Address by Rabbi Arthur Schneier
October 01, 2002
I would like to express my appreciation to Dr. Josef Ackermann, the Chairman of this event. He and his colleagues at Deutsche Bank did a superb job and worked very hard to make this a memorable evening in support of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation.

I would like to single out the dinner Co-Chairmen, particularly Paul Fribourg, Youssef Nasr, Earle Mack, John Whitehead and Paul Volcker for their leadership.

The 2001 Appeal of Conscience Foundation Award Dinner was held on September 24, 2001, a few days after the heinous attack on New York and Washington that claimed the lives of citizens from 81 nations. We gather a year later in a changed world, scarred and traumatized but with our spirit not broken, resilient and determined to prevail against terrorism.

When the Appeal of Conscience Foundation was founded in 1965 we were in the midst of another war: the cold war. The world was divided between those who oppressed freedom and those who were prepared to make sacrifices to preserve freedom. Our focus was religious freedom and human rights. In the 90s we lived to see the walls between East and West come down. However, we faced a new scourge: ethnic conflict in the Balkans.

This is why in 1992 we brought together in Switzerland religious leaders from former Yugoslavia to take a united stand to end the ethnic conflict and prevent escalating it into a religious war. The Berne Declaration is as relevant today as it was than: "a crime perpetrated in the name of religion is a crime against religion."

It is heart-warming to see an old friend, His Eminence Metropolitan Filaret, Exarch of the Moscow Patriarchate joining us tonight. He represented the Patriarch of Moscow when the Appeal of Conscience Foundation and the Ecumenical Patriarchate co-sponsored The Peace and Tolerance Conference in Istanbul in 1994. We brought together 120 religious leaders from the Balkans and Central Asia to help bring about the end of the conflict in former Yugoslavia.

Many other religious leaders here tonight have worked with me for over three decades on behalf of religious freedom, dialogue, and tolerance and conflict resolution. Today international terrorism has become mankind's major burden. We learned how vulnerable we are to terror in this technological age. We discovered that terrorists are ready to take their own lives and the lives of innocent human beings in the name of God. We also learned that we could no longer ignore internal religious conflicts because they begin at the doorsteps of religious leaders. While we must attempt to build inter-religious tolerance the real battle begins within each religion. We religious leaders in cooperation with leaders of business, political and public life face another challenge: how can we help attain security and freedom in a world threatened by those who despise freedom. In looking at history religious leaders of different traditions have contributed to intolerance and have permitted the use of religion as fuel for divisiveness and violence. Religion must become a force for peace and understanding.

Our initiative to bring religious leaders together in a common stand against bloodshed and to clearly state: "a crime perpetrated in the name of religion is a crime against religion" has particularly resonated since 9/11.

I was privileged to participate in the World Day of Prayer convened by His Holiness Pope John Paul II in Assisi, Italy and the meeting of Christian, Jewish and Muslim leaders organized under the auspices of His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I and Romano Prodi, President of the European Commission in Brussels earlier this year. The recurrent theme has been the need to take a stand against those who want to impose religious tyranny, who seek to divide peoples and civilizations.

Let our voice be heard: we call on religious leaders to disavow violence in the name of God, to embrace the Appeal of Conscience Foundation declaration that "a crime perpetrated in the name of religion is a crime against religion" and to prevent the destruction of religious sites.

It is now more important then ever to embrace the concept of tolerance, dialogue and mutual understanding as pillars of peace and security for the 21st century. Tolerance is based on the principle of "live and let live" with a commitment to freedom, democracy and coexistence.

In Chinese the word crisis is spelled the same way as the word opportunity. The international community faces a serious crisis that can be transformed into an opportunity to advance democracy, freedom, and prosperity for the people of the globe.

Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, recipient of the 2002 World Statesman Award, has provided leadership far beyond Canada as Dean of the G-8. We recognize his commitment to democracy, freedom and tolerance and his creative initiative for a new partnership with Africa. As New Yorkers, we express our appreciation to him for bringing 15,000 Canadian citizens to New York in the aftermath of 9/11 in an expression of solidarity.

The Prime Minister and Carly Fiorina, the Appeal of Conscience Award recipient, share a common concern. They seek to bridge the divide between the developed and developing nations.

Carly Fiorina, a visionary corporate leader, with a sense of social responsibility has guided Hewlett-Packard Company to become a global provider of computer and imaging solutions focused on making technology and its benefits accessible to all. In her own words: "With 90 percent of the world's population currently technologically excluded, our goal is to co-invest sustainable and scalable solutions to address the challenges of the global digital divide."

From India, to South Africa, to Houston, TX, Hewlett-Packard initiatives helped accelerate sustainable social, economic and environmental development through the transfer of technology and information skills.

We are honored to present the Appeal of Conscience Award for her commitment to education, freedom and tolerance.
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