Towards a Global Congress of World Religions 1979 - Edited by Warren Lewis

Interfaith Cooperation Achievements and Possibilities -- Rev. Marcus Braybrooke

Warren Lewis: A number of people have already left, but in taking their leave, have communicated many good words. Interreligio Nederlands communicated with us yesterday; it looks as though they will be joining with this activity as well. Bruce Long from the Blaisedell Institute had to leave yesterday because he's speaking today at Cornell, but he indicated his interest as well.

Today, the focus is our overall goal to bring the creative and the critical religious hearts and minds in our world together in the first session of a Global Congress of World Religions in 1981. We are now specifically working on a conference of those groups, like Interreligio Nederlands, the Blaisedell Institute, the Temple of Understanding the World Congress of Faiths and similar institutions. These are bodies of interest which are neither churches nor religious establishments, but interest groups organized as intermediates between the religions themselves and religious individuals to facilitate religious interdependence, interpenetration and communication.

We hear, this morning, an address by Marcus Braybrooke, who is Rector at Swainswick near Bath, in England. Marcus is the general director, and nerve center and spokesman for the World Congress of Faiths an England-based group which continues to operate in the spirit and the energy of Sir Francis Younghusband who founded the World Congress of Faiths in 1936. I presume Marcus will tell us something more in detail about his organization. They are a vital group of people. I was with them last September in the city of York for their annual meeting. Marcus is here as an individual, not as the official representative of the World Congress of Faiths. Marcus has completed a dissertation, soon to be published, on the histories, successes and lack thereof of inter-religious movements over the last hundred years or so. There is no other book on that subject. Marcus is breaking new ground, letting us know the history of global ecumenics. It IS about this history he wants to talk this morning.

Marcus Braybrooke: First, may I thank Warren for that warm welcome. As you've made clear, I should say that I do not represent the World Congress of Faiths today. Our executive committee comprises members of different religions and, as you would expect, they don't always speak with one voice. Nor do I represent the Church of England, which certainly does not always speak with one voice.

Religious pluralism is not new. At many times and in many places, members of different religions have lived in proximity, sometimes as conquerors and conquered, sometimes as hostile rivals. The beliefs and practices of one religion have influenced another. What I think is new is the increasing desire that such religious coexistence be based on mutual respect, and the growing hope that religious variety may be enriching rather than divisive.

We are now beginning to see that the variety of religious traditions in the world is, in fact, something to be thankful for and something which is enriching. With isolated exceptions, such as Asoka or Akbar, this concept of religious tolerance and understanding is very new. In Christianity first, and I think increasingly in other religions, there have been ecumenical movements drawing together those who belong to the same religion, even if to different traditions and denominations. Parallel to this, but a weaker and more struggling infant, has been a wider ecumenical or interfaith movement seeking cooperation, fellowship and unity between members of different religions. It is the growth of this infant to perhaps adolescence which I want to talk about this morning.

I will summarize the history of one or two of the main organizations, indicating the sort of approaches they have adopted. Then from this I want to make a few suggestions about what we may learn if we are indeed working toward a Global Congress.

Chicago, as many of you well know, was the setting for the first inter-religious conference, in 1893. So it's been almost a hundred years. To mark the four-hundredth anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, Chicago held a World's Fair. To accompany this, a series of congresses were arranged on the chief areas of human knowledge. There was some uncertainty about whether to hold a religious congress lest it cause division and discord. I think we might still have the same hesitations. A committee was set up to examine the question, and they decided that there should indeed be a congress of religions, one at which all religions should be represented. This idea of a World Parliament of Religions gained considerable support, but it also aroused opposition, especially from the Sultan of Turkey and the Archbishop of Canterbury. At the Parliament itself, which a number of Anglican clergy attended because Anglican clergy are not in the habit of taking too much notice of the Archbishop's views, a paper by one of the canons of Westminster was read. (Laughter) At the Parliament the relation of religions to each other, and in particular of Christianity to other faiths was a major topic of discussion. The papers of the scientific section contain a mass of interesting information and some attempt was made to relate the Parliament to the concerns of the world. It's quite interesting to look at what the dominant concerns were-one of them was women's lib. One most significant feature of the Congress was that it met and attracted enormous crowds. More than seven thousand attended the final session and I gather there was even a black market for tickets. I don't think any subsequent interfaith gathering has attracted that sort of attendance.

