language and religion, reported Middle East Newsroom. He also noted that reformers within each religion are the hope for a better global future.
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke at the G-20 Interfaith Forum, hosted by Saudi Arabia in October 2020. Sister Sharon Eubank, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, also addressed the forum. But that event was held virtually because of the COVID-19 pandemic.