Jerusalem interfaith dialogue sees increased participation

September 14, 2011

Jerusalem, September 14 (ENInews)--Religious leaders in Jerusalem are more
willing than ever before to take part in dialogue with members of other
faiths despite growing political turmoil in the region, said Daniel Milo, the
director of the Jerusalem Center for Ethics, prior to the start of the
third annual Interfaith and Ethics Symposium on 14 September.

Religious leaders now realized "that the alternative to dialogue is not
acceptable," Milo said, noting that attendance at the annual symposium, which
delves into interfaith challenges, has grown over the past three years.
Still, he admitted, some Palestinian religious leaders from East Jerusalem
declined an invitation this year, largely due to internal community
pressures. 

The modern global era is forcing religious leaders to face challenges in
maintaining influence on their followers, Milo said. "Religious leaders can’
t keep their communities closed in anymore" and people are exposed to
different views and ideas, he said. 

"The leaders need to use stronger tools now to reach their communities.
Before they just spoke in their churches, synagogues and mosques; now they
have the Internet and Web social networks and they must use them," he added. 

Following a roundtable discussion where some of the 50 participants in the
symposium split into small groups and discussed issues relating to these
challenges, representatives of the three faiths participated in an afternoon
panel discussion. They were Archbishop Aristarchos, Chief Secretary of the
Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem; Abdul Rahman Kbha, Chief Imam,
Inspector of the Holy Muslim Places in Israel and Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Chief
Rabbi of the city of Efrat. 

The symposium was initiated by Polish businessman Aleksander Gudzowaty,
who said he chose Jerusalem as the locale because of continuing unrest.
"Everybody has forgotten that they need to restore childhood to the children
here," he said. "Everyone here lives in fear. Politicians speak in the
language of hate and violence and I wanted some social action which would
counteract that. Religious leaders should set aside their religious disputes and
join the mission."

Two years ago, he said, he would "not have even dreamed" to have Arab
representatives take part in the seminar. This year, Muslim imams in long
robes mingled with rabbis wearing black yarmulkes and long black coats, Druze
religious leaders in traditional dress and Christian priests and pastors with
collars and crosses.