Because of this it was, however, a matter mainly of an audience listening to a few speakers. There was not really very much conferring among the participants, though some of the main speakers stayed as guests in different homes in Chicago, so there was a certain amount of meeting there. The organizers, whilst they disavowed any idea of compromising the unique claims of any religion did encourage a certain universalism. The chairman, President Bonney, in his opening address voiced the ideal that:

When the religious faiths of the world recognize each other as brothers, children of one Father, whom all profess to love and serve, then, and not until then, will the nations of the earth yield to the spirit of concord and learn war no more.1

It is disappointing that, apart from publishing the records, the Parliament made no plans for the future and formed no continuing body. But an example had been set.

The next major conference was the first International Congress for the History of Religions held in Paris in 1901. This was an occasion very different from the Chicago Parliament: it was devoted exclusively to the scientific study of religions. Academic detachment has continued to be characteristic of the International Association for the History of Religions, which emerged from a series of conferences dating back to that first congress in 1901. Friedrich Heiler, who was the pupil and friend of Rudolph Otto, did, it is true, say at the Tokyo Conference that one of the most important tasks of the science of religion is to bring to light the unity of religions: but in the main, such an approach has been repudiated. As a result, although the serious study of religions has grown considerably, many scholars have stood aloof from interfaith organizations because they have been afraid that their scholarly reputations would be jeopardized.

Whereas they assume that neither one nor another religion is true and must operate from a neutral basis rather than from a stand of commitment, most of us have come to interfaith dialogue from a stand of commitment. The depth of scholarship which academics could have provided has been Jacking in the interfaith movement, and this is one of its main weaknesses. Many religious leaders, afraid that their orthodoxy might be compromised, have also stood aloof. Yet, one reason why interfaith organizations have a continuing importance is to foster a fruitful relationship of the Global Congress and interfaith gatherings with the more academic meetings of those who study world religions.

Attempts to encourage inter-religious co-operation were renewed after the First World War. In 1921, Rudolph Otto formed a Religious League of Mankind, but this was eventually proscribed by the Nazis. In India, members of different religions worked together in the Gandhian movement. Religious associations in Japan held a National Religious Conference in 1928. From America came several initiatives, especially the attempt to convene an International Conference for Peace attended by members of various religions. In Britain, in 1934, Sir Francis Younghusband, stimulated by his contacts and encouragement in the U.S., convened a committee which decided to arrange a World Congress of Faiths, which met for the first time in 1936. Since the Second World War other bodies have been formed, such as the Temple of Understanding and the World Order for Cultural Exchange, of which Michael Woodard is presently the inspirer.

I think we may concentrate on examples of the two main approaches: the World Congress of Faiths in England and the World Conference on Religion and Peace which grew out of the pre-war peace initiative in the U.S.

Although the World Congress of Faiths has hoped its work in the long term will contribute to peace, it sees interfaith fellowship as the key to deeper spiritual truths. The World Conference on Religion and Peace, on the other hand has sought to activate religious people as an effective lobby for peace and international justice.

The founder of the World Congress of Faiths, Sir Francis Younghusband, was motivated by a mystical experience which occurred in Tibet in 1904. The day after he had signed a peace treaty in Lhasa, he was alone in the mountains when, he said, he felt in touch with the "flaming heart of the world." He knew that a mighty, joy-giving power is at work in the world is working all about us and is working in every living thing. He had a vision, he said, of a: "... far greater religion yet to be, and of a God as much greater than our English God as a Himalayan giant is greater than any English hill."2 His conception of a fellowship of faiths sprang from his mystical sense of the unity of all people and the brotherhood of mankind was to him a truth realized in religious experience. In the Congress, Younghusband had no intention of forming another eclectic religion. Rather, he hoped members of all faiths would become aware of the universal experience which had been his. He chose the word "faiths" rather than "religions" deliberately to be as broad as possible. Humanists and new religious movements were indeed welcomed at the Congress.

The aim of the Congress was to develop the meeting of people with each other and their communion with the Divine so that the unity of mankind might become more obvious and complete. Much of the work of the Congress has been at the level of combating ignorance and prejudice about other people's beliefs. Yet it has retained the sense that the existing religions point beyond themselves to an as yet unrealized and more universal truth.

