Moderator: Dr. Kevin De-Carli
Theologian and Historian, Switzerland
Kevin De-Carli is a Swiss theologian and historian. He is a board member of the council of the theological faculty’s Center for interreligious studies and interfaith dialogue, and president of the students’ body for theological studies at the University of Fribourg. As Rabbi in the orthodox Jewish community in Baden, he is president of the committee for the maintenance of Jewish culture, the workgroup for Christian-Jewish dialogue and the Argovian council for interfaith dialogue. Recent, he participated in the founding of the swiss council of minority religions, with mainly Muslim, Hindu and Sikh participation, to give mutual support and a base for the legal recognition of these religious communities by the swiss government. In the Swiss Army, he is a staff member of the military pastoral care team with the rank of first Lieutenant. He is responsible for the competence center of military animals and veterinarian service and a board member of the committee to integrate non-Christian religions in the army’s pastoral care.
The moderator, Rabbi Mag. Kevin De‐Carli, Center for Interreligious Studies and Interfaith Dialogue, Switzerland, in his introduction to the panel, explained that it used to be forbidden for religious leaders to be involved in politics in Switzerland.
Speaker: Hajji Baba Edmond Brahimaj
World leader, Bektashi Order
Baba Edmond Brahimaj graduated from the Military Academy in Tirana and studied law at the University of Tetovo. In 1991, he resigned from the military and committed himself to the pursuit of spiritual ideals. He is an Albanian religious leader and the world leader of the Bektashi Order, an Islamic Sufi order based in Tirana and the Balkans. In June 2011, Baba Edmond Brahimaj was chosen as the head of the Bektashi order by the council of Albanian Babas.
Hajji Dede Edmond Brahimaj, World Leader of the World Bektashi Order, Albania, greeted the audience on behalf of the merciful God and expressed how honored he felt to be part of this important event organized by UPF. He emphasized the extraordinary role of faith whether for Muslims, Christians, or others, as they all advocate the same concept of mercy, which is necessary today in the face of the secular blows that are striking the foundations of religion. He mentioned the minority religions, which share the same earth and sky. All help to face the challenges generated in the modern world, and deal with the boundaries between computers and people. He stressed the fact that overcoming challenges and fighting secularism is only possible if religious leaders take responsibility and inspire the faithful souls. He mentioned the Bektashi movement, which has built many bridges and brought vitality to the Muslim community, in order to join with all religious believers.
Speaker: Mr. Bujar Spahiu
Chairman, Muslim Community, Albania
Mr. Bujar Spahiu, Chairman of the Muslim Community, Albania, prayed on behalf of God the merciful, for peace to be upon everyone who follows the path of peace, development and love. He mentioned that the title of the conference is appropriate for everyone, for the essence of religion is peace, and it is only through God that we can create peace and harmony among all. He gave the example of Muslims, who seem to move out of this world in respect to God when they start their prayer. When the prophet was asked what is the most liked action in Islam, he said it is providing health to everyone.
Mr. Spahiu encouraged all to build a world of peace and human development, as deserved by all the creatures of the universe, and said that Islam is a religion of peace and harmony, not the kind represented by the small groups of people carrying out extremist actions. He recognized that Albanians have had religious conflicts among them and exhorted the Albanian Muslim community to properly interpret the Qur’an and the sayings of the Prophet Mohammed and thus raise their awareness in order to lead believers toward a respectful society.
He mentioned that God created religion to fit all times and people, and thus not to remain static, and called for intellectuals and all believers to grow in a harmonious manner, avoiding being motivated by ego. He then recited the verse “We have created you all out of a male and a female, and have made you into nations and tribes, so that you might come to know one another. Verily, the noblest of you in the sight of God is the one who is most deeply conscious of Him", thus emphasizing the religious obligation for Muslims to accept other people as they are, irrespective of color, religion, etc. He pointed out that the word of God is the first norm of believers and that the Qur’an, as a divine norm, provides the proper vision to avoid problems, such as drugs and alcohol, which harm individuals and societies. When Mohammed was delivering a speech he asked not to hurt anyone, as all will eventually meet their God and have to account for their actions. He concluded by saying that the interreligious harmony in Albania, which has been preserved for centuries, is a model for the world.
Speaker: Sheikh Mansour Diouf
Sheikh Mansour Diouf is the Co-Chairperson of the Interreligious Association for Peace and Development (IAPD) for Africa. Sheikh Mansour serves as one of the leaders of the Murid Brotherhood [Sufis mostly in Senegal and The Gambia]. He is also the Finance and accounting officer of the Senegalese agency for rural electrification in the Ministry of Finance, Senegal.
Cheikh Mansour Diouf, Religious Leader, Tariqa Muridiyya, Senegal, started by greeting all in the way it is done in Islam, which means peace, wishing peace to be with all. He exhorted all to question what is happening in the world of Islam. He stated that what is happening with human beings, such as war, terrorism, selfishness and self-profit, has its origin in human beings themselves, as we are imperfect and forget this.
