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Religious Leaders Discuss Whether Religions Can Co-exist

National Geographic: In God's Name is a 2007 documentary that explores the views of 12 prominent spiritual leaders. Topics include calling, the presence of God, sacrifice, doubt, and the meaning of life. One of the segments in the bonus features section of the DVD is titled "Can All Religions Co-Exist?" Six of the contributing leaders offer their thoughts—thoughts that might be useful for preachers to interact with in a sermon.

From Reverend Mark Hanson, President, Lutheran World Federation, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:

I think people of different religious beliefs must co-exist because we share two things: a common humanity and a common earth. I think one of the greatest challenges today is the relationship between unity and diversity. If we didn't have a sense of what holds us together, what unites us, a common humanity and a common earth, then our differences will become cause for division and conflict, one seeking to dominate the other. But if we have a sense of what unites us, then our diversity will enrich our lives. Dialogue is very difficult. It takes commitment, it takes honesty, and it takes a willingness to be open to the other.

From Yona Metzher, Chief Rabbi of Israel:

The answer as to whether religions can live together, the answer is yes. They can. They have to. Our sages say: "As faces differ, so do opinions differ." Every person has a different face. Do I hate him because his face is different from mine? If he doesn't have eyes like mine, am I supposed to hate him? It is like this also with different opinions. If his belief is different than mine, why should I hate him? We can stay friends. Each with his own laws. Each with his own beliefs. Everything depends on the religious leader and what kind of attitude they promote in their communities toward other religions.

From Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, Church of England:

I believe that the Christian faith is true. I believe that what is revealed in Jesus Christ is the truth about God. But that does not make me feel I must now force everybody to accept that. It means I am grateful for what I have been given. That I would love to share it. That, also, I need to know that other people have come to their faith by a route that deserves my respect. So we talk to one another. We listen to one another. We have our convictions. We have our firm commitments to truth. But that does not mean violence. I think we can live together.

From Alexy II, Patriarch of Moscow and All-Russia Russian Orthodox Church:

We need to find common ground. We need to find out more about each other. That's why we support people knowing about religious values. First of all about the values of their own religion. And after that, about the values of other religions. This will help people to understand each other better, and not to address people of other religions with hostility or hatred.

From Tenzin Gyatso, The 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, Tibetan Buddhist:

We can't decree that this or that religion is the most important. I cannot tell that Buddhism is the best for each one of us. For example, for one of my Christian friends, Christianity is the best, and that is the most suitable for him. Thus, Buddhism is the best for me, but I can't say that this is the best for you too. And it being the best for him, he cannot say it is the best for me as well.
Likes and interests are different, as in the food habits of different people. Some people like chilies. Others do not. Those that like chilies cannot say that the food having chilies is the best. For those that don't like chilies, the food without chilies is the best.
Take medicines also for another example. There are different varieties of medicine because there are different varieties of diseases. We cannot claim that only one medicine is the best for all diseases ….
Whatever religion it is, they are all beneficial to many people. I feel wonderstruck that these religions have been beneficial for millions of people for many thousand years. I always think they are very favorable to humanity.

From Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, Shia Muslim:

I have always been open to humanity as a whole. I have always thought that if I have the right to differ with the other, the same applies to the other. That is why I am always ready to engage Christians, Jews, and secularists and all other people who have a different religion than mine. I have never been a religious fanatic.

Elapsed Time: DVD, bonus feature titled "Can All Religions Co-Exist?" (the clip runs about five minutes)

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