No one is asked to modify his own religious loyalty and convictions. There is the implicit assumption that truth is not the monopoly of one religion, but that the insights of the different traditions belong together in a greater whole. With this has often gone a certain impatience with doctrinal or ritualistic fundamentalism. The tendency of the Congress has been to attract the liberal or the mystical from various traditions who await a fuller unveiling of truth. Those who are conscious that they are in possession of the whole truth have found the Congress uncongenial. At times it has been viewed with some suspicion by religious hierarchies. Perhaps the approach is best exemplified in interfaith worship, which the Congress in Britain has pioneered and encouraged. It has always made it clear that in interfaith worship the participants are not asked to compromise their convictions. But there is the assumption that what fellow religionists have in common is greater and more significant than what divides them. A hymn by George Matheson, a blind Scottish minister who lived at the end of the last century was quite popular:

Gather us in. we worship only Thee,
In varied names we stretch a common hand.
In diverse forms, a common soul we see,
In many ships we seek one spirit land.

Whereas in the World Congress of Faiths, dialogue is essentially truth seeking, the World Conference on Religion and Peace is more immediate and practical in its aims.

Its Secretary-General, Dr. Homer Jack, has said:

We have learned in using our religious and ethical insights to leap over theology and discuss the next steps for human survival which tend to parallel the agenda of the United Nations.3

The first World Conference on Religion and Peace (WC RP) met in Kyoto, Japan, in 1970, but it had been carefully prepared for by several smaller gatherings. The Second Conference, which I was privileged to attend was held at Louvain, Belgium, in 1974. Plans are being made for a third conference next year in the U.S. At the first conference, a permanent organization was formed which has received accreditation as a non-governmental organization at the United Nations. WCRP has been active there on several issues, especially human rights. The influence of the WCRP is difficult to judge, but it seems that its reports and contacts at the United Nations have been of value. The WCRP has challenged religious leaders to translate their ideals into recommendations concerned with particular world problems. It has also shown that members from different religions and continents, while disagreeing about metaphysical matters, can agree on urgent human concerns. The need is for more religious people to acquire expertise on political and economic matters. However, the only practical scheme, the "Boat People Project" to help refugees from Vietnam, was a failure. Recent news stories have made us aware how tragic it is that this scheme was not more successful. WCRP was aware of the situation a couple of years ago which just now has attracted wider media coverage.

In addition to these two approaches, the churches as official bodies in recent years have become involved in inter-religious dialogue. The Vatican established a Secretariat for non-Christians in 1964. In 1971 the World Council of Churches set up a sub-unit on "Dialogue Between Men of Living Faiths and Ideologies." Some denominations also have committees on interfaith matters. And to some extent, other religious bodies are developing more official dialogue with other faiths.

A variety of valuable meetings has been arranged both between representatives of two religions and among members of several religions. The question, I think, is whether official representatives of the churches can be open to dialogue in its fullest sense. Certainly, some individuals who take part may be open, but the relationship of dialogue to mission and witness is not resolved. This issue was hotly argued at the Nairobi assembly of the World Council of Churches in 1975. At a subsequent consultation at Chiang Mai in Thailand, the concern for dialogue was set in the context of the search for human unity. Yet a desire to understand members of other religions and to cooperate with them for peace and justice need not imply any endorsement of the religious significance of these other religions.

I believe the distinctive character of the main interfaith organizations is their recognition of both the particularity of the great religions and their validity. The declaration of the Louvain Conference of the World Conference on Religion and Peace says:

Of all the things learned at Kyoto none has marked us more deeply than the discovery that the integrity of the commitment of each to his own religious tradition permits, indeed nurtures, loving respect for the prayer and faithfulness of others.4

In a similar mood, at the 40th Anniversary of the World Congress of Faiths at Canterbury, Bishop Appleton, then chairman, said:

Each religion has a mission, a gospel, a central affirmation. Each of us needs to enlarge on the gospel which he has received, without wanting to demolish the gospel of others. We can enlarge and deepen our initial and basic faith by the experience and insights of people from other religions and cultures without disloyalty to our own commitment.5

Here the historical actuality of the great religious traditions is recognized and affirmed. There is no syncretism. Their distinct heritage and view of the world are understood. For a religion is a complex organism in which different features are closely related and one aspect cannot be isolated without distortion. Once the distinctiveness of religions is recognized, they are seen as complementary rather than as rivals. It's not that one is true and the other is false. But together, they point beyond themselves to a richer truth which is as yet not fully realized. This endorsement of the religious significance of other faiths implicit in interfaith organizations is, I think, a challenge to each religion's self-understanding. It requires Christians to clarify their view of the place of other faiths in God's plan of salvation. The question is the same for members of other traditions.

