Princess Opens Forum for Religious Dialogue
At an historic interfaith gathering, Her Royal Highness, Princess Mathilde of Belgium joined Rabbi Elie Abadie, former Archbishop of New York, His Eminence, Edward Cardinal Egan, Imam Omer Bajwa of the Yale Interfaith Center, and the Reverend Stephen Bauman, senior minister of United Methodist Church in New York, to explore the commonalities among adherents of the three the Abrahamic faiths and enhance the ability of religious leaders to foster inter religious and intercultural understanding, hope and respect. Their quest is to develop a Culture of Peace among the faithful.
In his opening remarks, Rabbi Elie Abadie, Senior Rabbi of the Edmond J. Safra Synagogue in New York, said “We are gathered at the behest of Her Royal Highness Princess Mathilde to continue our quest for peace that rejects violence. “We acknowledge that the world has not yet achieved a Culture of Peace. Prejudice and stereotyping enjoin us from finding a pathway for peaceful coexistence among the three Abrahamic faiths.
Each religious leader offered his view of the interactions among the religious communities in America to Her Royal Highness. His Eminence Cardinal Egan, calling America the most religious country in the Western world, spoke of the importance of understanding and respect from members of the Christian community, noting that he felt “very much at home” visiting the Safra Synagogue. He commented on the closeness of all the religious communities in New York, describing the strong associations among the Archdiocese, the Council of Churches and the New York Board of Rabbis: “wonderful relationships based on hope, justice, and holiness.” Reverend Stephen Bauman noted that Jesus shared the covenant with Abraham, and had promised to preserve, protect and nurture all his children. He discussed of the importance of the “Partnership of Faith,” a group of spiritual leaders who have worked together for twenty five years, and have “established friendship” that enabled respect and cooperation.” “We worship the same God,” said Imam Bajwa, noting that clergy are now “interacting in a multi-cultural fashion.”
Rabbi Abadie quoted Prince el Hassan bin Talal of Jordan statement that “throughout history, religious differences have divided men and women…In the modern world it has become clear that people of all religions must bridge these differences and work together to ensure our survival and realize the vision of peace that all faiths share.”
Reiterating the goals of cooperation, Abadie summarized, saying “Our aims should be three-fold: to stand together against harassment or attack, to respond together to events which impact the relationships between the Jewish, Christian and Moslem people, and to overcome misrepresentation, demonization, stereotyping, prejudice and lack of awareness through an educational process that teaches peace and respect for each religion with a goal of a peaceful and respectful coexistence. All three faiths must “share a desire for peace and justice.” said Cardinal Egan. Religion, he said “has the ability to foster hope and respect among the faithful.
The synagogue visit and extensive dialogue capped a visit to New York by the Belgium Crown Princess and her husband, Crown Prince Philippe.
“Despite a decade of United Nations efforts “the world has not yet achieved the Culture of Peace that it seeks,” said Abadie. “Demonization and de-legitimization of peoples and nations still is rampant. Barriers still preventing us from achieving the Culture of Peace include:
1. Nuclear Negativity – Nuclear weapons proliferation has put our world in a path of self destruction. For the last ten years, one nation member of the United Nations has sworn to annihilate another member nation of the United Nations and has been allowed with impunity to develop nuclear materials and very soon will have nuclear weapons developed under the nose of the United Nations Atomic Agency. This is a clear barrier to the Culture of Peace.
2. Prejudice and Stereotyping – must be eliminated to find a path toward a peaceful coexistence between all religions and all people; especially the world’s three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.