San Francisco Chronicle Page A18
Religious Violence Decried at Gathering
Thursday, June 26, 1997
Amid native drumming, Hebrew prayers and Hindu songs, interfaith leaders gathered at Stanford Memorial Church last night and issued a challenge to those who kill in the name of God.
"We are going to end this millennium with peace among religions," said Episcopal Bishop William Swing of San Francisco. "There is untapped solidarity among religions."
Swing spoke at an eclectic service held at a weeklong convention to begin work on the charter for a new interfaith organization called the United Religions.
"People are really coming together," said Iftekhar Hai , representing the United Muslims of America.
Hai said he hoped the United Religions would organize interfaith teams of mediators who could travel to Israel and other global hot spots.
In fact, delegates have proposed calling for a 24-hour religious cease-fire on December 31, 1999.
"We'd ask that no one of any religion kill anyone of another religion for 24 hours," Swing said.
Rev. Heng Sure of the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association of Berkeley said he was skeptical when he arrived at Stanford Monday morning.
"But there's a real kinship here," said Sure, a monk with a shaved head and orange robes.
This conference, which adjourns tomorrow morning, was the latest in a series of conferences to build support for a global interfaith organization scheduled to begin June 26, 2000.
Some 200 delegates, drawn from both established world religions and new spiritual movements, spent much of the time getting to know each other around eight-person tables.
"We're bringing together people from diverse backgrounds" said Hugh Adamson, a member of the Baha'i faith from the United Kingdom. "Now we have to carry that spirit back with us around the world."
Adamson's table mates included a Zorastrian from Bombay, an indigenous woman from New Zealand, a nun from a millennial Hindu sect in India, and Neale Donald Walsch, author of the best-selling "Conversations with God" books.
Walsch said he represents the one million truth seekers who have purchased his books and made him the latest superstar on the spiritual circuit.
"If anything, I represent the new paradigm of a religionless religion -- a religion without structure -- a spirituality that transcends all boundaries," he said.
Religions with structure are less enthusiastic about the United Religions initiative. There was no official representative from the Vatican.
But the Rev. Gerry O'Rourke, the director of interreligious affairs for the Archdiocese of San Francisco, said the Vatican is monitoring the United Religions initiative.
While the vast majority of the delegates are from the United States, the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant church, is not represented.
One clergyman who wants nothing to do with the United Religions is the Rev. Carl McIntire, president of the fundamentalist International Council of Christian Churches.
McIntire, a longtime critic of the World Council of Churches and other ecumenical and interfaith movements, said the United Religions is "the one world church which will welcome the Antichrist."
"Only Christianity is the door to heaven," McIntire said.
©Copyright 1997, San Francisco Chronicle