The First World Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace, held in Brussels in January 2005, was an historic milestone in Jewish-Muslim dialogue. The Second World Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace took place on March 19-22, 2006 in Seville, Spain. Over 150 Imams and Rabbis, among the most influential Jewish and Moslem leaders in the world, gathered to focus upon: promoting dialogue between Jewish and Muslim religious leaders, creating an opportunity for religious leaders to use their influence in conflict resolution in various regions of the world, helping religious leaders to challenge fanatics who are misusing religion, and creating structures and initiatives to continue practical day-to-day work.

At the Second Congress, the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger, called for the creation of a world body with representatives from the major religious groups, a “United Nations of religious groups”. The Imam of Gaza, Imad al-Faluji, said politicians lied but religious leaders had a different objective – to work towards a higher good. The imams and rabbis at the conference said the world is in crisis and it is time they acted to restore justice, respect, and peace. The delegates have made it very clear that now is the time for concrete initiatives.

Religious leaders of different communities across the world joined their voices to condemn all instrumentalisation of the name of God or his principals for the use of violence. In doing so, they have won back Godís word taken hostage by extremists, and brought the voice of unity capable of opening the path to more concrete solutions: the promotion of education and knowledge, including the teaching of peace. Yesterday, the Dalai Lama was in San Francisco at the invitation of Muslim leaders for a historic peace gathering, continuing the path towards a “United Nations of Religions” set at the recent Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace. The gathering is the first assembly of a “religious parliament” that will meet once or twice annually in countries throughout the world. The intent is for religious leaders to unite in dispelling misunderstanding and injustice that breed extremism. San Francisco was picked for the gathering because it was where the United Nations was founded. Imam Seyed Mehdi Khorasani invited the Dalai Lama, urging him to meet with religious leaders and scholars to “construct a strategy that will unite our voices and express our common goal to live in a world without violence.” The Dalai Lama was joined by approximately 100 world-renowned scholars, teachers, and leaders of Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and other faiths who met with their Muslim and Buddhist counterparts and took part in the landmark discussion. The Organising Committee for the gathering said in a statement:

“Religious intolerance, and the violence that tragically attends it, have masqueraded as a legitimate expression of religious conviction and have grabbed the world stage from the majority voices of reason. Those attending this gathering want to rectify this imbalance as they are acutely aware that political and economic agendas, however disguised, have no place in religious practice; and they are committed to acting in their communities to promote compassion and counter divisiveness. Never before have so many of the world’s prominent and influential religious leaders come together at one time for such an imperative and specific purpose. The message of peace and understanding that will emanate from this conference and the solidarity powerfully represented by these great and compassionate thinkers speaking in unison will help heal the world.”

Religions unite for peace