The Words of the Kaufmann Family

New Demands On Interfaith: Religions Must Take Greater Responsibility

Frank Kaufmann
Director, World Peace Institute, IIFWP
October 20, 2001

On Saturday, October 20, 2001, The World Peace Institute IIFWP hosted the panel "New Demands for Interfaith: Religions Must Take Greater Responsibility" at IIFWP Assembly 2001 in New York.

Panelists Reverend Junsei Terasawa of the Nipponjan Myohoft of Russia and Ukraine, Dr. Khalid Duran, author, Rabbi David Brodman Chief Rabbi, Rabbinate of Savion, Israel, Imam Muhammad Maqsood Ahmad Qadri, Grand Imam of Hazrat Data Sahib Mosque, and Religious Affairs, Department, Government of Punjab, Pakistan, Dr. Allama Muhammad Idara Minhaj-Ul-Hussain, Hussain Akbar Muslim theologian, Idara Minhaj-Ul-Hussein, and Dr. Andrew M. Wilson, Professor of Biblical Studies, and Academic Dean of the Unification Theological Seminary, USA, were invited to address issues outlined in the following backgrounder.

New Demands On Interfaith: Religions Must Take Greater Responsibility

The 20th Century already has many nicknames or assignations. Despite its abundance of war, most or all of it evincing implicit or explicit religious attributes, the century nevertheless can be seen as the century of interfaith.

Beginning with the Chicago Parliament in 1893 the next 100 years went on to see unprecedented achievements and relentless expansion in conversation among religions, religious leaders, and religious believers.

A Google Search for Interfaith Organizations claims to find 50,800 hits. 88 pages of them are shown allowing the researcher approximately 900 sites all of which stay faithful to the subject.

The North American Interfaith Network’s (NAIN) Directory of Interfaith Organizations list close to 240 organizations in North America alone! International efforts surely increase this number several fold, and even such lists do not take into account the countless academic and scholarly occasions of interfaith and multi-religious projects which proliferate day to day, nor the local, church level, and informal interfaith groups and meetings which will never make their way to internet observation.

Travel and telecommunications technology made the world "smaller" and migrations for many reasons created historically unprecedented "faith-demographics." These realities are energetically analyzed and interpreted by The Pluralism Project’s Dr. Eck.

In my own opinion, religious learning has kept apace. In societies with even a little religious freedom teachers, clergy, and believers have done marvelously well in getting to know and understand one another in a genuinely embracing spirit, and with increasingly sophisticated intuition and knowledge about each others’ faith and ways.

Perhaps no more awesome an evidence of the success of 100 years of interfaith can be identified that the actions of the Texas Christian, US President the day after the heinous and inhuman assault upon his people. In the National Cathedral on the first occasion to explain to a horror struck citizenry he stood with a Muslim Sheikh, and on the following day he stood stocking-footed in a mosque beseeching all Americans to love and support one another, and to love and support Arab and Muslim-Americans. A week later he spent a whole day doing nothing other than welcoming and meeting representatives of Islam, Sikhism, and other faiths. This while scorched innocents continued to be excavated from a smoldering earth.

This sort of standing and praying together with many religions until recently was the sole propriety of interfaith pioneers proud of their own path-breaking breadth and universalism. (A noteworthy interfaith pioneer Robert Traer warns of condescension and bigotry against other believers from this perch of "enlightenment.") As seen with W and with 100's or millions of others, we can say that the interfaith efforts of the 20th century have indeed accomplished much.

The purpose of this conference however is to ask those in religion and interfaith either "what has gone wrong?" or perhaps more gently, "while we have done much, do not recent events demand that we look to a higher plane for our on-going work."

We have indeed been able to do much to elevate the hearts and minds of many in love for one another across religious boundaries. Still NO ONE can deny that events of 9-11 has SOMEthing to do with religion. For this reason the WPI convenes an international, interreligious leadership community to begin this conversation in earnest. What is the reality of the way religion is functioning in the world, and how is it behaving in the context of a multi-religious humanity? What does religion and interfaith account for itself in light of 9-11, and the countless, ongoing religiously infused or shaded conflicts. Can religion and interfaith step up to the plate and contribute responsibly to genuine peace and cooperation. Can religious institutions be related to one another in ways that genuine, mutual support and cooperation is possible.

In many ways what is required is to bridge the gap between the ease with which so many believers interrelate, and the cold distances and even ungodly maneuvers which can characterize leadership and institutional activity in the world of religion.

We seek analysis, interpretation, and prescription in your writing. Please transcend diplomacy and niceties while not transgressing the elegant and loving embrace characteristic of genuine interreligious conversation.

 Download entire page and pages related to it in ZIP format
Table of Contents
Copyright Information
Tparents Home