The Words of the Kaufmann Family

Introduction to the Cordoba Declaration

Frank Kaufmann
August 22, 1999

The Inter-Religious Federation for World Peace and its antecedent organizations have advanced interreligious dialogue in all forms and at all levels for over two decades. At times the work has transpired under conditions of physical danger, physical hardship, as well as times in which we feel the presence of heaven itself.

This commitment to interfaith proceeds on the assumption that spiritual, religious, and cultural foundations are essential to the prospect of peace, as much as they are surely ever-present and intertwined even in occasions of conflict.

We are proud and grateful for the blessings which allowed for the success of the conference from which this declaration was issued.

The relationship between the communities of Islam and Judaism is profound and significant in the world far beyond its impact just on the two communities themselves. The historical and contemporary geo-political dimensions of this relationship are pivotal in the scheme of international and world economic relations. All too often though, sadly, the relationship between Muslims and Jews, especially as they occur in the Middle East, are approached and analyzed predominantly, and often solely, from external considerations such as economics and politics. This limited approach has led to a tiring string of failed accords, which in their inadequacy, short-sightedness, and ill-conceived foundations serve only to intensify ill-will, and further poison relationships among folks who, in many aspects of religion and culture are quite compatible, and have proven so at numerous times, in numerous places. One such place, quite delightfully, was Cordoba Spain in the 10th Century. This is one reason for the selection of this city for our dialogue, and why this declaration calling for Jewish-Muslim solidarity and on-going conversation is well named.

The Cordoba Declaration, however, is not meant as a piece of nostalgia, nor good script for a plaque on the wall. It is designed to mark the fruits of hard won accord, and unity of heart and purpose hammered out among players who combined rigorous commitment to their perspectives with the humility necessary to engage in and learn from dialogue.

Conference participants were selected both for their reputation and excellence in their respective fields, and for their personal confessions of loyalty to the faith community in which they conduct their professional and personal lives. Conference themes were selected as a means of pursuing jointly the roots of culture and belief so as to contribute to the foundations of these bilateral, inter-cultural relations on a more studied and less closefisted manner than what often transpires when dialogue ignores questions of values and belief.

The IRFWP and this journal does not labor in the dreamy space in which it is assumed that "all religions teach the same thing," nor is it blinded by a narcissism which errantly imagines that religions and religious people are always pleasant and peace loving. We are all too aware of the painful reality that religionists have involved themselves in conflict, and further that true religious dialogue is a complex and challenging undertaking. This notwithstanding, we hold firm to the view that interreligious dialogue is the compulsory starting point for genuine progress toward reconciliation and collaboration in human affairs.

Significant core beliefs held in common is not the same as far reaching uniformity, but they are the ground upon which those enlightened by them can stand and plea for courage, forgiveness, humility, and the mutual trust it takes to keep talking.

The Cordoba Declaration identifies some of these core elements, and after several days of wonder and hard work, Jews and Muslims stepped gingerly into a common circle and said, "we are the same, at least on these points. We are willing to look further from here." If you care to step into the circle, its bounds can be re-drawn to make more room.

The Cordoba Declaration

Gathering in Cordoba, Spain, a city steeped in the culture and history of our great faith traditions, we met as scholars, as leaders, and as faithful believers at the invitation of the Inter Religious Federation for World Peace (IRFWP) to discuss the subject of inter-religious dialogue and peace between these two great traditions and cultures.

We affirm that both Judaism and Islam teach the ideal of individuals, families, societies, and nations co-existing in harmony within a peaceful world.

Too often Jewish and Muslim believers approach one another with a spirit of competing religious and political ideologies. We decry the misuse of religion when it is allied to narrow political or ethnic interests at the expense of principles of justice, human dignity, and mutual respect.

We appeal to leaders of our respective faith communities to use their influence to promote interreligious understanding, dialogue, and harmony. In particular, we urge leaders and believers to affirm:

1. The human rights of all people, each one created with love by God, should be respected.
2. Education should promote attitudes of respect for people of other faiths.
3. Mass media should contribute to these educational values by fostering programming supportive of these ideals, and concern itself with accurate portrayals of Muslim and Jewish believers.

We make this appeal knowing well the obstacles, dangers, and suspicions that hinder the search for peace and cooperation. We also affirm, in the spirit of the teachings of both faiths, that within each human being is a deep longing for peace, and that it is the duty of religious leaders and governments actively to pursue peace for the welfare of all people.

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