Newswise — The Prince of Wales is helping the University of Maryland launch a new international effort aimed, in part, at promoting better understanding and easing tensions between Islam and the West. The university is publishing a new series, Essays on the Alliance of Civilizations, written by high-level world figures to stimulate more constructive international dialogues. Prince Charles has written the inaugural essay.

The series is the first response to a U.N. initiative, the Alliance of Civilizations, set up last year by the prime ministers of Spain and Turkey to "bridge divides and overcome prejudice, misconceptions, misperceptions and polarization which potentially threaten world peace."

"The daily violence of words and actions spreads like a fever across cultures and borders," says Suheil Bushrui, the University of Maryland professor co-directing the project who secured the participation of Prince Charles. "Yet academic and international dialogues seem too often to focus on mere symptoms and not the infection. We need to change the tone and look for ways to harmonize and integrate cross-cultural discussions."

In his essay, Prince Charles rejects the notion of a clash of civilizations as "dangerously simplistic," finding instead destructive and fanatical tendencies on all sides that make the world increasingly dangerous. He recognizes the "universal truths," which, he says, all the great religions share, and highlights the contributions Islam has made down the centuries to the advancement of science and the development of modern Western culture.

The Prince also warns of the dangers of abandoning faith in pursuit of materialism and a modern lifestyle, a pursuit that has environmental, as well as spiritual, costs. He writes: "In an obsession with being 'modern,' we have stripped away the very thing that makes life worth living " the web of connections that link us to each other, to our Earth, and to the divine mysteries of life"¦There is, I think, a growing and uneasy sense that our technology and consumption are getting out of hand"¦and that we are fouling our nest."

Prince Charles suggests the answer lies in seeking a balance that combines "the best of timeless wisdom, together with the most appropriate of modern advancements. Surely, then, we can learn to work together across divided faiths, polarized political views, and over-specialized professions to create that urgently needed, integrated approach to the way we treat our environment and ourselves." In this respect, The Prince states, America is "in a very special position to provide the leadership that the world needs to heal the fragmentation of modern existence"¦"

"His Royal Highness was most gracious in helping us begin our series and eager to address the growing threats to world security," Bushrui says. "It is not well known in America, but for the past 25 years, Prince Charles has produced a significant body of writings that address crucial problems such as the environment and health. He has a remarkable vision and has translated it into practical projects. How well do people know that he has designed and built a planned community that excludes motor vehicles?"

Other high-level international figures will offer new essays in the series approximately every six months, and the alliance will also sponsor a variety of academic events. The University of Maryland Center for Heritage Resource Studies and the department of anthropology are publishing the series under the editorship of Bushrui and U.K. Professor David Cadman, who is affiliated with the Temenos Academy.

Later this year, Bushrui and Cadman will publish in both English and Arabic a selection of Prince Charles' speeches and public addresses, The Prince Speaks.

The Prince's essay, "Religion " the Ties that Bind," is available online: http://www.newsdesk.umd.edu/pdf/tiesthatbind.pdf