Spiritual leaders convene to achieve peace through faith

"And religious leaders may not be able to get together and resolve issues with borders and refugees.

"But all groups have a stake in conserving the environment. It would be nice if we only breathed Jewish air or Muslim air or Christian air, but it's not just that way."

At the four-day summit, the religious leaders covering 15 major faith traditions prayed together and then discussed how to resolve conflicts and achieve peace. Once the groups develop some spirit of cooperation, they eased into the more tendentious areas.

The summit's agenda acknowledged the important role religious leaders play in both domestic politics and world affairs, such as Wednesday's "Forgiveness and Reconciliation" session on the Middle East.

Attendees included Francis Cardinal Arinze of the Vatican; Samdech Preah Maha Gosananda, the Buddhist Nobel Prize nominee; Mustafa Ceric, the Grand Mufti of Bosnia; Secretary-General of the Muslim World League Abdullah Salaih Al-Obaid; and Kuniaki Kuni, who has never appeared outside of Japan in his official capacity as the Jingu Daiguji (chief priest) of the Grand Shrine of Ise.

Jewish invitees included Yisrael Meir Lau, Israel's chief Ashkenazi rabbi, plus the chief rabbis of Russia, Great Britain and Chile.

U.S. Rabbi Arthur Schneier, president of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, in his opening address to the assembly, called on his colleagues to "marginalize the religious demagogues to ignite national, ethnic and religious passions with their preachings and practices."

Recalling his own Holocaust experience, Schneier added: "The source of conflict between men lies not in their faith but in the failure of the faithful."

The most prominent summit no-show was the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet.

His absence was due to politics. The United Nations bowed to the Chinese, who say the Dalai Lama is a political leader. In his place, other spiritual leaders of Tibetan Buddhism addressed the gathering.