The Words of the Zelenitsina Family

Forum in Moscow: Is Inter-religious Dialogue Possible?

Marina Zelenitsina
January 28, 2011

Moscow, Russia -- Recently, problems of inter-religious relations have been a source of trouble for officials. In this nation and in the world, armed conflicts and acts of terror take place from time to time, and the average people see the cause as collisions of religious views.

Experts, Ambassadors for Peace, and interested youth came together on January 28 at the UPF headquarters in Moscow to examine the possibility of any form of dialogue among confessions and the obstacles to developing relations between followers of different religions. This inter-religious youth round-table discussion about "Inter-religious Cooperation as an Important Instrument for Creating the Culture of Peace in Russia" was held on the eve of the Week of Inter-religious Harmony, the first week of February, that was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly.

At the round table there were experts who devote much attention to inter-religious relations. Each introduced interesting ideas and propositions that could be called stages towards mutual understanding and creating an interconfessional dialogue.

Jacques Marion, Secretary General of UPF-Eurasia, opened the round table with his presentation of the UPF proposal for creating an inter-religious council at the UN. Mr. Marion talked about UPF's experience in bringing together people of different faiths. The key point of his speech was: "Human faith in existence of the transcendence that created us all must become the unifying factor and not the reason for conflict."

Valery Mikhailovich Emelyanov, Executive Director of the International Cooperation Association "Time and World," chose as his topic: "Inter-religious Social Service: Ideas and Principles." Mr. Emelyanov exposed the problem of the unequal positions of religions in our nation: "Inter-religious dialogue is possible and optimal only in a society where all confessions are equal; it is impossible when one religion dominates." In his speech he underlined the vivid slogan "Show the positive sides of your religion through action and personal example."

"Science and Religion" was the topic of Professor of the Moscow State Institute of Radio Engineering, Electronics and Automation, Andrey Fedorovich Volkov. Countering the idea that science always negated religion, he expressed his opinion that religion promoted development of science.

The topic of the chair of the Religious Organization Council, Konstantin Viktorovich Zharinov, sparked the interest of the participants: "Urgent Problems Preventing Inter-religious Dialogue." Mr. Zharinov raised the issue about who could participate in inter-religious dialogue. He said that in any religion there are radical extremes, and it would be impossible and useless to include them into the dialogue. Radicals want to fence themselves off and prove that their religion is the best. To illustrate his idea he offered many interesting quotations. One of them concluded his speech: "The wall dividing the religions cannot reach heaven."

The speech of Nadezhda Vladimirovna Vlasova from the Intergovernmental Association of Hero-cities (at first glance inappropriate in respect of the topic of the round table) gave an example of establishing relations between followers of different religions. She told about her "City of Peace" project, in which different people spend time together in nature and live together for two weeks helping each other and cleaning the surrounding territory. The most important factor is that they study each other's traditions and ways of life; as a result, people from different religious traditions learn to see positive sides in everything. It is difficult to describe the project in a few words, she said, so she invited guests of the round table to visit the project and learn the details directly from the participants.

After the official speeches, other guests of the round table came up to the stage and thanked the organizers for invitating them. They talked about their own projects and shared opinions about the meeting.

A dialogue of religions undoubtedly took place at the round table.

It is important now to continue the initiative on other grounds. There will be other meetings of the kind. The problem of misunderstanding between people of different religious backgrounds is very urgent. Participants in the round table sincerely hope that this problem will eventually be solved. 

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