The Words of the Kaufmann Family

Why We Work with Religious Leaders

Frank Kaufmann
September 23, 2004
Director Of Interreligious Relations For IIFWP, Director Of IRFWP

(Delivered as an address at the Middle East Peace Initiative - Briefing for the World Peace Pilgrimage of 191 Countries at IIFWP / IIPC - Jerusalem. )

I thank all of you for coming to the Holy Land. The people I meet here are unusual in the extent that you have committed yourself to a high and noble cause. Donít mistake yourself for being a common person. You are unusual in your commitment to God. Today one person came in the room who reminded me of my mother. I wanted that person to be my mother at that moment in time. I humble myself to you. You left everything behind, and you worry about your affairs and your family. We have to keep each other in our prayers and keep each other strong. So please, let us pray for one another.

I have been asked to speak about why we concentrate on religious leaders. When we went to Al Aqsa Mosque, we were addressed by religious leaders. Part of the gathering there was concerned about how to stand for our picture. But I am sure that the imam was not concerned whether you were in the picture or not but rather about deepeing your understanding. We donít want to get distracted by photo opportunities.

We donít work with religious leaders because they are the most entertainingly dressed of all professions. The religious garb is naturally the most beautiful of all professional garbs. Religious leaders here are dressed in beautiful robes, wearing golden crosses and pointed hats. This is proper, because it is hard to get peopleís attention for religion. You need to draw peopleís attention. Also, religious leaders are called to be exemplary. If you are dressed so conspicuously, it should be harder for you to behave badly. Still, people manage to misbehave somehow.

So please understand, we are not just concerned about photo opportunities.

There are four main reasons for our focus on religious leaders:

1. The absence of peace comes from separation from God. If we were not separated from God, we would live in peace with one another. God designed human affairs so we could easily and effortlessly live harmoniously with one another. Tragically, we separated ourselves from God. Every religion has an explanation about how that happened. Religion came into being to guide people through a regimen to connect with God. To the extent that we are faithful, we can go back to God.

2. Spiritual reality influences contemporary affairs. Every one of you here is under spiritual influence. Your parents or grandparents in the spiritual realm are hoping that some unfulfilled desire of their life can be fulfilled through you. Great spiritual founders, many of whom gave up their life for the sake of God, are trying to find people who can carry on the mission that they lived and died for. Those people are part of the process that will bring to pass the peace that we seek. It is a very tenuous, difficult and dangerous task to break through spiritual reality. There are unseen powers and principalities, and without proper guidance and training we risk running into relationships with misleading spirits, to the extent that people are enraged to the point of war, battle and taking lives. War and peace are spiritual matters. Some people are clearly under the influence of malevolent powers. There are torrents of spiritual causality. We desperately need to know the way that will make us steady and consistent objects to beneficent spiritual forces. That is the job of religious leaders. I know there are religious leaders here who can take an evil man who walks into your church for the first time and make him change.

3. Religion forms the greatest force for attachment. There are people who would easily give up everything they own and die for their faith. I donít need to present more arguments about this point. Wars involving religion are the most horrendous. Religious people will kill to the very last person, if it has to do with sacred texts and holy ground where their founder sacrificed his life for God. For example, the Sikhs carry part of the sacred word of God in their turbans. Their attitude is, "You can take my life, but you cannot take the word of God."

4. We need to solve the problem of the relationship between church and state, between spiritual and material dimensions of life. Do Christians and Muslims believe exactly the same thing? Do Christians and Jews believe exactly the same thing? No. The most absolute points of difference lie within the religious realm. How can we solve a problem like that? How can we solve rabid differences? There is something higher than our beliefs and doctrines. That is love. To love that person like my own son, my own brother, my own father is what religion teaches. Every religion teaches us to love human beings infinitely and eternally. Therefore, when you have a priest and a rabbi and an imam--each in their religious robes--hugging each other and crying, it says to the whole world that there is no difference in the world so great that it cannot be harmonized within the worldís great religions. When they show that they are one, nobody can claim that their own differences are too great to resolve, that their walls are too high to take down. Leaders have already conquered these differences. Leaders have taken the hardest and most intractable differences and proven that even those can be overcome. They make every argument for war moot. The second that they truly stand together, they make every objection to reconciliation moot. You can respond to the objectors, "I donít want to hear about it. Peace is possible."

Regarding the relationship between temporal and spiritual leadership, public leaders need spiritual guidance. But they tend to keep religion at a distance because religions use the power of the state to advance their parochial interests against believers in other faiths. That is a sin. Anyone who has done that should be ashamed of himself or herself. Secular leaders should say, "Stay away from me if you are trying to get my power or my tax money for your narrow interests." As a result, the political leaders know little about God and the spiritual world. Thus, they lack the spiritual wisdom to lead the public. If religious leaders stand together, political leaders can no longer voice such objections.

Therefore, world peace begins with the worldís religions.

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