15 December 2018 - 7 Tevet 5779 - ז' טבת ה' אלפים תשע"ט

A significant and first-of-itskind interfaith programme was held in Jerusalem in September, bringing together leading Asia religious leaders across many faiths. For most of the 25 participants, the visit was their first to Israel.

The five-day programme, “Ancient Traditions Contemporary Realities – A Meeting of Israel-Asia Faith Leaders”, included visits to other parts of the country. The influential Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Shinto, Jain, Taoism and Zoroastrian leaders from China, India, Japan, Myanmar, South Korea and Taiwan engaged with leading Israeli rabbis orthodox and progressive aswell as scholars, and Israel’s top leadership. AJC (the global Jewish advocacy organisation) and Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in co-operation with the World Council of Religions, organised the event.

“Expanding our interactions with other faiths is critical to nurturing a more co-operative, productive and peaceful world,” said Rabbi David Rosen, AJC International Director of Interreligious Affairs, who is based in Jerusalem.

Akiva Tor, the head of the Bureau for World Jewish Affairs and World Religions in the Foreign Ministry, explained that given Israel’s strengthening ties with the countries of East Asia, “it is appropriate that we convene a dialogue of civilisations to undergird these growing strategic, political and economic connections with ties of culture, spirit and deep mutual understanding.”

The Sikh representative, Giani Gurbachan Singh, has been called the “Sikh pope”, and Chandanaji is the first woman to attain the most senior position in the Jain religion. One of the Chinese representatives, Xue Cheng, is the president of the Buddhist Association of China, one of the state-approved religious frameworks there. Hsin, from Taiwan, is the influential abbot of a monastery in southern Taiwan that holds one of the relics of Buddha, and Kim Wan Doo from Korea is the head monk at the Seon Sangdo Meditation Center in Seoul, and is basically the supreme patriarch of Korean Buddhism.

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