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World Interfaith Harmony Week Observed in Germany

World Interfaith Harmony Week observances took place in Munich and Stuttgart.

Munich

Representatives of seven religions discussed “Where is Heaven?” at an interfaith meeting on Feb. 7, 2015, at the office of the Munich branch of UPF-Germany.

Held to commemorate the United Nations’ World Interfaith Harmony Week, the discussion entitled “Where Is Heaven? Is There a (My) Kingdom of Heaven?” brought together 25 representatives and believers from seven religious communities.

Each of the following speakers gave a talk and offered a prayer from his or her tradition:

Gottfried Hutter, a Roman Catholic theologian, spoke about the Jewish/Christian definition of God’s Kingdom using a Kabbalah diagram with Hebrew characters. Values such as wisdom, goodness and beauty play a vital role. According to Matthew 6:33, we first should seek the Kingdom of God and everything else will be given afterward. Christ should resurrect within every believer and we should all become a (small) Messiah. Finally he prayed with all participants the Lord’s Prayer.

Yusuf Yüzay, a theologian and imam of Islam, initiated his presentation with a sung recitation of a chapter of the Quran dealing with the question “Where is heaven?” He then explained that although the Quran doesn’t explain exactly where heaven can be found, it does explain precisely how Muslims can prepare themselves for heaven, especially through the study of the Quran and the Hadize, the extra words of the Prophet Mohammad. A Muslim has to endeavor to reach heaven and find the Almighty through purifying his or her heart.

Michael Rotter, a peace educator and author, expressed that the best church or mosque for him would be Mother Nature, where one can deeply experience God and heaven. Then he presented the “Peace Constitution” for Germany which is based on the constitutions of Japan and Costa Rica. He said that we first should find peace within ourselves and that we can overcome war through a constant readiness for peace. Finally he prayed with all of us a Celtic prayer in gratitude to water and its creator and mentioned that we should be peacemakers.

Marlene Straub, Sufi Order International, first introduced the Sufi Order and its founder, Hazrat Inayat Khan, and then spoke about the necessary unity of all religions that the founder brought to the West, together with mystical music, about one hundred years ago. She said that international marriage also can be a means of bringing peace to the peoples of East and West. She regularly organizes a Universal Worship Service honoring all the religions of the world. Finally she said a prayer of her tradition and shared the Golden Sufi Heart: Love – the Lover – and the Beloved One are one.

Helga Huber, Christian Science Church, briefly introduced Christian Science, founded by Mary Baker Eddy in the United States. The central thought is the knowledge of the divine within oneself and the power of healing. The creation is divine and good; therefore we all should recognize the divine and the good within ourselves. The one who makes God present within oneself becomes a guarantor for peace. The prayer that she presented focused on esteem, appreciation and trust and said that divine wisdom and divine love should always be alive within everyone.

Uta Eilzer, Church of Scientology, offered a prayer for total freedom from war, poverty and suffering and for the preservation of human rights, so that all people can worship freely and hold their religious services; and that the Creator may enable all people to attain understanding of their spiritual nature. We should use our potential that is given by God and that is in the likeness of God. For her the way of salvation means to find peace within oneself and then develop attention and thoughtfulness for others.

Gisela Münster, a Catholic theologian, was very concerned about the present situation in the world, especially in Ukraine and Syria, and asked all of us to pray for peace urgently. That is what we can do. Peace starts there where we live. Thoughts full of goodness and reconciliation are so important. Peace is not only a still air between two wars, but a movement from people to people. She asked us: “Does peace start from you?” Peace starts small – with conversation. She presented in her prayer a variation of the Beatitudes: Blessed are the ones who love the interests of the others like their own, because they will create peace and unity. Blessed are the ones who are always prepared to take the first step, because they will discover that the others are more open than they first showed. …

In between the speakers there were musical presentations, as well as songs that the participants sang together: Oivind Haugen on guitar: "Halleluja"; Gianni Scarcella on piano: "Make Me a Channel of Your Peace"; and Annette Bentele sang the prayer of Lutheran theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer: "Von guten Mächten wunderbar geborgen." These songs and the flames of the candles that were lit by each participant after he/she prayed surely carried the participants’ desire for peace to heaven and the tears that were shed brought them back to Mother Earth.

