INAUGURATING the three-day interfaith conference at Madrid on Wednesday that has been organised by the World Muslim League at his initiative, Saudi King Abdullah called upon the 200-odd leaders of different religions, who had assembled there, to hold "constructive dialogue" to put an end to disputes between the various faiths; for, he believed, that "religions should be a means to iron out differences and not to lead to disputes". These noble thoughts, uttered in the backdrop of the current climate of bloodshed and growing hatred in which the followers of Christianity and Judaism are ranged against the adherents of Islam, should prove of groundbreaking significance in creating mutual understanding, were they to be pursued to their logical conclusion. And he rightly observed that to "succeed we must emphasise the common link between us, which is a belief in God". The Saudi monarch, representing a conservative system of Islam, had astonished the world by deciding to call at the Vatican last November and exchange view with Pope Benedict XVI in a bid to create religious harmony. Now the Madrid initiative reflects a wider approach, since not only Christians and Jews, but also Buddhists, Hindus and Sikhs are attending the conference at his invitation. His passion for religious tolerance also prompted him to call an intra-faith meeting of Muslims at Makkah last month to highlight the need for deeper understanding between Sunnis and Shias - the two major sects of Islam. At the Madrid conference, there were calls for the restoration of ethical values to prevent any clash of civilisations. Although King Abdullah's aim is to take up only common concerns between religions, like "ethics, family and environment" and avoiding discussion on politically contentious issues, one could hope that one day, perhaps, greater understanding among the peoples of different faiths would pave the way for their solutions as well as for the world to become a happier place to live in.