Seoul, Korea—Approximately 400 leaders from 60 nations attended an Interreligious Leadership Conference from 10 to 13 November, 2017, which saw the formation of a new international association of religious leaders dedicated to bringing world peace, the Interreligious Association for Peace and Development (IAPD).

On the second day of the Conference, all of the delegates were invited to join a rally calling for the peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula held at the Seoul World Cup Stadium, where the keynote speaker was UPF co-founder Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon. Monsignor Jacques Gaillot, the titular bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Partenia, France, and Rabbi Kevin De-Carli from Baden, Switzerland were among the religious leaders who offered prayers for peace during this gathering.

A number of religious leaders from Europe intervened in this conference, including:

Rev. Dr. Marcus Braybrooke, the joint president of the World Congress of Faiths, United Kingdom, said: “For real change to happen, people of faith have had to relate to those who wield political and economic power, and to educationalists, and to those who work in the media. We need a shift of consciousness, where the welfare of others is our priority. As Jesus said, ‘You cannot serve God and money.’ Gandhi said, ‘The world has enough for everyone's need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.' Many people around the world are praying for peace on the Korean Peninsula, and may that day soon come,” he said.

Rev. Dr. Marcus Braybrooke

Author: Rev. Dr. Marcus Braybrooke

President, World Congress of Faiths, United Kingdom

Rev. Dr. Braybrooke, a retired Anglican parish priest, has been involved in interfaith work, especially through the World Congress of Faiths which he joined in 1964 and currently presides. He was Executive Director of the Council of Christians and Jews from 1984 to 1988; he is a co-founder of the Three Faiths Forum, a patron of the International Interfaith Centre at Oxford and a Peace Councillor. In September 2004 he was awarded a Lambeth Doctorate of Divinity by the Archbishop of Canterbury “in recognition of his contribution to the development of interreligious cooperation and understanding throughout the world.” He has written over 40 books on world religions and together with UPF has coordinated a series of conferences on the topic of “Forgiveness and Reconciliation.”

Ambassador Jakob Finci, the president of the Jewish community of Bosnia-Herzegovina, spoke about the situation in his country. For the last 500 years the area was considered a religious paradise, but unfortunately in the 1990s, with the collapse of socialism and the breakup of Yugoslavia, “our world fell apart.” The war in Bosnia was not a religious one, he said, but was misused by the political leaders. Since the signing in 1995 of the Dayton Accords, which ended the conflict, the Inter-Religious Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina has encouraged greater tolerance and integration of the faiths. He described the council as a meeting point for religious leaders and said, “Diversity is something that exists, and we accept that it exists.”

Ambassador Jakob Finci

Author: Ambassador Jakob Finci

President of the Jewish community of Bosnia-Herzegovina

 Mr. Jakob Finci graduated from Faculty of Law in Sarajevo and practiced international commercial law. He was one of the founders of the reborn Jewish cultural, educational and humanitarian society LA BENEVOLENCIJA, and elected as the first Vice President. He served as the Executive Director of the Soros Foundation - Open Society Fund for Bosnia and Herzegovina and was one of founding fathers of Inter Religious Council of Bosnia Herzegovina, and for two years served as the first President. In 2008 he was named as the Ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Switzerland, and non resident ambassador to Lichtenstein. Mr. Finci is a member of the Advisory Council of OSCE -ODHIR’s Panel of Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief.

Monsignor Jacques Gaillot, the titular bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Partenia, France, spoke about his experience at the previous day’s Peace Rally. The monsignor was one of the religious leaders who opened the program with prayer. At one point the ten religious leaders were holding hands on the stage. “We were 10 men, all representing different faiths, different countries, different prayers, and yet we were united. Like a flower on a garland, each is a separate flower but together more beautiful,” he said.

He made three observations. First, no one has the truth—no group, no religion, no church. We are “seekers after God,” as St. Augustin said. Second, we should not accept injustice. As the Jewish prophet Isaiah said, “Then your light will appear like the dawn.” The monsignor said, “You will be a blessing if you fight injustices.” Third, always pursue the way of nonviolence and “be bridges to the vulnerable, the excluded and the unwanted.”

