Opening Remarks of

Dr Haruhisa Handa,

Chancellor, The University of Cambodia;
Founder and President, International Foundation for Arts and Culture

At the Launch of AFDD and Conference on

“Building Peace and Harmony in Asia Through Inter-Faiths Dialogue and Development”

Hotel Cambodiana, Phnom Penh,
22 December 2006


·       Excellency Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior,

·       Excellencies,

·       Distinguished Leaders of Different Faiths and Religious Groups,

·       Ladies and Gentlemen,


1.    Today, it is indeed a great honor for me to be here at the launch of the Asia Faiths Development Dialogue (AFDD) and the convening of the First Annual AFDD Conference on “Building Peace and Harmony in Asia Through Inter-Faiths Dialogue and Development,” here in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. AFDD, which is a new initiative to promote dialogue and reconciliation among the different faiths and religious groups, is set up under the umbrella of the University of Cambodia (UC) in order to ensure its development and transformation in terms of projects and programs as well as networking and partnership with other institutions of similar goals and objectives in other regions of the world.


2.    At the outset, I wish to express my most heartfelt appreciation to His Excellency Sar Kheng, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, for his important presence and the keynote address which undoubtedly will help set the tone of our AFDD Conference today. We are indeed honor and grateful for Deputy Prime Minister Sar Kheng’s important participation, despite his very busy schedule.


3.    We have selected Phnom Penh, Cambodia, as the venue for launching and convening of the First Annual AFDD Conference in Phnom Penh, because we believe that Cambodia provides a conducive place and a positive environment for inter-faiths dialogue, which we hope to expand to include many other countries in Asia in the future. Cambodia is one of the countries in Asia where there is peace, stability, security, and religious harmony. It is the country that I have been visiting regularly since 1994, and I have seen an amazing transformation of Cambodia over the years.


4.    The goals and objectives of the AFDD are the following:


a.     To enhance dialogue among the different faiths and religious groups;


b.     To promote understanding, confidence-building, mutual trust, reconciliation, tolerance, and moderation among the faith groups and other stakeholders;


c.     To foster interactive debate and engaging discussion on development issues, including poverty, that are of significant interests to the people from a wide spectrum in the Asia-Pacific region;


d.     To promote cooperation, collaboration and partnership among the key actors between faiths and development, including the different faith groups as well as youth;


e.     To promote faiths and development, as well as human rights education in the context of building peace and harmony as the catalysts for positive change and transformation at all levels.


5.    With those goals and objectives, I believe that it is necessary for the AFDD to undertake the following activities at national and regional levels:


a.     Convening meetings, seminars, and conferences on contemporary issues related to faiths and development of great concerns to countries in Asia or to Asia as a whole;


b.     Hosting regular annual Forum for Asia Faiths Development Dialogue to exchange views, share best practices, and balance between spirituality and development;


c.     Conducting relevant research projects or case studies on certain issues related to the overall themes of the AFDD to promote better understanding, reinforce the key principles such as tolerance, mutual understanding and dialogue, and propose policy recommendations for implementation;


d.     Issuing policy studies and publications to enhance policy dialogue and implementation related to faiths and development in Asia;


e.     Promoting networking and partnerships of like-minded institutions and individuals in Cambodia, Southeast Asia, the Asia-Pacific region, and the world at large; and


f.      Forging linkages between AFDD and the World Faiths Development Dialogue (WFDD), where possible, in order to strengthen AFDD and provide AFDD with the venue for regular engagement and consultation.


6.    I hope that AFDD can work in partnership with other institutions in Cambodia, as well as in the region in order to build good working relations and share useful experience.


7.    To undertake various activities, projects and programs, my organizations and I will be providing the requisite support to ensure that the AFDD’s activities will be implemented with great outcomes. And I hope that the Royal Government of Cambodia will extend its cooperation and support to AFDD as well.


Thank you very much and a good morning to all of you.