Now, I would like just for a moment to speak from my standpoint as a Christian. Most Christians have moved away from the view that only those who have explicit belief in Jesus will escape hell-fire. It is widely recognized that God has been at work in other cultures and mention is made of the incognito or the anonymous Christ. Yet Christians usually see their faith as the climax or fulfillment of God's purpose. From the position that " others have none and we have all," there is a move to "others have some, but we have more." What I think Christians have to ask (and to some extent, members of other faiths need this same internal dialogue) is: Can we accept religious plurality at a theological level. This, as I see it, would mean commitment to the truth thus far disclosed {O us, acceptance of the truth disclosed to those of other faiths who are equally committed and affirmation of the hope that together yet more truths may be disclosed to us. The commitment to truth, which is essential for living faith, remains. It is sad if the old joke that comparative religion makes us only comparatively religious is somewhat accurate and we become religiously watered down. I think commitment must remain, commitment to the truth so far disclosed to us, but with a new openness, being led by the Spirit into the fuller truth. Such an approach gives profound religious significance to the present need for a meeting of religions as a precursor to a new development in mankind's religious history.

Indeed, the spiritual renewal which many have experienced through being opened to other religious traditions may be a foretaste of a spiritual renewal essential to mankind's survival. God may be bringing this greater spiritual renewal to pass through the unprecedented encounter of world religions in this century. In this context, along with society's proper concern with peace and justice, dialogue will be a truth-sharing and a truth-seeking exercise.

At the intellectual level it will ask of doctrinal statements, what is the living experience and insight to which they point? How does this relate to living experience reflected in other doctrinal traditions? Where are the differing insights contradictory and where complementary? This is the kind of approach, I think, adopted by Professor John Hick in his book Death and Eternal Life. It can be applied to many other vital areas of belief. Our World Congress meeting next year will take the theme "Creative Suffering," seeking the insights given in the several religions.

Drawing on the different traditions all of us can be strengthened in our spiritual experience and understanding of the meaning of life. Willingness to share and explore other spiritual traditions and disciplines in the manner of Swami Abhishiktananda is of the utmost importance. Thus we in the World Congress of Faiths have arranged one or two meditation weekends led partly by a Hindu, partly by a Christian. We are willing to try to go beyond cultural and religious differences to the essential spiritual experiences to which they point, asking, for example, in what ways the Hindu awareness that "Atman is Brahman" is akin to St. Paul's "Christ liveth in me." Only those who meet at a deep level of the spirit, "in the cave of the heart," can answer these questions. It is to such a truth-seeking dialogue that any Global Congress of Religions could contribute.

For the last few minutes I would like to say something more about what a Global Congress might achieve. Or, rather, it's easier to say what I think it should not be. I think its aim should not be political in the sense of rallying members of religions on particular political issues. I think the World Conference on Religion and Peace is already quite effective in trying to do this. I'm not sure if religion should be used for an end beyond itself. In any case I think religionists do not necessarily have special competence in economics and politics. When they discuss particular matters, religious people disagree as much as-if not more than-other mortals. If they confine themselves to worthy generalities, they carry little weight. In the long term, such a meeting will, I hope, contribute to peace and understanding, but I think particular issues should not be primarily on the agenda. Nor should such a Global Congress be anti-secularist or a ganging up of religionists against humanists or Marxists or agnostics. I think it should not be an antibody. Nor do I think it ought to be just an academic gathering; because, as I suggested earlier the academic disciplines assume a neutral stand, whereas, presumably those attending a Congress of Religions will think that "religion," on the whole, is a "good thing" -- not that I make that a requirement for attendance.

