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S. Almirzanah: Address to Interreligious Leadership Conference 2017

Address to Interreligious Leadership Conference 2017
Seoul, Korea, November 10 to 14, 2017


Honorable leaders and distinguished guests:  

I want to express my appreciation to the committee for holding this great meeting. Thank you so much to the Universal Peace Federation (UPF) for this gathering. I was involved in this organization a long, long time ago when I was in Washington, D.C. as a visiting professor at Georgetown University. 

As we know, plurality is a fact of our contemporary world, both on a global scale and often on the level of specific societies. This is due to the manifold aspects of the divine revelation and of its pursuit by people of different cultures.

Those of us who engage in interreligious inquiry are variously inspired, perplexed and – in some cases, even repulsed – by what we surmise as each other’s insights and practices. So, optimally speaking, we find that our various traditions share some of the same fundamental values that each of us cherish in our own religions, albeit expressed in different ways. 

We also realize that we are being challenged to articulate our own religious identities in an increasingly religiously plural setting where others are, in many ways, listening and asking questions of us as we do so. What this means is that whether we like it or not, to be religious today is to be inter-religious

Friedrich Max Muller has a famous dictum: “He who knows one religion, knows none.” Perhaps largely he was referring to those who aspired to become experts in the study of a particular religious tradition. 

Yet today, this dictum seems to have significance well beyond the membership of the American Academy of Religion and similar scholarly societies. 

In today’s increasingly religiously plural social contexts, these words suggest not only that a failure to engage pluralism, including in this case to engage multiculturalism, is an act of self-marginalization within our own social contexts. 

They also suggest that without some understanding of the faith and culture of our neighbor, the religious person (or community) living in a religiously and culturally plural society cannot even understand oneself (or itself). 

Thus, the understanding of religions is vital because of the massive power that religions have wielded, something that no one can deny. 

I will close with a quotation from the book by Harold Kasimow and Byron Sherwin, “No Religion is an Island, page. 6: “The religions of the world are no more self-sufficient, nor more independent, no more isolated than individuals or nations…. Horizons are wider, dangers are greater…. No religion is an island. We are all involved with one another. Spiritual betrayal on the part of one of us affects the faith of all of us.” 


A great Anatolian mystic said:

Be like a compass: Stand firm on your one foot well-established in the center of the circle (belief and love of God) and travel with your other foot with people of 72 nations of different races, colors, religions, ideologies, worldviews, cultures, personalities. Be so tolerant that your heart becomes wide like the ocean. Become inspired with faith and love for others. Love all the creation because of the Creator. 

Offer a hand to those in trouble, and be concerned about everyone. So long as you remain in yourself, you are a particle. But if you get united with everybody, you are a mine, an ocean. All spirits are One! And all bodies are One! There are many languages in the world, in meaning all are the same. If you break the cups, water will be unified and will flow together.


To go to the Interreligious Leadership Conference Schedule 2017, click here.