Representatives of World Religions are Committed to Peace

Vienna: In view of a world teetering between war and terror, the Coalition of Faith-Based Organizations (CFBO) has called for a demonstration of the religions’ desire for peace. In the last days of Advent, the discussion evening took place yesterday, December 20th, 2023, in Vienna, Stephanisaal, Stephansplatz 3. Surrounded by the “Peace Prayer Mandala” by the newly founded choir of soprano Ira Lauren (a choir of religions, so to speak), representatives of Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam committed themselves to a culture of dialogue that can only credibly come from a platform of religions.

The program was attended by a large number of people from different schools of thought. Christmas and peace songs were also sung in the program.First, the Moderator Elmar Kuhn of the program thanked everyone for participating in this event. The special guests who delivered their speeches in this program were among them.

Yuriy Kolasa, Vicar General for the Eastern Catholic Churches in Austria. Mr Afsar Rathor, President, Project Manager at UNIDO. Gerhard Weissgrab, President of the Buddhist Religious Society of Austria. Willy Weisz, IKG Vienna, Vice President of the Coordination Committee for Christian-Jewish Cooperation. Various speakers said in their speeches.

When I found the Peace Prayer Mandala in my singing therapy songbook, I knew that I would sing it with many people to make a statement for peace in times of crisis, unrest and war. And so everything began to fall into place. Peter Haider, a member of the Coalition of Faith-Based Organizations, invited us to sing at an interfaith Christmas party. I am grateful that so many singers, so many power women have contacted me, participants from my yoga courses, yoga colleagues, former classmates from our music-pedagogical high school, etc.

Mark Culbard Peters, a cellist and visitor to my yoga classes, agreed to provide musical accompaniment to the mantra. My dear friend Angelika Luitz made her Eloquent language institute available for the rehearsals. Vanja, an opera singer, agreed to conduct at the last minute.

We continue because we all believe that one day there will be peace on this beautiful planet and we are already looking forward to the next peace project.
With that in mind, merry, peaceful, blessed Christmas.
Ira Lauren.

Where the UN fails, religions can bring peace.
Mr Afsar Rathor, a Pakistani Muslim with 27 years of experience serving the UN, began his speech with quotes on peace from five religions. In his decades of experience in peacekeeping missions around the world, he had “seen too much blood and death.” His conclusion: “Often enough, wars and conflicts could not be prevented. The UN has failed again and again.” In his experience, it was only the platforms of religions and religious leaders that were able to ensure lasting peace. “If the UN fails, we need dialogue between religious leaders. Religion is the weapon to achieve peace.” Even if he is often accused of naivety, this naive faith helped to mediate peace. Religious leaders have built bridges of peace: in Rwanda this led to reconciliation, in Yemen he has just helped broker a ceasefire on a religious basis, and on a peace mission in Ukraine and in Moscow he has been heard on both sides . Rathor: “I saw in Moscow and Kiev that the young generation in particular supports peace initiatives. War never leads to lasting peace.”

Where is peace on earth?
Yuri Kolosa is a Ukrainian Catholic priest and vicar general for the Eastern Catholic Churches in Austria. In view of the second winter of war in Ukraine with 100,000 dead and wounded on both sides so far, he asks the question that many Christians are also asking themselves: Where is the Christmas cheer of the heavenly host? Where is peace on earth? He can give the answer from Ukraine: It is the churches that can transform hate into love, that is the prerequisite for reconciliation. This is already happening in the churches of Ukraine today. People become able to forgive and love in the midst of terror and war.

Peace needs dialogue
Willy Weisz from the Jewish Community of Vienna quotes “Shalom”, the greeting of peace, which is omnipresent in the Jewish liturgy. The Hanukkah Festival of Lights, which has just ended, shows very clearly that there can be no peace where there is no freedom. Justice and peace are interdependent. But Shalom always means the question of one’s own inner peace.

The President of the Buddhist Religious Society in Austria, Gerhard Weissgrab, added from a Buddhist perspective that the central point is to move away from hatred and delusion. Peace needs dialogue first. It’s not just about religious dialogue, but about dialogue with all areas of society. Weissgrab: “We must have the courage to look into the depths and recognize the abysses. Only then will we recognize the root network of evil in our world and in ourselves. Because everything is connected to everything else. Only when we develop inner serenity do paths to peace open up. But above all, this requires patience.”

The commitment to peace begins here and today.
There was a very intensive discussion in the packed St. Stephen’s Hall, where almost 100 interested people took part in the event despite the last days of Advent before Christmas. It was clear to everyone that there were no quick solutions. And those in power only have their own program, which does not include peace. That’s why platforms like the Coalition are so important. We must not stop hoping and speaking out. Moderator Elmar Kuhn added: “As general secretary of Christians in Need, we work at the grassroots level. In more than 40 projects worldwide. It’s always about people and the dialogue with different religions. Then peace and tolerance can emerge. Not from above with violence, but from the people and from the heart, with understanding and respect for each other.” The participants made it clear that they left the event with greater hope and saw themselves as ambassadors of peace. The “Peace Prayer Mandala” that everyone sang along became a demonstration of the will for peace in our torn world.

Dr. Elmar Kuhn.
The Coalition of Faith-Based Organizations (CFBO) All the people in the program were thanked by the President and the entire team and food was served at the end.