American-born Rabbi Marc Schneier, president of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding and a participant in the 7th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, stresses the importance of religion in peacebuilding and opposes the imposition of religious beliefs on others.
By Benedict Mayaki, SJ & Deborah Castellano Lubov
The current 7e The Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan brings together delegations of different religions from around the world in their search for common human landmarks in the world and traditional forms of religions and the promotion of understanding and respect mutual between them.
Pope Francis, on his 38th apostolic trip abroad, is also present in the Kazakh capital these days and addresses participants during the September 14-15 event.
On the sidelines of the 2-day Congress, Deborah Castellano Lubov of Vatican News spoke with Rabbi Marc Schneier, President of the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding (FFEU), who highlighted the importance of the Interfaith Congress and the impact that religious leaders can have on combating the ills of society and in promoting world peace.
A significant event
Rabbi Schneier, a veteran of these congresses, had the opportunity to participate and address the participants on various topics, including interreligious and intercultural dialogue and cooperation, which he believes are essential principles of coexistence. in our world today.
He notes that this seventh iteration is particularly significant because it takes place in “a Muslim-majority country” and is “an expression of what Kazakhstan is and its commitment to inter-religious cross-cultural dialogue and cooperation.”
More so, he says the presence of Pope Francis and his remarks to religious leaders set a tone that encourages participants to raise their voices against the many ills facing society today. The rabbi distinguishes this year’s event from others where, he says, there was “deafening silence and moral laryngitis from religious leaders.”
Role of religion in promoting peace
As the Congress unfolds against the backdrop of war in Ukraine now in its seventh month, Rabbi Schneier supports the impact faith leaders and religion can have in promoting peace in conflict zones.
He says Pope Francis’ repeated appeals about the war “resonate not only around the world, but in Russia itself”, as he referred to the absence of the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church at the event .
The rabbi, however, took the opportunity to highlight some of the remarkable progress made in the area of promoting interreligious dialogue, highlighting the impact of interreligious channels with regard to the Abraham Accords and the existence of interreligious centers in several countries of the Gulf, among others.
He also gave the example of Abraham’s house in Abu Dhabi with a church, mosque and synagogue on the same campus – a bold step which he said would have been unthinkable just a decade ago.
Rabbi Schneier says we need to “move from a black and white view of religion to a grayer view,” explaining that there are different religions with different paths to God, and therefore, no one should be arrogant to think that their path is the only way or to impose their religion on others.
“We can expose people to different religions, but we shouldn’t impose our religious belief,” he says. “If we can move to this place, I know it would go a long way towards less conflict, war, clashes and confrontations.”