Religious leaders meeting in Israel find they face similar challenges

Published October 22, 2009

Leaders from different faiths who met recently in Israel see such gatherings as important for people who might fear to meet in their daily lives, but can share their experiences in an enclave of trust, says one of the organizers.Rabbi Alon Goshen-Gottstein, director of the Jerusalem-based Elijah Interfaith Institute said that religious people worldwide face similar challenges and expectations, so sharing a broad universal approach could be beneficial to their work. He was speaking at the conclusion of a five-day conference in the northern Israeli port city of Haifa.”There has been a broad recognition of the commonalty of [religious] leadership which has allowed people to share strategies of how to lead [our faithful] and how to carry out the vocation of religious leadership,” Goshen-Gottstein told Ecumenical News International in a telephone interview.About 50 religious leaders representing Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism and Sikhism attended the fourth meeting of the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders from Oct. 18 to 22.  Representatives from the Vatican and of the Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, also attended the meeting.Rabbi Goshen-Gottstein noted the importance of the presence of several Muslim leaders at the event, saying that for some of them it was “courageous” to attend the conference. He said participants had been able to discuss difficult and painful regional topics in an atmosphere of confidence.”In deep trust they were able to talk using friendships as a basis of exploring some painful topics on the ground,” the rabbi told ENI.

The Elijah Interfaith Institute is a multinational non-profit organization dedicated to fostering peace between the world’s diverse faith communities through interfaith dialogue, education, research and dissemination.A survey in which the institute polled 1,700 people of different faiths worldwide that was released during the conference revealed that 63 percent of respondents consider themselves more religious today than five years ago.The majority of those who view themselves as strongly religious believe their leaders should be involved in peace efforts, while fewer want their religious leaders involved in politics.In addition, according to the survey, those who say they are religious believe their leaders should be involved in interfaith dialogue, with 90 percent of respondents indicating that it would be appropriate for their national or international religious leaders to be involved in interfaith work.Responses from Jewish participants revealed a great distrust, unhappiness and low level of expectations in their leaders.


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