A certain involvement of academics is very valuable and vital: but, again. I think the Congress is not a meeting of the International Association for the History of Religions. Nor do I think it can be a meeting of official representatives of religions. Some religions are not so structured as to produce official representatives: were this the basis, the conference would become an exercise in ecclesiastical diplomacy. We do want those who hold leadership positions in the main religious bodies to attend, but as individuals. The dialogue is essentially a personal meeting. Linked to this is the question of finances. It would be helpful if the money could come from several sources. The Congress is, and should remain, genuinely independent. Interfaith organizations are not rich in funds, of course, so we are grateful for the initial sponsorship of the Unification Seminary.

It is easier, as I've said, to say what the Congress should not be than what it should be. Conferences, if I can say this after the enjoyable ICUS, are seldom creative-especially as a meeting of individuals with one another and with God. It seems to me somehow that conferences don't create new insights. What I think they can do is make us aware of creative developments and possibilities and enable the sharing of insights. But seldom, I think, do the insights actually come in the midst of conferences. They allow us to check our viewpoints and particularly to see whether we have rightly understood another tradition.

To appreciate another religion, you need to meet with living representatives of that faith as well as read books about it. And each faith, in fact, because it is living, gives the impression of changing. Conferences, too, can encourage us to venture forward; in some countries the whole idea of interfaith meetings is still very new and meets very much opposition. It is an encouragement to find that others elsewhere are seeing the same course.

Much of the most effective dialogue is very local. It needs to continue over a long period. A Global Conference can establish communication and should, I think, be closely related to assisting local and national groups. This is why I welcome the suggestion of a "Conference of Groups." But in an interdependent world, how members of different religions relate in one area affects relationships elsewhere. Christians and Jews, for example, cannot be unaware of what happens in Israel even if they live several thousand miles away.

Further, a global body can give impetus to the growth and deepening of dialogue. The new spirit of friendship between religions is, I believe, an important factor in fostering human unity. Equally, I believe that only as world religions share their spiritual resources will spiritual bases adequate for a new world emerge. This is not to suggest an easy merging or synthetic unity, but to suggest that the great faiths need to seek out and expound the essential truths enshrined in their various traditions. "Dialogue" is perhaps an unsatisfactory word, as it suggests a two-way meeting and very much just a sitting encounter. I'd rather picture the world religions as journeying together toward God. They start out from different points, wearing different clothes, perhaps an orange robe or jeans and T-shirts: each has its own resources. But they are all stronger when they share together. One may have water to share, another food, another something for insect bites. The longer they journey together, the more they share and become interdependent. The closer they come to God, to the Transcendent or the Absolute, however we like to term Him, the deeper the unity between them. It seems to me, thanks to the pioneer efforts of those of whom I have spoken the world religions have just about met and introduced themselves. They have yet to start journeying together towards the Absolute, in whom they will find the truth and love and strength which is the only true basis for fellowship of faiths and for a better world. Thank you very much. (Applause)


Warren Lewis: Now we will discuss these ideas as Marcus has set them forth. Address yourself directly to him, but also feel free to make your own statements. It is important here that we be frank and forthright with one another.

Unidentified Speaker: I'd like to ask a question. When you were listing the things you think the Congress should not do, you said on the one hand that generalities are not going to accomplish anything but on the other hand you advised against specific political issues. My question is, what's left?

Marcus Braybrooke: I think the Congress should not address itself primarily to political issues. This is not the arena to discuss how peace might come in the Middle East, or what the solutions in Northern Ireland should be, although religion is at issue in both cases. Only a few of the people attending the Congress could have the required expertise and detailed knowledge in those areas. I would hope that we might address ourselves to some of the more personal issues of life, the meaning of life, how we find wholeness, integrity, happiness for the human race. Our understanding of death and how we face it could well be discussed here, as well as issues of suffering and a whole range of ethical questions which would not embroil us immediately in unmanageable politics. We must not assume because we have some religious knowledge that we have expertise in every area of human knowledge. People of the same religion take different views about a particular practical, political issue. Our focus should be trying to understand each other at a deeper level of our convictions and the spiritual values which give meaning to life.

Unidentified Speaker: Correct me if I am wrong, but you are making a distinction, then, and saying that religious people who have the knowledge to direct themselves and this conference ought rightly to address individual, personal issues, but not deal with wider, multinational issues? That's what I hear you saying. Is that what you mean?

