"Religion the Problem, Never the Solution": The Role of Reconciliation in Sustaining Religious Freedom

IRLA Board of Experts in session at the Council for America's First Freedom

Richmond, Virginia, USA… "My concern is that religion is too often seen as the problem, and never as the solution," stated Ambassador Robert Seiple, chairing the Board of Experts of the International Religious Liberty Association gathered in Richmond, September 9-13.

"Reconciliation, and the principles that emerge from all the major faiths, suggest an enduring solution that comes from religion, and is needed as never before," Seiple continued. "It's hard work, rarely done well by governments, and we will be breaking new ground that takes us out of our comfort zones."

Through papers and intense discussion, the Board of Experts examined the vital role of reconciliation in supporting the work of religious freedom. Under the four main themes of truth, mercy, justice, and peace, the Experts examined the how different perspectives were absolutely necessary to build a lasting relationship between previously-hostile groups. The three Abrahamic faith traditions (Judaism, Islam, and Christianity) and their contributions both to confrontation and reconciliation were dealt with by various experts, and a synthesis developed.

2007 Board of Experts in Williamsburg
IRLA Board of Experts tour colonial Williamsburg as part of the meeting on Reconciliation

"Such a meeting continues the vital and engaged work of the IRLA," commented John Graz, IRLA Secretary General. "Reconciliation is an essential part of true and lasting religious freedom. Simply having laws to prevent religious persecution and discrimination is not sufficient. There needs to be heart-change within the various communities, and peace based on mutual respect."

The Board of Experts represents a wide variety of communions and academic backgrounds. They are acknowledged experts in the area of religious freedom. Presenters were Jeremy Gunn, Natan Lerner, Imad Damaj, Hui Chen, Jose Cardoso, Chris Rice, Rosa Maria Martinez de Codes, Cole Durham, Jack Spiro, and Chris Seiple. The meeting was hosted by the Council for America's First Freedom. [IRLA News]