Religious leaders gather at Tolerance Park in J'lem 311.
(photo credit: Vadim Mikhailov)
Religious leaders of all stripes, gowns and headgear gathered in Jerusalem’s
Mishkenot Sha’ananim neighborhood Wednesday to attend the third annual
Interfaith Ethics and Tolerance conference organized by the Jerusalem Foundation.
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Bringing together Jewish and
Muslim clerics, as well as clergy from numerous Christian denominations and
those of the Bahai and Hindu faiths, the conference this year focused on the
role of spiritual leaders in promoting peace and tolerance as well as the
challenges of religious leadership in today’s globalized world.
organization has taken on the task of working to improve the ethical behavior of
all peoples and all the adherents of all religions,” said Rabbi Yuval Cherlow of
the Jerusalem Center for Ethics and head of the Petah Tikva Hesder
“Unfortunately, the world is full of religious leaders who are
part of the problem at the moment, so we are looking for ways in which religious
leaders can be part of the solution.”
The day of lectures, panel sessions
and roundtable discussions, which included debate on the impact of the Internet
on religion, ethical behavior of religious leaders and the challenges of
globalization to religion, culminated with a ceremony at the Tolerance Park and
Monument in Armon Hanatziv involving a troupe of saxophonists, a police band and
an eclectic ethnic ensemble entreating the audience to embrace tolerance,
humanity and peace.
A series of blessings was also intoned by the
assembled clergy, followed by the release of dozens of white balloons into the
azure blue sky, some of which didn’t get stuck in a nearby tree.
problems of tolerance and intolerance are universal,” said Father Aleksander
Archdeacon of Poland and representative of the Polish Orthodox Church to the
Patriarchate of Jerusalem.
“In general, religion had done more to promote
intolerance, warfare and hatred throughout history than anything else,” he told
The Jerusalem Post. “As a religious person, I have to ask myself ‘How do I not
compromise myself and my faith while at the same time not be guilty, as others
have in the past, of promoting intolerance.’” Rabbi Cherlow was more circumspect
about the notion of an ethical world without religion when relating to the
claims of modern secularists that religion has caused division and conflict in
the modern world.
“Stalin, Hitler and Mao Tsetung, leaders with expressly
anti-religious convictions, each killed tens of millions of people,” he argued.
“Yes, religion can cause tension and war but I believe that it can also make
this world a better place and guide us in all aspects of life.”