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Why the Templeton Prize for King Abdullah is of such prominence?

Nov 20,2018 - Last updated at Nov 20,2018

The simple answer is because it crowns His Majesty King Abdullah’s relentless efforts in: Clearing Islam from bigotry and desecration, reaffirming the Jordanian tradition of promoting full understanding among followers of all faiths and combatting all and every trend of discord and hatred, particularly when on religious ground, anywhere in this world.

The prize emphatically confirms the great success the King's interfaith tedious marathon has so far accumulated.

The Templeton Prize, established in 1972 by John Marks Templeton, is an award presented annually to a living person “who has made a significant contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension, whether through insight, discovery or practical works".

Previous recipients of the Templeton Prize include a diverse range of political leaders, religious figures and scholars including 1973 inaugural winner Mother Theresa, The Dalai Lama (2012) and Desmond Tutu (2013). The prize is considered to be equivalent to Nobel Prize for religion, though recipients may be of any profession with emphasis placed on work that explores the relationship between spirituality and science.

When it comes to the promotion of peace, stability and religious harmony, there is no leader in the world today who has contributed more towards these values than King Abdullah. The only leader today who can be described as the embodiment of wisdom and humility, a recipe for effective leadership, is the Jordanian Monarch and he has proven this time and time again through his effectiveness in maintaining Jordanian peace and stability, in the midst of the world’s most volatile region. Jordanian stability is always considered key to regional stability.

Therefore, while it brought all Jordanians tremendous pride and joy, it came as no surprise when on June 27, 2018, the John Templeton Foundation announced that King Abdullah was the 2018 Templeton Prize winner, joining a distinguished group of previous recipients.

King Abdullah is chosen for his work promoting religious harmony and cooperation within Islam, promoting dialogue between Muslims of differing traditions and harmony between Islam and other faiths.

Following the announcement, the John Templeton Foundation explained that the King “has led a reclamation of Islam’s moderate theological narrative from the distortions of radicals”. The foundation cited specific works by His Majesty, for which he was honored.

His 2004 “Amman Message” was cited as one of the reasons for his award. The foundation explained that this message was developed when relations between Sunni and Shiite Muslims deteriorated due to the Iraq war, and was expanded the following year when the King invited 200 Islamic scholars from 50 countries to Jordan. Those consultations resulted in the “three points of the Amman Message”, which recognised the validity of all eight of Islam’s legal schools and explicitly forbade declarations of apostasy.

In 2007, the King advocated for and funded an initiative called “A Common Word Between Us and You”, in which Muslim leaders addressed their Christian counterparts, calling for cooperation between the two religions based on the shared traditions of the love of God and love of neighbour. From that initiative came a 2010 proposal at the United Nations: The World Interfaith Harmony Week, which the UN now marks during the first week of February “to stress the moral imperative of promoting and understanding the values of peace inherent in all religions”, the foundation explained.

The foundation acknowledged that for His Majesty, these and other efforts have “come with great personal cost, including condemnation and death threats from radical terrorist groups”. “As a result of Jordan’s key geographical location, [the King’s] efforts have required extraordinary courage to advance cooperation within Islam and between Islam and other religions.”

Upon accepting his prize, in a videotaped message, King Abdullah called on the world to “confront challenges to our shared humanity and values”. “They are the very ground of the coexistence and harmony our future depends on. And this is why I feel it is so urgent to promote tolerance and mutual respect, support inclusion and hope, speak out against Islamophobia and other wrongs and make our values a real force in the daily life of the modern world.”

He added: “I am especially moved by this prize-giving, because I feel it as a true hand of friendship to all those who share in the work for tolerance and mutual respect, my fellow Jordanians, Muslim and Christian, and Muslim men and women around the world, 1.8 billion people, who play a vital role in humanity’s progress and future.”

Heather Templeton Dill, president of the John Templeton Foundation and the granddaughter of Sir John Templeton, the global investor and philanthropist who founded the prize in 1972, said “King Abdullah offers the world the true definition of a spiritual entrepreneur, a person shaped by temporal and political responsibilities, yet who holds both the belief and free expression of religion as among humankind’s most important callings.” She called his work “inspiring” adding that “he has underscored the importance of Islam’s diversity rather than seeking to invent or enforce uniformity where none exists, he has built upon the power of principled pluralism to extend religious harmony among the 1.8 billion followers of Islam, the world’s second largest religion, so that each can recognise one another as Muslims".

"We at the John Templeton Foundation cannot think of a more important message of peace and reconciliation for the world to hear and embrace in the 21st century," she added. 

Dill highlighted that "The Amman Message, the Common Word and the United Nations Interfaith Harmony Week" stress the importance of understanding the values of peace inherent in all religions.

This week, our sense of pride in our Monarch resurfaced once again, as the King received his prize in an award ceremony in Washington DC in the presence of ambassadors, government officials from Jordan and the United States, media, religious leaders and society leaders.

United Nations Secretary General António Guterres also attended the ceremony, calling the King an “outstanding statesman, the messenger for peace”, as well as “a very dear friend”. The secretary general also remarked, “In this world where we see, unfortunately, proliferating both hatred and chaos, there are a few pillars of wisdom and compassion, and one of the most solid of these pillars is the awardee of this year’s Templeton Prize.”

In a resounding speech, The King told those assembled that he was “truly humbled” and went on to praise Jordanians for their openness, “Everything you honour me for simply carries onward what Jordanians have always done, and how Jordanians have always lived — in mutual kindness, harmony and brotherhood. And so, I accept this extraordinary prize, not on my own behalf, but on behalf of all Jordanians.”

Being the custodian of the Muslim and Christian Holy Places in Jerusalem, His Majesty has allocated part of the prize money for restoring and renovating the religious sites in Jerusalem, including Al Haram Al Shareef and the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. His Majesty declared: “The entire remaining sum is also being donated to humanitarian, interfaith and intra-faith initiatives, in Jordan and around the world.”

Truly a great award recognising the great work of a great King.

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