Jacques Gaillot

Author: Jacques Gaillot

Titular bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Partenia, France

Monsignor Mr. Gaillot studied theology in Rome and in 1961 was ordained a priest. He has had a long and distinguished career as a lecturer at the Great Seminary of Chalons in Champagne, the regional Seminary of Reims, the Institute for the training of teachers in Paris. A strong advocate for humanitarian causes, Monsignor Gaillot was appointed Vicar General of the Langres diocese, the Vicar Capitular and Bishop of Evreux. In 1996, he created the Partenia web site was created to disseminate information and act as a forum for discussion for the almost one million Internet followers.

Monsignor Mr. Gaillot studied theology in Rome and in 1961 was ordained a priest. He has had a long and distinguished career as a lecturer at the Great Seminary of Chalons in Champagne, the regional Seminary of Reims, the Institute for the training of teachers in Paris. A strong advocate for humanitarian causes, Monsignor Gaillot was appointed Vicar General of the Langres diocese, the Vicar Capitular and Bishop of Evreux. In 1996, he created the Partenia web site was created to disseminate information and act as a forum for discussion for the almost one million Internet followers.

Dr. Elmar Kuhn, the dean of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, Austria, spoke on the topic “Fields of Hope and How to Overcome the Dead Ends of Dialogue.” Despite many high-level conferences of interfaith leaders, peace remains an elusive goal, he said. He highlighted two recent programs held in Lugano, Switzerland, and Rome, Italy, which emphasized the gap between religious values and civil society policy. “There is a gap that separates policy from value-driven action for the common good,” Dr. Kuhn said.

He defined four fields of action that go beyond dialogue. First, religion brings spirituality and personal benefit by linking every person to the almighty God. Second, religion can contribute values to society. Third, it is the responsibility of religion to educate and inculcate religious values in the hearts of our children. Fourth, religion can deal with Europe’s problem of migration. The integration of migrants and refugees is not only a political task; religious leaders also must participate. Dr. Kuhn concluded by thanking UPF co-founder Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon for organizing the Peace Rally that had taken place the day before and for the invitation to the IRLC. He urged the audience, “Go into our society and share the message that we are children of God.”

Dr Elmar Kuhn

Author: Dr Elmar Kuhn

Dean of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, Austria

Mag. Dr. Elmar Kuhn, M.Theol. studied in Munich, Buenos Aires, Vienna and Salzburg and specialized on religious science, his PhD thesis was about the fundaments of religions. He is Dean of the class “World Religions” of the European Academy of Sciences and Arts, member of the European Academy of Religions (organized by the European Commission), Correspondent of the Academia de Artes e Letras de Portugal, hon. member of the Academia delle Science d´Abruzzo and associated Professor for history of religions at the Catholic University of Sanctae Marias du Congo. His main research projects are the intercultural influence of religions and the interreligious dialogue in general.

Rev. Dr. William A. McComish, dean emeritus, Geneva St. Peter’s Cathedral, Switzerland, reported on the Geneva Spiritual Appeal, of which he is an author. The appeal declares: “Religion should never be used to justify violence, exclusion, discrimination, or exploitation.” It was developed in 1999 by a group of international religious and political leaders, including Buddhist, Christian, Jewish, and Muslim spiritual leaders and the president of the Red Cross, U.N. High Commissioners for Human Rights and for Refugees, and the general director of the World Health Organization. The appeal calls for the following three principles: first, a refusal to invoke a religious or spiritual power to justify violence of any kind; second, a refusal to invoke a religious or spiritual source to justify discrimination and exclusion; and third, a refusal to exploit or dominate others by means of strength, intellectual capacity or spiritual persuasion, wealth or social status.

