Between May 7-10th 2018, the European Council of Religious Leaders (ECRL) holds its annual conference in Budapest, Hungary.
The European Council of Religious Leaders consists of senior religious leaders from Europe’s historical religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam together with Buddhists, Hindus, Sikhs and Zoroastrians. ECRL is one of five regional Interreligious Councils within the Religions for Peace global network. Religions for Peace – accredited to the United Nations – is the world’s largest and most representative multi-religious coalition advancing common action for peace since 1970.
Conference attendees waiting to see a film about the Krishna-valley eco-farm project
The main topic and the title of the conference was “The Role of Multi-religious Cooperation in Social Cohesion and Human Security.”
It is evident that the changing political, social and demographic dynamics in contemporary Europe present some of the biggest challenges for a generation to European citizens, communities and governments. Arguably the most pressing problems are: increased migration across continents; the rise of popular nationalism and associated; xenophobia, economic inequities and social exclusion; and the rise of religious extremism. More religion specific issues, which are also of great importance, include the freedom of religious practice and belief, and role of religion in the public space and discourse. Many of these challenges present a substantial threat to social and community cohesion; have significant implications for human security; as well as an apparent ethical/religious/spiritual dimension.
Shayk Ibrahim Mogra, Mohan Das and Bhai Sahib Dr. Mohinder Singh at the interfaith food distribution program organized by ISKCON Hungary
Religions’ role in many of these challenges is often ambiguous: for example it is often implicated in extremism and violence, but is also a vital positive resource in welcoming the increasing numbers of migrants into European community. However, as a result of the increased relevance of religion to many of the contemporary problems (both in a positive and negative sense), pan-European institutions and organizations, and national governments, increasing expect, and sometimes demand, a response from religious leaders and communities.
Muslim, Christian, Hindu and European leaders of other religions give out free food to the needy in Budapest
In recognition of the important role religion can and should play in tackling many of these contemporary challenges, the European Council of Religious Leaders examined and reported on the role of multi-religious cooperation in enhancing community cohesion and human security. Drawing on the wisdom of some of Europe’s senior religious leaders, experts and academics in the field, as well as real-life examples from several European countries, they explored how religion might support and enhance efforts to break down negative stereotypes, create unanimity where deep division currently exists, and contributing to safe, peaceful and cohesive societies and communities in Europe today.
The guests were treated to a nice vegetarian dinner at the Hare Krishna temple.
On May 7th, the European religious leaders, including bishop and former politician Gunnar Stalsett, Sikh spiritual leader Bhai Sahib Dr. Mohinder Singh (Great Britain); distinguished author, human rights and environmental activist Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp (The Netherlands); well-known Orthodox peace-activist Metropolitan Emmanuel (France); and ERLC President Reverend Dr. Thomas Wipf (Switzerland) took part in ISKCON’s Food for Life program, distributing food for the needy together, then visited the Hare Krishna Temple in Budapest.
The making of cross-cultural, interfaith friendship
The event’s host ISKCON Governing Body Commissioner and ECRL-member Sivarama Swami welcomed the distinguished guests and gave a presentation about the main activities and achievements of ISKCON Hungary. Then he showed a short documentary about the Krishna-valley eco-farm project, presenting an appealing example of a lifestyle lived in harmony with nature and God.
At the end of the evening at the Krishna Temple’s cafeteria the guests were treated to a sumptuous vegetarian dinner, while exchanging thoughts and ideas and making friends with members of another faiths.
ISKCON-guru Sivarama Swami and Reverend Dr. Thomas Wipf from the Protestant faith thanking each other for the wonderful experience.
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Atma Tattva Das, ISKCON News Staff Writer
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