Distinguished community leaders, ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Ambassador David Robinson, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Conflict Stabilization Operations, and his able team at the State Department, for hosting this important training program on countering violent extremism.
When I started my diplomatic career some four decades ago, the states were pretty much the only actors in the realm of the international relations and politics. They were both troublemakers, and troubleshooters.
Throughout the intervening years, however, we have witnessed that non-state actors have become increasingly visible, albeit mostly as radical extremist or terrorist groups, and hence as a threat to international peace and security.
Nevertheless, we firmly believe that the positive potential of the non-state actors is much greater, and is yet to be fully utilized in the service of peace and security.
Luckily, as a response to the pressing need for people-to-people dialogue, another kind of diplomacy, Track II diplomacy has emerged, not a substitute, but as a complementary tool, to mitigate tensions, and solve conflicts.
Today, non-governmental, informal and unofficial activities by private citizens, community leaders or groups of individuals are no less important than the Track I diplomacy officially conducted among States.
Particularly, the evolving nature of threats to international peace and security, as manifested by radicalization and violent extremism, makes the contributions of non-state actors even more important.
So, from this perspective, as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, we highly value every effort to maximize the potential of religious and community leaders to contribute to countering and preventing violent extremism.
As a founding member of the Network for Religious and Traditional Peacemakers, the OIC has long been at the forefront in highlighting the role of religious and community leaders in mediation and conflict resolution.
With a similar mindset, in an effort to make religious education a part of, not problem, but solution in countering and preventing violent extremism, we have partnered with the Global Counter Terrorism Forum (GCTF) and the Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO).
At the workshop, which we jointly organized earlier this month in Rabat - Morocco, we discussed the role of religious education in promoting peace and combating violence.
We also discussed ways in which various religious schools and institutions may contribute to promoting the proper interpretation of religion, and as such, to the prevention of children and youth from falling into the ideological traps of violent extremists.
To that effect, I believe, the international partnership of religious and community leaders has a potential to become a formidable non-state actor, contributing to the international efforts to counter and prevent violent extremism.
As the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, we are always ready to do our best in order to realize that potential.
I thank once again the State Department, as well as the Creative Associates and the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy, for putting together this timely training program.
I am looking forward to hearing from all participating NGOs and officials about their activities and experiences.