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Tapping the light of faith in diplomacy


Ties between Saudi Arabia and Israel keep warming up, a sign of momentous shifts underway in the Middle East. The latest example came Tuesday. The Israeli tourism minister arrived in Riyadh and was the first Israeli minister to lead a delegation to the kingdom. Next week, the Israeli communications minister is expected to make a similar trip to the heartland of Islam.

Some of the groundwork for these official visits was laid years ago. In 2018, Saudi Arabia welcomed a group of Jewish leaders and other religious figures to a forum on “common values among religious followers.” Then in 2019, the Muslim World League, based in Mecca, issued a charter calling for toleration by majority-Muslim countries of all religions. In 2020, the imam of the Great Mosque in Mecca said Islam requires Muslims to respect non-Muslims and treat them well. 

Peace is often preceded by people of different faiths who reach an accord along shared truths. Religious communities, states the United States Institute for Peace, “maintain unique forms of relational, spiritual, and moral capital that are not available through other forms of human organization.”