At World Parliament of Religions conference, Reform Jewish leader addresses religious community’s role in achieving peace
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MELBOURNE, Australia, Dec. 3, 2009 — Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, was invited to give one of the keynote addresses at last night’s opening plenary at the prestigious global conference of the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions in Melbourne, Australia. Held only once every five years, more than 5,000 prominent religious leaders from across the globe are attending the event.
The week-long conference, titled “Make a World of Difference: Hearing Each Other, Healing the Earth,” is the world’s largest interfaith gathering, offering leaders of the global religious and spiritual communities a forum to discuss and explore peace, diversity and sustainability in the context of interreligious understanding and cooperation.
Rabbi Saperstein’s plenary address focused on the urgency of worldwide religious communities working together to bring about the moral messages of justice and peace. Citing Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous line on the “fierce urgency of now,” Rabbi Saperstein challenged Parliament attendees:
“…..Will we use our wisdom, wealth, knowledge and technology to help nations resolve their differences peacefully – or blow up the world in a nuclear holocaust? To clean up the damage to our environment, preserve the creation God has entrusted to our care, and protect it for generations yet unborn – or despoil and contaminate it? To enhance those freedoms so essential in allowing people to find spiritual fulfillment – or degrade and diminish them? To share God’s wealth equitably and fairly with all God’s children – or to deny justice to the 2 billion of our brothers and sisters living in severe poverty, ignoring the warning of the Talmud 2,000 years ago that the sword enters the world because of justice delayed and justice denied? To use genetic engineering to cure birth defects – or create Hitler’s master race?
Think of it: In the lifetimes of some in this room we have smashed the atom, cracked the genetic code, and pierced the veil of outer space itself. And as Father Bryan Hehir has pointed out – in a world in which you can do anything, what you should do is the fundamental moral challenge facing humanity. And on that question, the religious communities have urgent, profound and indispensible wisdom to offer.
The recently released Charter of Compassion stands as a shining example. Crafted by religious leadership across the world as diverse as this gathering, it lifts up the common themes that unify us: of compassion, of justice, of sensing God’s presence in the ‘other,’ and of cherishing the mandate to treat others we would want ourselves and those we love to be treated….
If instead we remain silent, in the vacuum of our silence will come voices that do not share our values, our dreams, and our aspirations: voices not of charity and justice but selfishness and greed; voices not of love but of hatred; voices not of respect and tolerance but of secular and religious extremism and intolerance.”
Other noteworthy speakers at the conference include: His Holiness the Dalai Lama; Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Archbishop Emeritus of Washington; Rabbi Michael Melchior, International Director of the Elie Wiesel Foundation; His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Spiritual Leader of The Art of Living Foundation, India; and Rev. Dr. Joel Hunter, noted pastor and author; and dozens of other esteemed faith and public leaders across the religious spectrum.
For more information, visit www.parliamentofreligions.org, where a video recording of Rabbi Saperstein’s address will soon be available.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union for Reform Judaism, whose more than 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews, and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, whose membership includes more than 1,800 Reform rabbis.