The Global Congress World's Religions Proceedings 1980-1982 Edited by Henry O. Thompson

IV Discussion

DR. LEWIS: We have approximately fifteen minutes for commentary and questions to Dr. Clark. Come please to the microphone, line up if you like, and that will expedite the process. John.

JOHN MEAGHER: Dr. Clark has aptly and eloquently remarked that faith is not a hindrance but a help. I wish to express my gratitude for that emphasis, which helps this enterprise with an attempt on staying very clear from alternative enterprises that pretend to be of the same kind. Now we have as a major agenda: mutual forgiveness for not taking seriously each other's faith.

Faith becomes a hindrance rather than a help if the investment of faith also makes the presumption that the representatives of the world religions are understood to be representing religions that are already mature. I myself believe that is a misconception. I think that all religions are in their adolescence. There is no role model for what maturity is. That must be invented. It can be invented only if we acknowledge that we are at best in our adolescence, and learn from one another as carefully as we can what it might be to become mature. In that sense, in my judgment, faith will be a help and not a hindrance.

DR. CLARK: I thank my friend, John Meagher for that contribution. I think it is quite inappropriate, yet I am in a position of seeming to have answers here. I just want to learn from you, and I thank each of you for what you have contributed.

PETRO B. T. BILANIUK: Deacon Petro from the University of Toronto, St. Michael's College. We must be very careful with our terminology. I would abstain from using terms like dialogue. Dialogue implies discussion between two partners. We must use words like polylogue, that is, discussion of many partners of equal value and equal weight and equal dignity. That is what I envisage. This is a polylogue of the leaders of different religions; secondly it is a polylogue of philosophers and other students of religions, that is, it is a polylogue of believers and unbelievers. The subject of study should include all friendly and unfriendly believers and unbelievers. Most of all, we should include serious scholars. That is we should be cultivating a scholarly, scientific and critical approach to the questions of religion. Second, we have to distinguish objects of religious study. This includes religion in all of its aspects and dimensions, as well as different methodologies and approaches to religion -- theological and mystical and spiritual and philosophical, anthropological, scientific and statistical, political, geographical, and others. We should keep a balance in all these aspects and dimensions. Otherwise it could degenerate to tyrannies of the stronger above the weaker, of the more eloquent over the less eloquent. Thank you.

DR. LEWIS: Thank you, Petro. Well received. Sir.

AVTAR S. ATWAL: I formally belong to the Sikh faith. I am a scientist by training. Sikhism as you know is an extension of Hinduism, but it has adopted a number of practices and ideas from other religions also. I have been thinking very seriously as to the nature of this forum which is a great and grand idea. How will it operate in the future? I would like to speak in an analogical manner. All the religions have their houses. The doors open toward the center. Now this forum is at the center. The people who belong to religious faiths are on the outer circle. You can say with this arrangement that people come from the outer circle up to the center of their homes. Now the thing is that this forum expects that people will come to the center, or that people who stand at the doorways of their houses will try to listen to what is being said at the center, or, what is the function? I would like to have this explained.

DR. LEWIS: Actually there is a great deal that could be said in response to that question. We've struggled with the way we say what we're about over these four or five years. Is it just people who are at home in their traditional faith, the faith in which, perhaps, they were raised? What about the Reductionists? Do they get to attend the Global Congress, too? What about people who are independently religious, who perhaps don't have a house to be in anymore? We have consistently said that as long as a person espouses the general intention as expressed in the preamble and in our other documents, that they are welcome. They are welcome to the center if their work, their energy, their personal influence, can be expended for the sake of the intentions of the Global Congress. We don't have to exclude anybody or any religious or philosophical or quasi-philosophical presuppositions if they are in favor of what we are doing. If that happens, then one loses all kinds of very interesting renegade types who have a great deal to say but who might not be acceptable to others. I have found that even the most respectable people to some camps are completely disreputable in other camps. It seems to me that our work is best done when we are as inclusive as possible. We can continue that discussion. Richard.