Finally Siegfried Jensen, pastor of the Unification Movement in Munich, said that the Kingdom of Heaven is not a specific place but a common project of all of us. Mr. Jensen spoke about the way to God’s Kingdom which was shown by UPF Founder Dr. Sun Myung Moon. He mentioned the Three Blessings: to perfect oneself individually in true love, to establish a loving family and to create unity with creation. He emphasized the importance of living for the sake of others and that the family is the foundation for a culture of peace. Finally he presented an invitation to the Interfaith Peace Blessing as a ceremony of peace and reconciliation.

Report written by Magda Haugen (Women’s Federation for World Peace-Germany) and Robert Bentele

Stuttgart

As a contribution to World Interfaith Harmony Week, a member of the Mandaean Community in Germany reported to the Stuttgart Interreligious Round Table on Feb. 3, 2015, about his recent participation in a UPF conference in the Holy Land.

Dr. Qais Saidi was one of the few European participants in the UPF conference in Jerusalem entitled “Jerusalem and the Holy Sites: A Call for Peace at a Time of Crisis,” which took place from Jan. 11 to 13.

As a Mandaean, this visit to Israel was of special significance for Dr. Saidi, because the Mandaeans’ greatest teacher and prophet is John the Baptist, who lived and worked in Palestine 2,000 years ago at the time of Jesus. Most Mandaeans, including Dr. Saidi and his family, lived until recent years in Iraq, from where travel to Israel was forbidden. (Now Dr. Saidi and his family live in Germany and are German citizens.)

The participants in the Jerusalem conference were Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druze—as well as Dr. Saidi, a Mandaean. As specialists in politics, academia and religion, they had an inspiring exchange of information and lively discussions. Because of the small number of participants, it was possible to establish friendly relationships within even a few days. Dr. Saidi wondered, how can this peace be expanded and multiplied?

A central theme of the conference was the origin of the Middle East conflict. Is it to be found in religion or politics, or is there a social or psychological origin? Religions themselves should not be the problem, when seen from their principles, but only when the wants of one conflict with the wants of the other. There are ongoing peace initiatives and conferences in the Middle East. The conflict can be resolved; then again, perhaps not. The wish is for a resolution; then again, perhaps not.

The Quran recognizes four religions: Islam, Judaism, Christianity and the Sabaeans (Mandaeism). They share the following points: belief in God and in a spiritual world and the encouragement to do good deeds. However, what exactly is a good deed? This is a point of contention. Thus there are various laws.

 Religions desire peace and happiness for humankind. Jerusalem, the cradle of several of the world’s major religions, should be a model of a peaceful state! But on the contrary, Jerusalem is a model of conflict. The problems have a political aspect, and religion is used as an instrument of politics leading to prejudice and social and psychological problems.

It helps little to speak about peace and conflict resolution; action must result! What contributes to peace? Why is there no “Ministry of Peace”? A “Peace Television Channel” would be helpful. Sport and music could contribute to peace! The media must give neutral reports, and education for peace must be offered at all levels, starting from kindergarten, and the good points and similarities in all religions must be communicated in lessons, books and the media. The young people are the future, and they need to learn to know, understand and respect the different religions.

Dr. Saidi stimulated interest in his fellow conference participants in the religion of the Mandaeans, their history and their distinctiveness. He was able to communicate in Arabic with those who spoke that language, and the old Mandaean language impressed the Jews who are familiar with that ancient language from the Talmud.

Dr. Saidi presented UPF-Israel with a calligraphy which he had made himself using a quotation from UPF Founder Dr. Sun Myung Moon: “Peace is the Task of all Religions.”

The Interreligious Round Table participants were then able to view some of Dr. Saidi’s photos from the conference and from his visit to Israel. They were very impressed by his presentation, and there was time for questions at the end.

Written by Hubert Arnoldi, secretary general, UPF-Stuttgart

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