“We believe that the founding of The Casablanca Institute is testimony to the good will and friendship that exists between the two nations, and also to the need to create permanent institutions to foster ‘religious engagement’ that will address the twin-Armageddons of climate change and nuclear war,” said Richard Cizik, co-chairman of The Casablanca Institute and President of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good.
"In a World where many dangers threaten the human species, reaching out to each other and working together among people from different faiths is absolutely vital. The Casablanca Institute, initiated by people of good faith and strong will from the USA and Morocco, is in position to contribute enormously to this outreach," said Institute co-chairman Driss Alaoui-Mdaghri.
Among those officials who spoke at the founding meeting of the Casablanca Institute was Rachel Bronson, Vice-President of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Under Ms. Bronson’s leadership the Council recently released a landmark document entitled “Engaging Religious Communities Abroad: A New Imperative for U.S. Foreign Policy.”
Founding board members of the Casablanca Institute include Driss Alaoui-Mdaghri, four-time Cabinet Minister and civil society leader, and co-chair of the Institute with Richard Cizik, who also served over the past two years as a co-chair of the Chicago Council document on religious engagement. Other board members, include Driss Ouaouicha, President of Al-Akhwayn University; H.E. Nourredine Sefiani, former Moroccan Ambassador to Russia and other nations; and Michael Kirtley, President, The Friendship Caravan, which was responsible for initiating the dialogue between Evangelicals and Muslims back in 2004.
The Casablanca Institute founders believe that leaders of faith and their communities can play a constructive role in building “common ground” in social, political and economic developments. During the Institute’s first meetings in Casablanca, Morocco the founding board held extensive discussions on the recently released document of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs entitled “Engaging Religious Communities Abroad.” In the near future the Moroccan leaders of the Institute will report on their reactions to this document.
The document states that “Apart from the activism of [these] religiously inspired peace-builders on the one hand and religious inspired terrorists on the other – each operating at opposite ends of the spectrum of religious violence – there is a vast and complicated ‘middle’ of religious presences in global affairs." To take one positive example, the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good has engaged in a sustained dialogue with Moroccan Muslim leaders on religiously inspired care for the environment that offers ways to engage religious communities in addressing climate change and other environmental challenges.
The founders of the Casablanca Institute are aware that recent actions by the Kingdom of Morocco to expel some missionaries for proselytizing necessitate ongoing dialogue over differences of opinion on religious freedom. During their visit to Morocco, Messrs. Cizik and Kirtley held lengthy discussions with top-level officials on this topic. “We believe that The Casablanca Institute creates a forum for honest reflection about the differences that exist on these matters,” Cizik said.
The Casablanca Institute was created as a non-profit think tank having a legal presence both in Morocco and in the United States. It will be open to people of all faiths, focusing especially on relations between Christians, Muslims, and Jews. It will be seeking support from foundations, institutions, and private individuals, and its scope of activity will later extend to other nations of North Africa and the Middle East. The next joint meeting of American and Moroccan leaders will occur in Fall 2010, with the naming of additional board members and an agreed upon agenda to discuss the threats of terrorism that exist for both nations.