Jordan’s king Abdullah II receives 2018 Templeton Prize

His Majesty Abdullah II, King of Jordan, received the 2018 Templeton Prize last night in Washington, DC at the Cathedral Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul in Washington, widely known as Washington National Cathedral. He is renowned for his tireless work to promote peace and mutual respect both within Islam and between Islam and other religions.

Templeton Foundation President Heather Templeton Dill presented the Prize. She described His Majesty as “a spiritual entrepreneur, a person shaped by temporal and political responsibilities, yet one who holds the conviction that religious belief and the free expression of religion are among humankind’s most important callings.”

King Abdullah accepted the prize on behalf of all Jordanians. He reaffirmed the commitment to fight extremism, saying Islam is not about “cherry picking verses from the Koran to justify a political agenda.” He described jihad as the “internal struggle we all share to bring about peace and love,” calling on everyone to “keep up the struggle.” A portion of the £1.1 million prize funds, he said, will be used for restoration work in Jerusalem, including the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, a major pilgrimage destination for Christians.

Prior to His Majesty’s acceptance of the Prize, United Nations Secretary General, His Excellency António Guterres, offered his congratulations and gave remarks in which he praised the King’s generosity for taking in waves of refugees fleeing conflict and persecution.

The program also included remarks from two well-known scholars: Shaykh Hamza, founder of Zaytuna College in Berkeley, California, America’s first accredited Muslim liberal arts college; and Professor Miroslav Volf, the lead author of the Christian response to “A Common Word Between Us and You.” Welcome remarks and the closing prayer were given by The Very Reverend Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of the Cathedral.

Woven throughout the ceremony were performances by Jordanian vocalists Zain Awad and Emanne Beasha, the Dozan wa Awtar choir, and the National Music Conservatory Orchestra of Jordan, under the direction of Talal Abu Al Ragheb. During the musical performances, videos depicted aerial views of the country’s stunning landscapes as well as teeming daily life in Amman.

The King’s work to promote peace-affirming Islam gained momentum in 2004 in the wake of the Iraq war when he launched the “Amman Message,” a description of the central elements of Islam that also called for tolerance across the Muslim world. In 2006, he supported and funded “A Common Word Between Us and You,” which led to a 2007 open letter from Islamic religious leaders to Christian religious leaders. It called for peace and harmony based on “love of God” and “love of the neighbour,” commandments shared by both faiths.

In 2010, he proposed UN World Interfaith Harmony Week with a General Assembly resolution, adding “love of God or love of the good” to “love of one’s neighbour,” thus including all people of goodwill, with or without faith. The resolution, adopted unanimously, established the first week of February as UN World Interfaith Harmony Week.

King Abdullah is the 48th recipient of the Templeton Prize. The Prize is awarded annually to an individual who, “through insight, discovery or practical work,” has helped to affirm life’s spiritual dimension.” It is one of the world’s largest annual individual awards and was established in 1972 by the late global investor and philanthropist Sir John Templeton. Prior recipients include Mother Teresa, who received the inaugural award in 1973; the Dalai Lama; Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Jean Vanier and Fr Tomas Halik.

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