3rd International Religious Leaders' Conference
Starting from 10am on the third day of the 3rd Annual Commemoration of the September 18th World Alliance of Religions’ Peace (WARP) Summit, the International Religious Leaders’ Conference was held. Around 300 religious leaders representing many of the prominent religious communities worldwide, including but not limited to Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Hinduism and Buddhism, gathered under the theme of “Cooperation for the Realization of Religious Peace”.
All of the religious leaders who came together once again for this conference clearly displayed much greater confidence and determination for peace than in the event that was held in the previous year. The vibrant faces of all in attendance that were seen as they exchanged greetings with one another according to the customs of their respective religions was a strong indication of their high expectations for this conference.
During the Religious Leaders’ Conference at the last Summit, participants had agreed to unite together as one in search of the truth and compare religious scriptures in order to find a trustworthy standard. In accordance with this promise, the work of doctrine comparison has been going on at the WARP Offices worldwide throughout this past year. As a result of these year-long efforts, we were able to witness the thorough explanation of the resulting data regarding the standard of a reliable scripture at this meeting.
In fact, the conference began with a 15-minute presentation concerning this data of the standard for a trustworthy scripture that was collected, as well as a brief summary of the future direction of the WARP Offices in 2018. It was shared that currently there are 218 WARP Offices operating in 126 countries around the world, which is simply amazing considering that this rapid expansion occurred in such a short amount of time.
The WARP Offices were first established through the original WARP Summit held back in 2014 on September 18th where the religious leaders signed the agreement for the unity of religions. So, they have only been in operation for a mere 3 years, yet their influence worldwide is immeasurable.
At the end of the presentation, religious leaders who had personally experienced interreligious reconciliation through the WARP Offices were invited to share their stories and explain the importance of such work for peace.
Speaker 1: Grand Ayatollah Seyed Reza Hosseini Nassab, Present Grand Ayatollah of Canada
Speaker 2: Rev. Acharya Prem Shankaranand Tirth, the Hindu High Priest of Shree Geeta Ashram of Delhi
Speaker 3: Ven. Sumiththa Thero, the Chairman of the Sri Lankan Buddhist Cultural Center Hong Kong
The first speaker was the Grand Ayatollah of Canada, Mr. Seyed Reza Hosseini Nassab, who gave an inspiring speech entitled “Pursuit of Truth and Realization of Religious Peace” in which he clearly pointed out the role of religious leaders in the creation of a peaceful future.
He emphasized that “It is the most important responsibility of Religious Leaders to find out the truth from the Holy Scripture and to teach it to other people, especially the youth.” He went on to add that “accordingly, we should support the WARP office discussions, as the significant link and the great network for the worldwide religious institutions and spiritual leaders, to show the cooperation and solidarity of all religious leaders, and to send the message of tolerance, peace and unity to all people around the world.”
The next speaker, Rev. Acharya Prem Shankaranand Tirth, the Hindu High Priest of Shree Geeta Ashram of Delhi, gave a rousing speech regarding “The Necessity of the Discussion for the True Harmony”, and he also explained the differences between the WARP Office meetings and other religious groups.
He began by sharing his personal background and experience with the WARP Office, stating that “while participating in different interfaith dialogues, I met HWPL and started to join the WARP Office Dialogue of the Scriptures. I became enlightened with its goal to bring harmony in the religious world by finding the trustworthy scripture.”
He further explained that “HWPL is trying to make that effort to gather all religious people in the WARP Office for the comparison of scriptures and to see the similarities of God and His teachings to demolish differences. Through this, people can live harmoniously and practice God’s heavenly culture.”
Ven. Sumiththa Thero, the Chairman of the Sri Lankan Buddhist Cultural Center Hong Kong, gave an empowering speech regarding the “Trustworthy Scripture and the Task of Religious Leaders”.
His speech was very powerful and many were moved when he stated that “religions share the same heart in seeking for the absolute truth because we all face the same sufferings like goodness and evilness, life and death, wars, etc.”
As a participant in the WARP Office meetings, Ven. Sumiththa Thero also openly shared his experiences there, stating “for the first time in my life, I have engaged in very deep dialogues and have seen how it is like to feel equal on the same table even if we have different religious backgrounds. This feeling is so strong that I start to imagine how wars will stop if people will feel the same way as I do.” Through this he clearly emphasized the importance of cooperation in seeking for a trustworthy scripture.
With the vast experiences of all the participants, the strength of the comparison of religious scriptures discussions held in the WARP Offices is amazing to behold. Despite the multitude of different religious that can be found worldwide, it is important to never forget the many similarities that exist between them. Not only are they all seeking for the highest truth, but all the people around the world share in the same anxieties and sufferings and have the same desire to work for peace and give that hope to the entire world.
Chairman Man Hee Lee of HWPL addressed all the religious leaders present, stating that “When you put something on a scale, you know whether it is heavy or light. Just like that, we, ourselves, have to become the just and righteous scale. We, the religious leaders, have to be the wise scales measuring all religious scriptures. Let us not be arrogant thinking that what we know is everything.”
He added, “the scriptures of our respective faiths are valuable, so we have to become a master of them. The next thing is we have to gather all religious scriptures and work to define the trustworthy scripture with a legitimate standard. Before the scriptures are unified, religions cannot be aligned. Everything that religious leaders discuss must clearly be based on what is written in the scripture, which needs to be comprehensively analyzed and studied for the true alliance of religions.”
Overall, the 3rd International Religious Leaders’ Conference provided religious leaders from all different denominations and countries around the world the opportunity to gather in one heart and share their unique experiences. It was also a time where these religious leaders directly confirmed that the WARP Office scripture comparison meetings are the answer to solve the issue of the reconciliation of religions. It is anticipated that through these WARP Office Meetings peace will soon be achieved between religions in accordance with the standard for a trustworthy scripture that was announced at this conference.