RICHARD QUEBEDEAUX: Karl Marx, in his commentary on Ludwig Feuerbach, made a very famous statement which I think should be considered by every religion in the world. He said that the philosophers, and I might also add the theologians, have sought to understand the world. The point, however, is to change it. Are we going to be a congress of people who seek to understand each other's religions, to respect each other and to tolerate each other? If so, I don't think it's enough. There have been other groups that have been at many ecumenical discussions over the past ten years or longer, particularly in the Christian tradition. I have yet to go to one formal ecumenical meeting where the attitude of the people in meeting each other is one of love and service. My association with the Unification Movement has led me to believe, and I will say this now, that I have a hunch that this Congress will stand or fall on one thing: That one thing is how much we as individuals in our encounter with those others who wish to participate, how much we are willing to flesh out love, and the best way to flesh it out I think is through service. I like Rev. Moon's statement in his speech that goodness is the practice of love. I think that if we try to change people's minds before trying to change their hearts, we're not going to get anywhere. I find that with interrelational service, despite disagreement, the heart will be changed, and then we can change people's minds. How this is to be done is a very hard thing, but I'm very happy that it is the Unification Movement that is sponsoring this. Because of that, I have a hope that it will happen. Thank you.

DR. LEWIS: I see that at least five more people are ready to speak, so if I may encourage you to make your comments as brief as possible, or perhaps get to your question as quickly as possible, because we are supposed to eat at noon. Constantine.

CONSTANTINE TSIRPANLIS: My name is Constantine Tsirpanlis. I come originally from Greece. I am Greek Orthodox. I teach at the Unification Theological Seminary. I teach Orthodox theology and ecumenical Christianity. I was particularly impressed by the point that we should establish a collaboration with major union societies like the World Council of Churches and others. I am really very happy to see many more people participating in this conference than two years ago. This is my first point. Secondly, these conferences are sponsored by the Unification Movement. There is nothing wrong with that but we might lose our global association. Do not be surprised if the World Council of Churches will reject our collaboration. Don't be so optimistic. This is a unique congress.

Perhaps the title and the purpose must be reconsidered and changed. Personally, I don't like the word Congress. I don't like the word religions because religions divide. Politics and religions divide more than anything else. I would like to see more of a social, political, and educational focus than a religious one. Religion comes afterwards when hearts become united. But the point is that to have such a tremendous impact, a universal impact, the Congress must appeal seriously to everyone, not just to representatives of religions or to the Eastern Orthodox Church, but to all individuals. It must involve the talents, the desires, the positive intention of people. There are many people I know who do not have any idea about this kind of unique effort. This is my feeling.

DR. LEWIS: Thank you Constantine. The positive recommendations in your comment I think are very well made. The interest in political, economic and social concerns can certainly become a part of our agenda. In principle, they already are. I cannot avoid making one or two comments. There are only two ways in which the Unification Church sponsors or otherwise supports this activity. It was originally the idea of the Rev. Sun Myung Moon who sent a messenger to me and asked that we begin this kind of an activity. Since that time I've had almost no communication from him at all other than a polite wave across the hall once in a while. I guess he thinks we're doing a good enough job so he doesn't have to tamper with it. The other way in which the Unification people have supported us is that they have paid the bills so far. There is no other sense in which the Unification Movement directly in terms of policy or in any other way, is the sponsor of the Global Congress. We are open to all kinds of sponsorship, and we do not intend to limit ourselves only to the sponsorship of the Unification Movement. Finally, I would be desperately disappointed if, once all wisdom and means were extended, we were not able to link with our Christian brothers at the World Council of Churches. We will extend every effort to make that kind of linkage possible. Dr. Johnson.

