The Dalai Lama, the Archbishop of Malines-Bruxelles, Jozeph De Kesel, the Chairman of Belgian Muslims, Salah Echallaoui, the President of the United Protestant Church of Belgium, Steven Fuite, and the Chief Rabbi of Belgium, Albert Guigui, held an inter-denominational meeting Monday morning at Université catholique de Louvain (UCL), at the Woluwe-Saint-Lambert campus. At the meeting, a demonstration of present-day progress in interreligious dialogue, each representative began by pleading for peace and respect for the differences inherent to man.
The Dalai Lama stressed the importance of the unity of mankind in the globalized and interdependent world of the 21st century. Differences in religion reveal in his opinion the historical characteristics of the cultures in which they emerged, which explains that traditions then blended in with the religions themselves. He stressed that they however share the same aim, which is the elevation of humanity.
Steven Fuite stated, “We have seen in recent years in Europe and Belgium setbacks regarding identity, as well as in the political sphere. Our common struggle is to counter this. Nobody seeks to glorify a particular absolute identity.”
Brussels secondary students had several questions ready; in relation to one regarding the devastation of war, the Dalai Lama advocated for teaching values within modern materialistic society. “Human nature is more predisposed to compassion. So there is hope. Young students, you must think not only with your minds, but also with your hearts.”
Salah Echallaoui condemned Daech (Islamic State) and its barbarity in the name of Islam, “When we look at the backgrounds of terrorists arrested here in Europe, we see that they have been everywhere except at places of worship: prisons, delinquency, drug and arms trafficking… People with identity crises tend to radicalize and use religion to legitimize a struggle that has nothing religious about it.”
While on the matter of gender equity Jozeph De Kesel and Albert Guigui tended to limit themselves to citing the subordinate tasks given to women, Salah Echallaoui was more direct, “In essence, there is no problem: Islam preaches equality between men and women in rights. But, unfortunately, culture has a strong influence, and it is often mistaken for religious beliefs. We have women preachers, but they do not yet play the role of imam. This is however being discussed in some places in the United States and the Netherlands.”
Regarding religion, everyone agreed that reason, which deals with the “how” of life, and beliefs, dealing with “why”, must go towards the future hand in hand.