Marcus Braybrooke: I welcome other people's feelings about what the issues should be. It seems to me that we can together look at essential moral and spiritual principles. For example, on questions such as the environment, we could explore the issues of our responsibility and attitude toward the natural world. The different religions have their own insights into this. There are moral, spiritual guidelines on how we treat the natural world, how we treat animal creation. I'm not sure, however, that we would have the expertise to talk about actual policies on, say, reforestation. It's the area between, what ethicists call "middle axioms," which would determine the level of our congress. We have to recognize the limitations of our knowledge and our discipline. Does that make it any clearer?

William J. Minor: I would like to carry this just a little further. In the World Conference on Political Psychology in New York last summer, it finally came down to a deep realization that the fundamental difference between Middle East Hebrews and the Arabs was the religious commitment each group has. If we are going to solve these problems in any kind of efficient way, we have to come to the religious basis of these two groups. They are far apart and their political reconciliation is tied up with the whole issue of religion. To evade these political issues as though they are not rooted in what we are trying to do here seems to me to be a basic fallacy.

Marcus Braybrooke: I have not made myself clear. I'm not against discussion of political and humanist concerns insofar as they relate to the question of religious commitment. The difference in commitment of the Jews and Muslims is a proper area for us to seek to understand, rather than discussing, let us say, the question of to whom Jerusalem belongs. That would seem to be a second level of issues.

Warren Lewis: Dr. Minor, you seem to be saying that if we can get people involved in a creative dialogue at the level of faith, there might very well be some common roots there which could solve some political problems-but without our first having raised the political issue. The two have to be tied together, don't they?

Irving Hexham: I think this is important, and for me the definition of religion is an important issue. Religion cannot be separated from one's identity and ontological commitment. What we are looking at is basic fundamental commitment. Outwardly, many people may hold a religion to which, in fact, they are not committed in the most fundamental, basic and internal ways. We were in New Orleans recently at the American Academy of Religion. I went for a drink with a couple of friends, one of whom was a professor from an American evangelical college, and the other, a colleague of mine with his wife. The professor from the American college had known my friend for a long time, so he said to my friend's wife. "When are you coming back to America?" And she replied. "We're Canadians now:' And he said, "You live in Canada." But she said. "No, we have become Canadians." His face dropped and there was silence. In fact, he didn't say much for the rest of the evening. He found it impossible to conceive that an American would become a Canadian. It was his fundamental statement of identity. He was first and foremost an American and then a fundamentalist Christian. Religion and politics and identity are interwoven. We must look at these commitments on all sides. One of the most important issues I would like included in a Congress of Religions is the question of nationalism because at one level, nationalism functions at least as a pseudoreligion. Thank you.

K. L. S. Rao: I would like to bring the Gandhian perspective to this discussion. Before that, I will tell you a story. A little girl in a Sunday school was asked the names of the first and the last books of the Bible. She said, "The Bible begins with Genesis and ends with Revolution." When anyone takes his or her own religious convictions seriously, they cannot help but be revolutionary. It is a different matter if the person wants to be goodie-goodie and go along with the establishment. But if the person takes religion seriously, then of course that person has a great impact upon persons and institutions. One cannot help but become revolutionary. Gandhi was once asked, "You are a saint, you are a good man, why do you soil your hands by engaging yourself in politics, engaging yourself in a fight with the British for the freedom of India?" And he said. "If you think that religion has nothing to do with politics, then you do not know what religion is all about." So it was his religious concern which expressed itself in politics, in the emancipation of women, in the elimination of the caste system, in his solidarity with the untouchables, his siding with the poor, his siding with the oppressed and the hungry. All his concerns were the expansion of his religious convictions. He was once asked, "Why don't you, if you are religious, go and live on top of the Himalaya Mountains or somewhere on the bank of a river?" He said, "I know only one way of living my religion and that is in the midst of society and in solving the problems of the people." So, how can religion be far away from these concerns? They are the main concerns. I think I'm putting Marcus' point of view correctly: What he wants to suggest is not that religion should have nothing to do with the political issues of life, but should engage itself in politics in the kind of activity which will unite and heal people. Thank you.

Unidentified Speaker: Aren't we concerned about the relation of religion and politics as a manipulation of religion for political or nationalistic ends by the politicians? How do we develop a strategy for meeting this?