DR. KURT JOHNSON: Because of what you said, what I'm going to say is in context. I have to speak on behalf of all those who brought you here and to say a word of thanks and gratitude to those who have really made it possible. The meetings of the Global Congress here were staggered against the ICUS schedule which made it a very grueling schedule for the people who are here from the Board of Trustees. I'll go back to what Rev. Moon said last night that Mrs. Moon was upset that he brought you here but you have no time to enjoy it. Our hearts empathize with that. That is unfortunate. We feel badly about that. In the past I've been able to gauge things by how pale Marcus is and whether Mrs. Clark is still smiling. We're doing pretty well. She's still smiling. But I want to have a chance to say we're grateful in this birth period of the Global Congress, that the relationships between us and you all have been so cordial, smooth, flexible, authentic and real. I feel that we've done something to fulfill Richard's desire that things be done in the spirit of love and something which is very good. The other thanks that I wanted to give was to the students from the Seminary who came here to staff this conference. They have responded to the direction that was given them. They've done that without any resentment. That has allowed the conference to go on. I want to make sure that they don't feel that that is unappreciated. We do appreciate the sacrifice that they've made.


PANOS BARDIS: I'm Dr. Panos Bardis from the University of Toledo. First of all I would like to correct an almost universal mistake which I find most annoying. I hear it so often. Dialogue does not mean conversation involving two individuals. "Dia" means two; "logos" means word. It can involve any number of people. Let me assure you that Decalogue does not involve a conversation between one Moses and nine Jehovahs. Likewise, like Constantine, both of us are of Hellenic descent, I am not gouging, I like to say nice things to people. I see something wonderful in every individual, every meeting, every person. I must say I found your title intriguing, fascinating, and inspiring. I have only one minor suggestion. As I was listening, I was beginning to conclude that what we need is a definition of religion. This is what I am advocating. As you know, etiomologically, we have two theories from the Latin. "Religio" which means to seize with fear and I do hope we fear. The more prominent theory is the root "re-ligare," which means "to tie," like to bind. I hope we are bound together. Now, how about a definition? We have many of them. One of the simplest ones is the one by E. B. Tylor, which is "religion is a belief in spiritual beings." That means, this definition includes primitive religion, oriental religion, monotheism, mysticism, Muslim, spiritualists and so forth. But this definition will exclude, in view of their nature, Confucianism and Buddhism. So I don't like it. Another famous one is that of Matthew Arnold. This was influenced by the Hebrew prophets. It is that religion is "morality touched by emotion." I don't like it either because religion includes emotional immorality. In my opinion a definition encompassing or including the following elements at least, would be useful: One, God or gods; two, other spirits, three, the world beyond our own, four, an emotional experience such as the beatific visions of the mystics and so on; five, harmony between the individual and the entire cosmos, the universe; six, an attitude of mind; seven and last, individual and social practices related to religion. This would take care of many of the suggestions made by our colleagues. Let me add briefly that the importance of religion is obvious. We don't have to debate it. Even if there were no God we would talk to Him. The more I study nature the more I realize that there must be a Supreme Being that created everything with mathematical exactment and wisdom. Lastly, do not be misled by those who emphasize the way of secularism. The masses still believe in religion. The best evidence I can give you is this: In the United States, which is so secular, the masses still believe. For instance, in 1979, the voluntary contribution to charity in the United States was $125 billion. Of that, 27% went to the churches. To me, that means a great deal. Thank you very much.

DR. LEWIS: Thank you. Will the next three speakers make their comments as brief as possible, and then we will conclude.

PAUL BADHAM: I'm Paul Badham. I'm speaking as a Christian. I'm from the country of Wales. I'm very concerned about the terminology of the letter which is going to be written soon. It seems to me this could be potentially very damaging to Christian participation in the Global Congress of Religions. It seems to me very important that the Global Congress should insist that international hotels should respect the religious views of those whose religions prescribe vegetarian or other particular dietary regimens. But the Congress cannot endorse, or give any kind of moral superiority, to any particular dietary function. Otherwise that would contradict the authoritive New Testament, and that would be quite injurious.

DR. LEWIS: Quite right.

