Setting an Example, Interfaith Round table Takes Place in Kazan, Russia

At an Inter-faith meeting held yesterday in Kazan, Russia, the Chief Mufti of the Islamic community said, “ISIS is a satanic sect: there is nothing about it of Muslim belief.”


In Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, 800 kms east of Moscow, an unusual Inter-Faith dialogue took place – unusual because it was attended by the heads of the local Muslim community, the archdiocese of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Roman Catholic church, Protestant clergy, and prominent rabbis from Russia and Israel.

Tatarstan is a Muslim country but with large minority population and has, for hundreds of years, been seen as an example of peaceful coexistence between people of different faiths.

The meeting had been arranged by Limmud FSU as part of its mission to support Jewish identity and education among young Russian speaking Jews, in cooperation with the government of Tatarstan and the local Jewish community, which numbers some 10,000 people.

Rabbi Berel Lazar, the Chief Rabbi of Russia, pointed out that the meeting was not simply of local concern, but has worldwide significance. “National identity is important and it is the right of every person to freedom of thought and expression. When one recognizes the right of the other to freedom of expression, one can understand and appreciate him. Kazan is an embodiment of this virtue.”

Predictably, all the speakers stressed the importance of interfaith dialogue and peaceful coexistence “among all the sons of Ibrahim,” in the words of Kamil Hazrat Semigollin, the Chief Mufti of Tatarstan. Less predictable perhaps, was his expressions of outrage on the actions of ISIS. “These people are not men but animals. The foundation stone of Islam is love. The unimaginable cruelty of these people is fundamentally in opposition to Islam. Christians have been expelled, priceless works of world civilization destroyed. We all pray to the same God and believe in the same prophets. True Islam is not opposed to other faiths.”

Bishop Vladimir Samoilenko of the Russian Orthodox church pointed out that “throughout history, Christianity, Islam and Judaism have reflected the same moral identity under all circumstances and at all times. That is why it is incumbent on all religious leaders to convey the message of respect for the other which has proved so possible in Kazan.”

Israeli Rabbi David Rosen, head of Inter-faith communications at the American Jewish Committee and former Chief Rabbi of Ireland, stressed that despite the internal problems of Israel, virtually the whole population accepts the need for finding the answer to peaceful coexistence. He quoted from the Book of Micha, “Have we not one father? Why then do we violate the covenant of our fathers?”

The dialogue was chaired by Chaim Chesler, founder of Limmud FSU together with Alexander Terentiev, director of the Bureau of the President of Tatarstan. Among other speakers were Rabbi Menachem Hacohen, former Chief Rabbi of Romania and Rabbi Itzhak Gorelik, Chief Rabbi of Kazan and Tatarstan.