Keynote Address by His Majesty King Abdullah II at the National Prayer Breakfast

Keynote Address by His Majesty King Abdullah II at the National Prayer Breakfast

USWashington, DC
02 February 2023


In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.

My Friends,

Thank you for your kind welcome and for inviting me to take part in the National Prayer Breakfast once again. 

I want to start by sharing with you an image that I myself treasure.

In my country, there is a sprawling tree in the desert known as the Blessed Tree. Every time I fly over this magnificent tree, I’m struck by the harsh, dry land it thrives in, and I wonder how deep its roots must go, how wide they must spread, to sustain its life.

That image fills me with hope.

Because this is no ordinary tree. It is over fourteen hundred years old. And it is the tree under which, as a young man, the future Prophet Muhammed, peace and blessings be upon him, took shelter when his caravan stopped to rest. Under its leaves, he met a Byzantine monk, who looked at him and prophesied that he would become the Messenger of God.

It is the earliest interfaith meeting between Muslim and Christian.

Today, although we may not be standing under a tree, this interfaith gathering also fills me with hope. Because, just as the Blessed Tree stands out against the harsh desert, our faith stands in contrast to the darkness of our times.

The National Prayer Breakfast brings us together at a time when polarisation and strife are tearing at the seams of our world.

Conflict continues in Ukraine, with thousands of lives lost and millions of livelihoods impacted across the globe. 
In a shifting geopolitical landscape, confrontation is crowding out cooperation, creating new risks of instability, and undermining critical global efforts to address shared challenges.

And we are seeing extreme ideologies seep into religion, politics, the internet, and more.

Dear friends,

For many, the world seems to have lost its way. 

But as this gathering testifies, we have a guide to lead us forward to the right path: Our faith.

My years of work have taught me an important truth: our efforts, and our success, cannot simply be a matter of politics. It is not politics that sustains us in the tough work of changing old mindsets and ending old hostilities. No. We aspire to a better future; we persist in doing the right thing, because of our faith.

Political goals are transient. God’s guidance transcends time. Politics can shift side to side. Faith is constant.

In the Quran, God tells us: “Faint not, neither grieve, for you shall prevail if you are believers.” [Al Imran 3:139]

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus Christ, peace be upon him, said, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” [Matthew 17:20]   

Faith—even in the seemingly impossible—is the single greatest act of defiance against despair.

But make no mistake, this is not, as cynics say, “blind faith”. It is active, 20-20 vision. It helps us see beyond earthly weaknesses and failures, and be, and do, better. This is the very essence of faith; the miracle of faith. 

And it is hard work. As Muslims, we are taught that ritual alone does not make one truly pious. To be faithful is also to act—helping the most vulnerable, respecting God's earth, reaching out to the stranger at our doors. 

My friends,
Across all religions, we truly serve God when we live our faith. 

In Islam, ibada, service to God, is service to humankind. We read in the Quran: “God loves the virtuous.” [Al Baqarah 2:195]

Christianity, too, calls on believers to serve others. After washing his disciples’ feet, Jesus said, “I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you.” [John 13:14-15]

And in the Old Testament, we read, “The stranger who sojourns  with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself.” [Leviticus 19:34]

Indeed, throughout the lives of all God’s prophets, peace be upon them, compassion was unconditional; it was complete, especially for the most vulnerable among us—the outcast, the poor, the sick, the oppressed, and the refugee.

That spirit lies at the core of America’s story as a nation of immigrants.

It is also an integral part of Jordan’s story. Our Muslim country is founded on principles of inclusion and respect for human dignity. And we have always been a sanctuary; today’s massive refugee inflow is only the latest time our land has responded to those in need.

Indeed, two millennia ago, Jesus Christ himself, peace be upon him, crossed the Jordan River into our Eastern Bank to seek refuge. We proudly continue to protect and preserve the site of his Baptism, Bethany Beyond the Jordan. A World Heritage Site, it has welcomed popes, patriarchs, and pilgrims of every church. Muslims too come to pay respect in peace and goodwill. I am one.

My friends,

The connection between faith and peace has a special meaning for the Holy Land. Our region is home to places held holy by more than half the people on earth. Whatever happens there could unite our world, or tear it apart.

At the heart of it all is Jerusalem. Its ancient communities, living side by side throughout history, have helped weave the fabric of civilisation. Al Haram Al Sharif/Al Aqsa Mosque is among the holiest of sites for all Muslims. The sacred Church of the Holy Sepulchre is treasured by Christians worldwide. 

Yet today, the Holy City's sanctity is violated and abused by politics.

To Jordan, and to my family, the Hashemites, Jerusalem has never been about politics. For more than a hundred years, we have been entrusted with the Hashemite Custodianship of the city’s Muslim and Christian holy sites. Under its purview, we have advocated strongly for the legal rights of all denominations—the historic “Status Quo” that ensures our faiths’ survival in the Holy Land. Today, our role is affirmed by Muslim leaders, global Christian churches, and governments worldwide.

The Custodianship is deeply personal to me. For generations, my family's life has been entwined with that of the city. My great-grandfather, King Abdullah I, prayed at Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque. He would later be assassinated on its very steps.

My father, the future King Hussein, was standing at his grandfather's side. He survived the bullets by a miracle. His experience that day and his trust in God flowed into a life-long, relentless pursuit of peace.

I remember so well how in his last days,.. he flew here to DC from Mayo Clinic, during his chemotherapy treatment, to help see through a new round of peace talks. For him, peace was always possible, and always the priority.

From my own first days of service to Jordan, more than 20 years ago, I took up the cause of peace. At that time, the possibilities remained tenuous, but real. People on both sides knew that their future would never be truly secure and bright unless conflict ended, and ended justly. Leaders were beginning to listen. International friends joined in to bring the sides together. I myself saw—and still see—the great promise of a region-wide zone of peace, stretching from the Atlantic coast to the Arabian Sea.

But gradually, we saw the struggle enter a darker cycle of stalemate, stagnation, and violent crises. The endless conflict was dividing our whole world, eroding confidence in peaceful political process, and fuelling extremism. Selfish interests and wilful blindness seemed to grow.

Over a decade ago, I wrote that we faced “Our Last Best Chance” for “Peace at a time of Peril”. At the time, some cynics suggested that seeing any chance of peace was over-optimistic.

Today, my friends, I think the title of the book wasn’t hopeful enough. There is always a chance for peace.

The fact is that the different peoples of the Middle East have lived in harmony far more than they have lived in discord. We do not have to reinvent the wheel to heed the Psalmist David, peace be upon him: “Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it.” [Psalm 34:14]

What we need now is not more political process; we have that in plenty.

We need our faith—the moral imagination to believe in a better, more just world.

We need the will to see our common humanity, rise above divisive rhetoric, and build the mutual trust our future desperately needs.

And we must start with words of mutual respect, like our conversation today.

Because, as God tells us in the Quran, a good word is “like a goodly tree, its root is set firm and its shoots are in heaven.” [Ibrahim 14:24]

My friends,

The Blessed Tree in Jordan’s desert also holds firm; its branches reaching to heaven, its roots digging deep. 

To me it is symbolic of our own transcendent link to God. Our faith helps us reach high to Him, the ultimate power for life and for good. It gives us strength to dig in, fight the crosswinds, and hold fast to the values that sustain our life.

This is how we surmount our adversities. Together, God willing, we will move mountains. In a time of peril, there is no alternative.

Peace, God’s mercy and blessings be upon you.