In a show of extraordinary good faith, an ecumenical coalition of rabbis, priests, imams, ministers, and layman of many faiths and denominations gathered at the United Nations in New York to develop an initiative that would involve persons of faith – clergy and laypeople – in the decision making process of the UN.
Sponsored by the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Global Ethics and co-hosted by the Pastor Enoch Adebayo, General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God and the mission of Bosnia-Herzegovina to the United Nations, working under the UN’s Alliance of Civilizations, the summit, held June 20, brought together leaders in the the Abrahamic faith groups, to an international conference held under multi-national patronage and “notably, King Mohammed VI of Morocco.”
Keynote addresses presented by The Grand Mufti of Bosnia Herzegovina, Dr. Mustafa Ceric and The Chief Rabbi of Geneva, Yitzhak Dayan, focused on the shared values of people of faith, noting coincidences of history shared by all members of the Abrahamic faiths. Chief Rabbi Dayan, who recently participated in the Conference of European Rabbis (CER is an internationally recognized NGO, a non government organization) and met with Jewish religious leaders from 40 countries. That conference, as did the June 20 event, is seeking a United Nations initiative to internationally guarantee “protection of all religious sites as an integral part of any Middle East peace.” At the New York meeting, he joined the Grand Mufti of Bosnia Herzegovina, Dr. Mustafa Ceric, and Pastor Enoch Adeboye, General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, and Dr. Elie Abadie to discuss “The Road Map to a Culture of Peace in the Middle East.”
The formal presentations made throughout the event were of significant importance; the personal interchanges between and among participants were noteworthy. In informal conversation, the Grand Mufti recalled his visit to Auschwitz, noting that he had gone from one whose understanding of humanity’s capability of inhuman behavior had been starkly awakened when his own people were victims of genocide. “The Jewish people understood,” he said. “The Jews recognized what was happening before anyone else.”
Calling on the UN to assure the protection of the religious sites of all faiths…and to adopt into practice the relevant global ethics specified in international declarations and UN resolutions, the conference hopes to develop a culture of peace, dialogue among civilizations. With the guidance of Jewish, Muslim, Christian, and Catholic religious leaders, the conference proposes the creation of a dialogue among civilizations, to “serve as an inspiration.” With the significant particpation of young clergy – Christian, Jewish and Muslim – in the delegations, the message of respect and regard of one for the other, no matter what his or her observance platform may be, appears likely to be translated to the current (and next) generation of involved religious leaders and people.
The level of directness and frankness among this diverse cadre of multi-faith, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, multi-gender, and multi-generation participants promoted a climate of intelligence and hope. Cooperation was conspicuous: when language appeared to present a barrier, informal translators undertook the assistance of their colleagues, assuring that concepts and ideas were understood by all. Whether from Geneva, Istanbul, the Emirates, New York, or New Haven, participants actively joined together in their quest for increased respect and understanding of the “other”.
During his presentation, New York Rabbi Elie Abadie discussed the issue of the need for the United Nations as part of the Quartet, to recognize the rights of the Jewish people as indigenous to the land of Israel. The rights of indigenous people are protected by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People which was endorsed by the General Assembly in 2007. Though no formal resolution was promulgated, no objections were raised; in fact, outright support of the rights of the Jewish people to their land, based on his interpretation of the Koran was voiced by Dr. Oktar Babuna, a Turkish neurosurgeon, conference delegate, and Muslim. Establishment of this declaration would have wide consequenced, not be limited to historical reference, but could have significant impact on contemporary politics.
The conference concluded with a festive diner at the Edmund J. Safra Synagogue where the menu paid homage to the “comfort foods” enjoyed by many of the guests. An extravagant array of Middle Eastern hor d’oeveres preceded a dinner that could have graced any Shabbat table, topped with a fine selection of New York style pastries. Speaker of the evening Daisy Feisel, was warmly welcomed as she discussed the evolution of the Muslim community’s quest to build as Islamic Center in lower Manhattan. Her vision is to transform a project that was met with controversy and hate into one that will be a prime example of the application of good faith and cooperation.
The leadership of persons of good faith willing and able to direct their congregants towards positive, respectful acceptance of differences and the right to practice such differences is a precious resource.