Rev. Dr William A. McComish

Author: Rev. Dr William A. McComish

Emeritus Dean, Geneva Cathedral

Dr. McComish is a Presbyterian minister in the Presbyterian Church in Ireland and the Protestant Church in Geneva. He received his BA degree and MA in history and political science from Trinity College, Dublin. He also holds a doctorate in divinity from the University of Geneva. In 1997, he was appointed dean of Geneva's St Pierre Cathedral, where he organized various interfaith services. He was also the general treasurer of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.

He has written two books: his doctoral thesis entitled The Epigones (Pittsburgh, 1989) and Permettez-moi de m'expliquer (Geneva, 2003). His main interest is in contemporary religious history, and he acted as chairperson of the group who wrote the Geneva spiritual appeal in 1999. His other activities include participating in the World Economic Forum and lecturing in a number of universities.

Archimandrite Vladimir Milovic of the diocese Budimlje-Niksic, Serbian Orthodox Church, Montenegro, said, “The critical question is how we can make sure that the fundamental values that should guide the political processes in the world — respect for human dignity, peace, justice, freedom, tolerance, participation, solidarity, and sustainability — can be maintained in times of change. No compromises can be made concerning these basic values. Even if policy choices may differ, our unity should be rooted in these values.”

He referenced the interfaith document Initiative on Shared Wisdom (ISW)–Thought and Action for a Sustainable Future, which insists that “a Universal Declaration of Human Responsibilities that would stand beside the Universal Declaration of Human Rights” is an unconditional necessity for a just, peaceful and sustainable world. The archimandrite comes from Montenegro, a country with “a tradition of a multi-confessional society, where three major religious traditions (Roman Catholicism, Orthodox Christianity and Islam) have been intertwined and have coexisted for centuries.” Learning about differences and how to understand them “deepens the understanding of one’s religious beliefs and mutual respect,” he said.

Archimandrite Vladimir Milovic

Author: Archimandrite Vladimir Milovic

Archimandrite of the diocese Budimlje-Niksic, Serbian Orthodox Church, Montenegro

Nikifor Milović, Diocese of Budimlje-Niksic of the Serbian Orthodox Church. Previously, he was Abbot of the Monastery of Dormition of the Mother of God in Piva, Montenegro. He graduated from the Faculty of Law at University of Belgrade (2000) as well as from the Faculty of Orthodox Theology at the same university (2012). His master thesis in the Faculty of Law at University of Belgrade was on Financing of Religious Communities – Comparative Legal and Historical Aspects.

Dr. Sheikh Hojjat Ramzy, the director of the Oxford Islamic Information Centre in the United Kingdom (Sunni Islam), who described some of the world’s problems, including pollution and war. “Humans are killing each other on a scale never seen before,” Dr. Ramzy said. “It is time to go back to the Scripture and discover the verses of peace that have been ignored.” He called for the participants and all religious leaders to work together to protect life, because all life is sacred.

Sheikh Dr. Hojjat Ramzy

Author: Sheikh Dr. Hojjat Ramzy

Executive Member of the Muslim Council of Britain

Hojjat Ramezanzadeh, known as Sheikh Dr. Hojjat Ramzy, is the Director of the Oxford Islamic Information Centre and the Muslim Chaplain at Oxford Brookes University. Born in the Middle East, Sheikh Ramzy has lived in Oxford for over 30 years. He holds an undergraduate degree from Oxford Brookes University and completed further Islamic studies at Markfield Institute in Leicester. As an Islamic scholar, he has worked with several governmental and non-governmental organisations and with religious leaders of all faiths. He established the Oxford Islamic Information Centre to provide accurate and accessible information about Islam with a view to promoting understanding, peace and brotherhood within the local and national community.

 

A Resolution was read and unanimously affirmed to launch the Interreligious Association for Peace and Development:

Resolution at the launch of the Interreligious Association for Peace and Development

Monsignor Jacques Gaillot and Rabbi Kevin De-Carli at the Prayer Ceremony at the rally calling for the peaceful reunification of the Korean Peninsula held at the Seoul World Cup Stadium.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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