As I attend the Religions for Peace World Assembly in Vienna, I can’t help but feel deep pride as a Unitarian Universalist. There are more than six hundred religious leaders here from all over the world—Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and Sikhs. There are even smaller groups like Zoroastrians and Jains (at only four million).
We UU’s are probably the smallest group here—and yet we are in no small part responsible for the existence of this body. The first president of the UUA, Dana Greeley, played a critical role in the founding of this organization. Our Japanese partners, the Rissho Kosei-kai, were also part of founding Religions for Peace. It was a joy to see these good Japanese colleagues again and share a meal with them..
What is perhaps most striking at this conference is how easily and naturally all these people—from every part of the world and from virtually every religious group—can work together. These are leaders committed to making their religious traditions agents of peace and harmony in the world. They unanimously reject hatred and violence.
Once more I am impressed by how the great struggles in the world today are not really between different religions and cultures. The conflicts are among the reactionary elements of the world’s religions and cultures. Progressive Jews, Muslims, Christians and others have learned how to draw upon their deep traditions and yet to also appreciate other traditions as well.
During the conference I served on a panel at a workshop dealing with education for peace. In my brief remarks I drew upon our own UU tradition, going back to Sophia Fahs and before, of pioneering the teaching about other religious traditions in a respectful way. I went on to add my own conviction that we need to move beyond the cognitive teaching about other faiths to an interpersonal and experiential encounter with other faiths in their cultural contexts. Our fledgling learning service efforts in the College of Social Justice is a fine example of this.
Religion, alas, is still used to justify unspeakable violence. Such violence makes news. Here in Vienna, a vital global effort that we UU’s helped to create uses religion as a means to spread understanding, compassion and peace. Cooperation is quiet. Appreciative understanding is silent. They do not make big news. However, when we finally get to the point where the world has learned to live in harmony and peace, enlightened religious leaders like these good people here in Vienna will have done much to make such a world possible.
What a humbling privilege it is to be here as a representative of our faith.
Unitarian Universalist Association
Find news from the World Assembly on the World Assembly Facebook page. The Official event hashtag for social media is #RfPAssembly