(photo credit: Marc Israel Sellem)
KIEV – A new forum for interfaith dialogue was launched on Tuesday in Kiev, with
the announcement of the annual International Inter-Confessional
This initiative came at the end of a two-day gathering of more
than 300 religious and civic leaders for the World Religions and Civil Society
United against Hatred and Extremism.
The event, organized by Oleksandr
Feldman, a member of the Ukrainian parliament, was part of the efforts of his
Institute of Human Rights and Prevention of Extremism and
Along with the religious and spiritual revival the world is
currently experiencing, the accordant rise in the status of religious leaders
should give them a more active role in leading the efforts of ending animosity
between peoples in conflict, argued some of the prominent
“Peacemaking is usually a deed in the hands of secular
political leadership, and religious forces are now viewed as the nemeses of such
efforts,” former Knesset speaker Avraham Burg told the plenum attendants. “It
must be asked how you reconcile a nemesis into a friend, and how to reconcile
between secular forces that make peace and religious leaders.
one survivor of the 20th century is God, who survived nationalism, socialism,
communism, Nazism in the most secular, man-made era – but now in the 21st
century, God is back,” he added.
A similar sentiment was expressed by the
Primate of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, His Beatitude Metropolitan of Kyiv and
All Ukraine Volodymyr.
“A number of illusions existed in the beginning of
the 20th century... but they became nonviable,” he said. “That century was of
the crises of religion, when we were prosecuted. This century sees interest in
religion, that’s why we’re here to find answers.”
Patriarch of the
Orthodox Church of Jerusalem Theophilus III – making his first visit to Ukraine
for the conference – said that “we have always heard that religion is part of
root of violence, and cannot escape the fact that some adherents of the three
faiths have cloaked their violence with religion.”
He noted that it was
the duty of the religious leadership to condemn such violence and educate people
about peaceful existence, while stressing the religious sources encouraging
“Coexistence implies partnership,” and that alone, he
“But symbiosis means merging,” which is the more appropriate
attitude, he said.
Theophilus later rejected the notion that interfaith
dialogue should be halted in the wake of the recent terror attacks against Jews
in Israel, as announced by Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger. Both of them are
members of the Council of Religious Institutions of the Holy Land.
would be wrong to not talk. Dialogue helps people understand, confront the
difficulties,” he told the Post.
Feldman, who is also the the Chairman of
the Ukrainian Jewish Committee and hosted the Post at the event, stressed the
need to begin educational processes with children, who unlike their parents,
still possess open minds.
“Education is the key to creating tolerance,” Feldman said.
“The children of today need guidance in religious
tolerance and sensitivities. If we start with the young, we have hope for the
He also noted the unrest in the Middle East and North Africa as
evidence of the need for leaders of all faiths to come together in addressing
hatred and intolerance – and rejected the idea of freezing dialogue between
faiths in the Holy Land.
“Only good can come out of dialogue between our
communities,” he said. “Stopping to talk will solve nothing and will only be
viewed by the terrorists as an achievement in disrupting all the successes our
communities have already achieved.”
The event did not only address the
volatile Middle East, but other areas in the world with religiously-motivated
violence. It also focused on Ukraine, which besides the many ethnic minorities
it is home to, contains a division even in the most mainstream religion of its
Asked whether the Israeli and Ukrainian cases bear any
relevance to one another, directorgeneral of the Ukrainian Jewish Community
Eduard Dolinsky answered yes.
“The Ukrainians can definitely learn from
the Middle East,” he said. “Look at what can happen when the sides cannot reach