Marcus Braybrooke: Religion is and must be involved with life; our commitment affects our attitudes on a whole range of problems. But I'm hesitant, partly from attending one of the World Conference for Religion and Peace conferences (for which I have considerable admiration). You get a whole lot of people together, they pass a resolution to oppose the armaments race, and spend the best part of the day working out the exact verbal form of the resolution. What I hope we will be doing in such a context is looking rather at the roots of violence and aggression and the resources for nonviolent resistance in the different religious traditions. Let's try to go beyond and much deeper than the sorts of consensus resolutions which say nothing.

Warren Lewis: This is really a hard question. As a pacifist and an Anabaptist, under no circumstances would I fight in anyone's war. That is a political statement but it's also a theological statement. It was also both a political and theological statement when Martin Luther King said to the sustainer of segregation: "We don't have the legal right to ride on your bus or eat in your restaurant, so we'll just sit here. We won't take you to court, we won't fight you; but here we are, human beings, and we want to ride to work and we want to get a hamburger here. So, we'll just sit here until either you thrash us or feed us." That's the kind of political, theological statement which I affirm. It's the statement of a person who operates out of theological convictions in such a way that the political implications become clear-as opposed to a person who becomes a politician, runs for a job with the government, and passes laws based on his theology, which say that everybody else has to do what he wants them to do. You might agree with his theological-political decisions and you might not.

The other problem is related to Marcus' point just now about nonviolence: neither Jews nor Muslims have a very good track record on nonviolence. As a matter of fact, it is not part of their perspective at all. There, already, we have a religious difference. We're just stuck with that, aren't we? The only way to make headway with it is if we come together and talk it over.

David Kim: [speaking to Braybrooke] I am very impressed with your presentation and historical survey. I'd like to hear more about your research and results. You mentioned that eighty-five years ago a big thing happened. It must have been inspired by God providentially. Seven thousand people were there. You mentioned Chainnan Bonney. Where is he'? Where has his idea gone? All this ecumenical effort... How successful have they been according to their original plans? Also, how much have they failed? Including your World Congress of Faiths, what is the failure in the past, what is successful? Why do we repeat the same mistakes? I'd like your academic, scholarly analysis. Be honest: Did you find out why they failed? In the Orient, we say it's like a snake: big head but the tail is small. We are not going to repeat this kind. Is it clear?

Marcus Braybrooke: The question is all too clear: the answer is what is hard. The influence of any conference is often not easily quantifiable. But in the last seventy or eighty years, there has been the growing recognition that people of different faiths and religions can legitimately meet together without disloyalty to their own tradition and can, perhaps, work together. There has been to some extent a change of atmosphere. In Britain in the last twenty years the dominant attitude of Christians and other faiths has moved from one of "mission" to one of "cooperation" on community relations. This is a very broad generalization, but the intellectual battle for theological pluralism has won a move toward this. The views of a person like Bonney in the 1890s would now be widely accepted rather than create an anti-demonstration as happened then. I remember the first interfaith services I went to. We were picketed outside, because the idea that a Christian could worship with someone else seemed a total denial of Christian claims. I think at that level, we are still combatting prejudice.

Failures have often come at the organizational level. The organizations have been insufficiently structured for continuity and real commitment to each other. This is why one ought to hesitate about size. It may be more important that we foster groups which continue to meet at some deep level rather than have one glorious jamboree in Moscow. Any large gathering must be related to working groups from before and after. One can have a certain level of dialogue for twenty-four hours shut off in a conference, but you really have to get to know people, to live with them through times of disagreement in a deeper measure. The work that has been done has not been a waste of time; it has achieved a change of atmosphere. But what I hope we are going to be able to achieve is a much more lasting and deep commitment to each other.

Warren Lewis: How can we keep from making the mistakes they made before?

Marcus Braybrooke: We need to define rather more clearly what our task purposes are. I have tried to indicate this morning the different approaches of the academics and the peaceworkers -- peaceworkers who are concerned with spiritual-theological reconciliation and those who are just concerned with good community relations. Often, all these different interests have come together under one so-called interfaith gathering. But the particular purpose of that gathering remained undefined. This is why we need to spend quite a lot of time in preparation for our Global Congress, so we can really know what we are hoping for when it happens.

Warren Lewis: Do you have a hope you might express? What is your hope for the Global Congress?

Marcus Braybrooke: I hope it would be related to ongoing interfaith meetings and dialogue in different parts of the world. It would be a coming together of those already involved, rather than attracting religious leaders who are going to go away again having enjoyed a little holiday.