PAUL BADHAM: The other problem is that I come from a country where the main source of food comes from sheep bred on upland farms which cannot be used for any other purposes. They will not grow any kind of crop. For the protein enrichment of the world, they have to grow sheep. That is very important if we object to the way valuable cereal crops are fed to animals in America. This should not be made a universal rule because of the problems of my own country.

DR. LEWIS: Thank you, Mr. Badham. You can help me finish the letter at lunch.

CHRISTIAN JR. GABA: Christian Gaba, the University of Cape Coast, Ghana. I want to make a very brief comment on the role of different religions within the setup of the GCWR with special reference to religion in traditional Africa. We must be cordial to those that come to talk about any of these religions. But missionaries and theologians look at African religions from the perspective of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Anthropologists look at religion from the point of the society not from that of faith. If we bear this is mind, it means that the experts cannot tell us about African religion as it really is. If we want to know about African religion as religion, we need to hear about it from Africans themselves. Thank you very much.

DR. LEWIS: Thank you Dr. Gaba. Since our first scheduled consultation will be precisely with the religions of Africa, and since you will be helping to set that up, we will be as sensitive to those concerns as we possibly can. Final question or comment.

KASIA KOPACZ: I want to reaffirm what Dr. Kurt Johnson said. I'm a Seminary student and my name is Kasia Kopacz. I was involved in helping to make this happen. I don't feel any resentment at all. I came here to help you in honor and respect. I believe in God and people. I are about each of you individually as people, and to some degree as representatives of various faiths. People brought up a point about equal value. Our value doesn't come from our ability to represent our religion. Certainly no one can represent Christianity. I can't represent the Unification Church. I can barely represent myself because I don't always know my own feelings. For those of us who believe in God. I feel that God has needs. Our value comes from the fact that we want to do something about it and that we are willing to do something about it. My main point is that I wanted to help each of you. I wish I knew all of your names, to reaffirm that I care for you deeply, for everyone in this world. Thank you (Applause).

DR. LEWIS: Francis, do you have any final comments?


DR. LEWIS: I'll take a minute to read this scribbled draft. We'll not discuss it here. If you have any recommendations you would like to make or amendments or any other changes, please contact me privately and we'll take care of that. "Dear Sirs (and the sirs will be Mr. Neil Salonen and Mr. Richard Wojcik, the management of Hilton Hotels in general, and the management of the Fontainebleau): During the recent 9th ICUS and the fourth annual conference of the GCWR, it was recurrently our experience that several participants, whose religious and other dietary requirements forbid their eating of pork, or require a vegetarian diet, were disappointed when they arrived at tables. Even after considerable effort was made to arrange a "no-pork" section in the dining room, and adequate accommodation was granted to this request on one occasion, nevertheless at the next meal, Muslims were being served sausage and ham; and Hindus, Buddhists and other vegetarians were being asked to eat meat against their conscience or perforced to fast. Our suggestions are as follows: 1) At subsequent gatherings, sufficient advanced planning needs to be undertaken to ensure that "no-pork" and "vegetarian tables" be clearly marked; 2) That there be an adequate amount of porkless or meatless meals so that none of the serving persons will have cause to say "We've run out," or to dodge their responsibility through other evasive means; 3) that the pork-free and meatless meals will be prepared under the supervision of someone who understands that kind of diet, so that these meals will be nutritionally balanced, tasty, and otherwise appealing. We thank you in advance for your attention to these details and invite you to join with us in the perennial work of becoming sensitive to the habits, needs, and delights of our fellow human beings." As I said, it can be amended and will be I'm sure.

Finally, let me say one more time: Thank you for having attended our 4th and last Conference towards a Global Congress of the World's Religions. Why is it our last? Because the Global Congress is now some kind of a reality. It would be inappropriate to have a fifth conference towards it. What we hope is that next year at the ICUS, we will be having our Far East consultation between the Global Congress and the religions of the Far Orient. At that time, no doubt many of you will be participants in that consultation. Between now and that time many of you will have helped us in arranging that consultation. In any event, we can say, "next year in Seoul." Thank you very much. 

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