Oct 28, 2009
New York - The Appeal of Conscience Foundation welcomed His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of 250 million Orthodox Christians to Park East Synagogue, the same synagogue visited by Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to the United States in April of 2008.
“Sixty years ago society vowed to rebuild our world in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Twenty years ago the world cheered as the Berlin Wall was toppled and those who were denied freedom for almost three decades, said Rabbi Arthur Schneier. “The “new order” has not ended the struggle for religious freedom and human rights. We must now stop the ship wreckers of civilization who want to hijack peaceful Islam and who wish to impose their totalitarian ideology on the world. We must stand together as the children of Abraham, Jew, Christian and Muslim to withstand this latest onslaught against humanity. Respect for religious and cultural diversity and inter-religious dialogue are essential components of an inter-dependant world.”
The Ecumenical Patriarch and Rabbi Arthur Schneier have worked closely together for two decades in pursuit of religious freedom, peace, tolerance and inter-religious dialogue. They co-chaired the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Appeal of Conscience Foundation Peace and Tolerance Conferences in Phenar, Istanbul (1994 & 2005), which brought together political and religious leaders from Southeast Europe and Central Asia to further peace and reconciliation. The leaders adopted the Bosphorus Declaration which stated “a crime perpetrated in the name of religion is the greatest crime against religion.”
Patriarch Bartholomew was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, in 1997 for “his work of reconciliation among all peoples and religions.” He is well known for his leadership role in advancing interreligious and intercultural dialogue in pursuit of peace, mutual understanding and cooperation and is widely recognized for his outreach to the Christian, Jewish & Muslim communities.
The Ecumenical Patriarch voiced his concerns about the environment calling upon all people of faith to demand greater protections from world leaders, “It is something for which we are collectively responsible; it is something that we can only address together and not in isolation. Faith communities in the United States have an increased responsibility and obligation to educate their faithful about the grave impact of first-world nations on the planet’s capacity for survival.”
Patriarch Bartholomew also addressed his concerns about continued acts of terrorist aggression. “We must encourage greater understanding and tolerance among religions, and when necessary to speak the truth in love and to declare, as was first declared in Bern and reaffirmed in Istanbul: “A crime committed in the name of religion is a crime against religion”.
Speaking to members of the business, diplomatic and Jewish communities the Ecumenical Patriarch said, “We shall never forget the heroes of Bulgaria and Greece who, during the Second World War, risked their own lives to save their Jewish friends and neighbors from the outrageous horror of the Holocaust.”
As a symbol of friendship between the Jewish and Orthodox Christian communities Rabbi Arthur Schneier presented His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, with a hand-made, hand-chased, hand-cut sterling silver “bench menorah” museum reproduction of an 18th century western European oil menorah adorned with two lions on top. The menorah symbolizes the struggle for religious freedom by the Macabees. Eighth grade students Jonathan Karten and Emily Lewis presented a framed Jewish calendar to the Patriarch on behalf of the Rabbi Arthur Schneier Park East Day School.
Archbishop Demetrios, the Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America accompanied His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. Representatives of the diplomatic corps were also in attendance.