Muslims and Jews ‘feel under threat’
“It is extremely important now, as more of our societies are becoming increasingly pluralistic, to explore ways in which interreligious relations can contribute to social peace,” says Dr John Pawlikowski (pictured), the new president of the International Council of Christians and Jews.
“It’s been said that there can’t be any peace in the world without peace among religions.
“Religious traditions by themselves are not the sole or even sometimes the most significant source of conflict in Northern Ireland, the Middle East, India or anywhere.
“But once these conflicts are launched, religious differences are exacerbated.
“One interesting phenomenon in the US after September 11 is that both the Muslim community and the Jewish community are finding that on some key religious events they have to be protected by the police and I think it’s part of the reality of society today that both feel under threat. By creating conversation we can help to overcome that.”
Dr Pawlikowski, a Servite priest, was in Sydney as part of a national tour that also included Melbourne, Canberra, Adelaide and Perth.
The council is involved in trilateral dialogue between Christians, Jews and Muslims, but gives a priority to Christian and Jewish relations.
It has given its support in the past couple of years to the Alexandria Declaration process; a grassroots effort by Christians, Jews and Muslims in the Middle East to bring local religious leaders together.
“One argument that has been made by many is that the Oslo Accord failed in part because of the non-implementation of all of the provisions for grassroots dialogue; that it remained a dialogue of political leaders and so on but didn’t create a real dialogue at the grassroots level,” Dr Pawlikowski explained.
“This is something the Alexandria process has been trying to achieve.”
The new council president succeeds Rabbi Dr David Rosen.
Dr Pawlikowski is professor of social ethics at the Catholic Theological Union at the University of Chicago and director of its Catholic-Jewish studies program.
He is also the author of many books including The Challenge of the Holocaust for Christian Theology; Reinterpreting Revelation and Tradition: Jews and Christians in Conversation; Good and Evil after Auschwitz and Ethics in the Shadow of the Holocaust.
The International Council of Christians and Jews was established in Britain after World War II.
It has 38 member organisations in 48 different countries, including the Australian Council of Christians and Jews, which has branches in Victoria, NSW, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the ACT. Its sponsoring bodies in NSW include the major Catholic and Anglican dioceses, the Uniting Church, Lutheran and Greek Orthodox Churches and the Salvation Army as well as Orthodox and Reform Jewish communities and the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies.