Church of Scientology European Office for Public Affairs and Human Rights hosted a conference on the scriptural roots of interreligious dialogue May 5, organized by the European Interreligious Forum for Religious Freedom.
The conference—“Religions, Scriptures and Interreligious Dialogue: Is interreligious dialogue part of your religious duties, and what can it do for peace?”—featured theologian Father Ignace Berten of the Dominican Order; Catholic priest Father Stan Ebere Nwaigwe; Mr. Karim Geirnaert, president of EuroHalal; Rev. Hierodeacon Petar Gramatikov of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church; Mr. Manik Paul, honorary president of the Hindu Forum of Belgium; and Rev. Eric Roux, vice president of the Church of Scientology European Office of Public Affairs and Human Rights.
The conference explored the religious and scriptural roots of interreligious dialogue and its role in resolving important conflicts in the world today.
“God has no room for favoritism.”
Father Stan Nwaigwe spoke of Acts of Apostles 10 and the Gospel of St. John. “The essential element of the Word of God, which Jesus accomplished, can also be recognized outside the Christian fold,” he said. “To assume otherwise is to underestimate and diminish the universal scope of Christ’s power.” He said that we only contradict ourselves to assume that God, who is almighty, could not make Himself known in forms incomprehensible to us and that the Christian Bible does not preclude plurality. “By recognizing that God has no room for favoritism,” he said, “the Bible recognizes religious practice outside Christianity.”
Manik Paul spoke of interreligious dialogue as a natural aspect of Hinduism. “A culture where everyone must have the same beliefs and follow the same practices is not a true culture and it denies the human spirit that always seeks to grow and express itself in a variety of ways.” He spoke of the advice of Indian seer Sri Ramakrishna: “As you remain firm in your own faith and opinion, so leave others the same freedom to remain firm in their faiths and opinions.” This, he said, was his first lesson on the importance of granting respect to other traditions and religions and remains his guiding principle.
The theme of Father Petar Gramatikov’s speech was “the power of love must defeat the love of power.” He referred to the words of St. Luke Voyno-Yasenetsky, Archbishop of Crimea and Simferopol (1877-1961), who said that the opposite of peace is not war, it is being self-centered on a personal, collective, national, tribal or religious level—that this is what generates violence and destroys peace. Fr. Gramatikov spoke of the need to strengthen an active and multidimensional love that is not limited to its own national borders, prejudice and discrimination.
The final speaker was Rev. Eric Roux. “Dialogue, when well conducted, is communication. And communication will create more affinity, more reality; communication will create understanding. When you understand one another, the war is over. In fact, if you understand each other before war happens, there will never be any war. If you continue to create dialogue, there will be no room for misunderstanding, and the efforts of those who seek to create war will be to no avail, as understanding will be so strong that any effort to undermine it will vanish…The strength of religions lies in their willingness to engage in communication and to put their wisdom to the service of humanity.”
European Interreligious Forum for Religious Freedom is a nonprofit, nonpolitical philanthropic interfaith organization registered in France, unaffiliated with any one particular faith. Its steering committee includes religious leaders of various faiths and European countries, united to promote freedom of religion and belief, religious tolerance, interfaith dialog and knowledge of diverse religions. Its scope is primarily, but not limited to, Europe.