The Five Major Religions Meet in Israel
OCTOBER 29, 2009 – The results of a survey showing how members of five major religions view their religious leadership were recently revealed in Haifa, Israel at the fourth meeting of the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders, a multinational, UNESCO-sponsored non-profit organization.
More than 50 religious leaders from around the world participated in the conference (October 18-22), on ‘The Future of Religious Leadership,’ representing Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Sikh and representatives from the Vatican and the Dalai Lama.
Highlights of the results: The religious are getting more religious; the faithful want peace, not politics; and the religious want their leaders to have interfaith dialogue.
The survey, conducted in August-September 2009, found that within the Jewish community there is great distrust and unhappiness with leadership, as well as low expectations. In contrast to other religions, Jews did not get more religious over the past five years. Also, Jewish responses showed the highest expectations for religious leaders to be involved in politics.
When asked about the appropriateness of the involvement of Jewish leaders in national politics, the highest response indicating that it is appropriate came from Jewish respondents, 59% of whom considered it appropriate. Literature emanating from the conference concluded, “There is room to consider that Jewish leadership is so implicated in politics as to have become identified by it.”
Here are some of the findings:
– Only 65% of Jews believe Jewish leadership is important to their religion, compared to 86% of Christians and 79% of Muslims.
– Only 34% of Jews say they have a national leader.
– 59% of Jews who strongly identify as religious have a local leader. Among Jews who have a local leader, 84% trust in their leader.
– National and international religious leadership receive only 58% trust among Jews, compared to 90% for Muslims and 74% for Christians.
– Jews have the lowest level of willingness to forgive their leaders for their faults; 71% for local and 61% for national leaders.
– Among those who considered themselves “strongly religious,” 39% of Jews said they had become more so over the past five years, compared with 57-86% in other religions. The survey respondents did not include Jews from the hareidi religious sect.
The Elijah Interfaith Institute is a multinational organization dedicated to fostering peace between the world’s diverse faith communities through interfaith dialogue, education, research and dissemination. Their unique programming generates interfaith dialogue at the highest levels, bringing together world religious leaders and renowned scholars the world over, through research projects, public conferences and community-based initiatives.
The activities of the Institute are carried out through several arms: the Board of World Religious Leaders, Elijah Interfaith Academy, the Elijah Educational Network, and the Elijah School for the Study of Wisdom in World Religions. Its vast range of contacts and networks include a board of world religious leaders, an extensive network of engaged scholars, academic partnership with leading universities, and membership in UNESCO educational and administrative networks. All of these allow the Elijah Interfaith Institute to carry out its work on a variety of levels and to offer a coordinated program of interreligious study, leading on the one hand to peace making and social change and on the other to the growth of individuals and their religious traditions.
The choice of naming the Institute after the prophet Elijah is appropriate inasmuch as the figure of Elijah is recognized and venerated in the Jewish, Christian and Muslim traditions. His image as it emerges in some of these traditions is as an ever-present teacher, spiritual guide, harbinger of peace, and precursor of a better world to come.
(News sources: The Elijah Interfaith Institute, INN and Israel21C)
(Photo credit: The Elijah Interfaith Institute)