This week in Berlin, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel hosted an international conference for religious leaders on the topic of “Responsibility of Religions for Peace,” bringing together Muslim, Christian and Jewish scholars, as well as representatives of various faith groups, traditions and movements.
At the end of the Conference, Gabriel met personally with Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal, Rabbi of the Jewish community of Berlin and the local Chabad Shaliach. During the meeting, Gabriel requested that Teichtal relay his personal message to German’s Jewish community: “A Conference of this sort manifests that, contrary to what people may believe, various faiths can coexist together in peace. Mutual respect and dialogue are the keys to peace.”
The Conference, which took place on Monday, was attended by representatives of religions from 53 countries. This first conference on the topic of “Responsibility of Religions for Peace” symbolizes a new trend at the German Foreign Ministry of integrating interfaith dialogue as an indistinguishable aspect of its agenda and policies.
According to the German Foreign Ministry, the basis of this initiative is the fact that nearly all religions emphasize peace as part of its fundamental dogma; while a large portion of international conflict is ignited by religious strife.
In his opening address at the Conference, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, himself a Protestant, called upon all listeners to “rise to a challenge” Simultaneously, he noted that the purpose of the Conference is not to discuss theology, or the struggle to advance religious freedom; but to assess how various religious groups can foster peace and stability in their respective regions by having their delegates communicate with each other as opposed to about each other.
“Germany is glad that the religions are now at peace in our country. We are a country in which the state maintains neutrality on matters of religion. But it is not secular. Religion has its place in our country. And we are glad to see the return of some of the religious life lost during the campaign of terror and extermination waged by the Nazis against Jewish citizens. We are very glad that Jewish communities have re-established themselves in our country, because it is by no means self-evident that they should.” Gabriel expressed in his speech.
Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal, one of the prominent Jewish delegates at the Conference, remarked in response, “The fact that religious leaders are meeting in order to engage in practical dialogue and not religious dialogue is, in my opinion, the biggest news of this Conference. It’s what makes it stand out among other interfaith conferences and increases its chances of minimizing conflict and positively impact the world.”