K. L. S. Rao: I completely agree with the gentleman who raised the question of how conferences have stumbled in earlier times. How many times does a child stumble before he learns to walk? Simply because he stumbles several times, we do not say to the child. "Now stop it; don't plan to walk anymore." We have to keep trying to learn to walk. Why? First, because we are physically one world and one community, though culturally and religiously diverse. One of the goals of education and of human endeavor is to understand one another. In order to understand one another, it is not enough to understand "all mankind." You cannot understand the Japanese without understanding Hinduism...

I think the Global Congress is an historical necessity. It's coming, we can't stop it. It has to come. The only thing we have to work out is that it should not fail. It should have a lasting effect: it should have benevolent and beneficial effects.

Myrtle Langley: Northern Ireland was mentioned and it was mentioned, as it often is in the media of the world, in terms of a religious war. I would hope a Global Congress would bring about the kind of dialogue which would show that in Northern Ireland what we have is not so much a religious war, perhaps, as politicians using religion in a context of three hundred or four hundred years of two ethnic groups at war. One group settled in the land of the other. One took one religious name: the other, another religious name -- and many, many complexities came after that. If there were different colors, Northern Ireland would be like the white· black problem in Rhodesia. I come from the southern Ireland side of it -- I hope I have no axe to grind. I would hope that we could address ourselves [0 the different tangles. as it were. in the name of religion. Would Marcus agree with this?

Marcus Braybrooke: Yes. This is such a complex matter be· cause religion is intertwined with other issues. And it again comes back to the question: Why is it that people's other commitments often seem to be stronger than the religious commitments they claim? There are Christians in Northern Ireland who are working hard for peace and reconciliation, just as there are committed Jews and Muslims in the Middle East who are working for peace and reconciliation there. But it remains true that in a large number of situations, national and other interests seem to dominate our religious commitments. I would like us to examine these issues. I would like to say again that I don't want us to pass the sort of resolution in which "we call on all people of good will to work for peace in the Middle East." and then make the resolution available in a news release. One temptation of religious people is to appear to pass judgment on the failings of other people. In fact, we all feel very conscious of our own share in these failings. We also are conscious that our own religions have not been dynamic and powerful enough to check the other factors which cause violence and injustice in our world.

Robert Moon: In the field of physics, we have success and failure. We feel that in these successes and failures there is always a message; this message comes from Above. In order to reach a truth about any situation, physics included, we have to approach a problem on the basis of the powers that God has given all people the intellectual, the spiritual and the moral powers. We must get guidance from Above. Allow the Holy Spirit to work through us.

We feel this way, strangely enough, because we were faced with a problem like this on the Manhattan Project, where we did secret work on nuclear energy. Then we realized we had to introduce this vast power to the world and to mankind, and say to mankind, "This is the world we have!" We found that we were not fit to live in this age. So we set about to try to make ourselves fit. Things did not go ahead on numbers. It wasn't a question of success or failure, but a question of dedication to knowing and doing His will. We saw no other answer, living in this age, this atomic age. Therefore, we felt that through our looking for God's message that may be there, the message in an experiment that God had revealed things on many levels to us. We experienced revelations from the project-rather large ones. This Global Congress also contains a message -direct revelation and the success and failure of a message. We must get away from a human approach and get more to the realm where the Holy Spirit would have a chance to work. Sometimes old Pride comes across many of us because we feel we know everything about the Bible and everything about religion and everything else. I found I had to make myself right with my own family and with my colleagues in order to break down the walls. God's grace flows through us, but if we have anything around us that walls us in so that this grace cannot flow out to others and other people flow into us, then individuals can become somewhat divisive. In a humble way I ask, why can't we appeal to the Heart of Power? Why can't we allow the Holy Spirit to work through us? I think I'll stop here.

Warren Lewis: A nuclear physicist who believes in the power of the Holy Spirit to make possible what we do!


1 The World Parliament of Religions, ed. J. H. Barrows. Chicago. 1893, pp. 67-68.

2 Francis Younghusband, Vital Religion. London, 1940, p. 6.

3 Religion for Peace, (Newsletters of WCRP), July 1975, p. 2.

4 The Louvain Declaration Cyclostyled text. p. I.

5 World Faiths, Spring 1977. pp. 4-5. 

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