He quoted the Qur’an, saying that God created us in an imperfect way for us to perfect ourselves. We are not communicating enough and, although we could right away give happiness to others, we are doing the opposite and forget to look at the other as a mirror of our own faults. He added that God created our worst enemy, Satan, who was chased from paradise because of us, and, as a revenge for that, brought us to hell and is staying among us.
He mentioned the chance we have to be believers and expressed how inspired he is by Mother Moon, who tells us to come back to God as the only way to solve our problems. In order to do that, he encouraged Christians and Moslems to get together and stop judging each other for our differences. He illustrated this with a story of Mohammed, who hurt his foot due to a spike, which a woman had put on his way as he was going to pray. Nevertheless, he prayed for her, which surprised her to the degree that she believed he was a prophet of God.
He also declared that God allowed human being to dispose of all created things and wondered why we don’t use them for the wellbeing of humanity. He admired Mother Moon, who doesn’t just say words but lives by them. He thus encouraged all to follow her example, practice the word and go to paradise right away. He recognized that it isn’t easy but that God gave us our conscience and is waiting for us patiently, forgiving everything, so that there is no insurmountable obstacle.
[Rabbi Kevin De Carli expressed his appreciation that Cheikh Mansour Diouf had accepted to turn on and off his micro for him to be able to observe the Sabbath.]
Speaker: Ambassador Jakob Finci
President of the Jewish community of Bosnia-Herzegovina
Mr. Jakob Finci graduated from Faculty of Law in Sarajevo and practiced international commercial law. He was one of the founders of the reborn Jewish cultural, educational and humanitarian society LA BENEVOLENCIJA, and elected as the first Vice President. He served as the Executive Director of the Soros Foundation - Open Society Fund for Bosnia and Herzegovina and was one of founding fathers of Inter Religious Council of Bosnia Herzegovina, and for two years served as the first President. In 2008 he was named as the Ambassador of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Switzerland, and non resident ambassador to Lichtenstein. Mr. Finci is a member of the Advisory Council of OSCE -ODHIR’s Panel of Experts on Freedom of Religion or Belief.
Ambassador Jakob Finci, Head of the Jewish Community of Bosnia & Herzegovina, expressed his feelings for being the only one standing and working for equality on the Sabbath! He mentioned that his country, although near, was indeed far away because of a lack of direct connection with Albania. He explained that his country is divided into 3 parts, 4 religious communities and hundreds of problems. 25 years ago there was still an unexplainable kind of war, a sort of civil war, an aggression or something else. He regretted that the clergy on all sides had just accepted that war and even encouraged it. During the war, people of the 4 traditional religious communities tried to pray for peace together and peace finally came in 1995, but then all wondered how to bring back the life as it had been before, for 500 years.
After fighting against outside invaders, his country finally became independent. Under socialism, religion was considered the opium of the people, but in 1997 the interreligious council was formed as the first one in the world, which now counts 50 members, but still no-one from Northern Macedonia. The council started having a radio show that explained about life according to the 4 religions, emphasizing the similarities. But although all worship the same God, people pay attention to differences, that amount to only about 10%. For example, the program educated about the particular religious holidays. Then they expanded this to young people, and finally to the women of the different religious communities, who exchanged recipes from each culture; this explains why Bosnians are a little bit too fat!
The number of interreligious councils expanded to 15 different cities, with 3 or 4 religions represented in each. They sometimes celebrated together each other’s religious holidays in order to teach secondary school students about the other traditions and are now visiting together the places where people suffered in the war, in order to commemorate them. He concluded that, even though some people say it’s too late to do this, in 1970, Willy Brandt asked for forgiveness for the bad deeds of Germany, 25 years after the war; so it’s never too late.
Speaker: Mrs. Nikki Nordby Doçi
Life & Leadership Coach, International Leadership Foundation, Albania
Mrs. Nikki Nordby Doçi, Coach of the International Leadership Foundation in Albania asked to be presented as the wife of the head of the evangelical alliance of Albania. Originally from the U.S., she has lived in Albania for a long time. She testified that one of her husband’s greatest joy was to be on the interfaith council among the wonderful people on the panel. As the only female on the panel, she pointed out that women’s voice has a great impact and is often hidden behind the man who speaks.
She introduced herself as an evangelical Christian, who focuses on announcing the good news and follows the example of Jesus, who said: “pray for your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Be perfect therefore as your Heavenly Father is perfect”. As an example of what evangelicals teach, she told the story of Jesus, who washed the feet of Judas Iscariot the night before his crucifixion. She emphasized the message of reconciliation contained in the Gospel, especially St. Paul’s, and the need to be Christ’s ambassadors of reconciliation, which requires first each one to be reconciled to one’s creator.
She stated that both men and women are important in society because we complement each other; a group of only men discussing something will always miss something, and a full picture of society isn’t possible without including women, who bring an insight and intuition that brothers don’t have. She emphasized that it starts in the home and that although working outside the home is her passion, her family is her even greater passion, the next generation being developed there. If they see an example of mutual respect between different religions, they will pass this on. She also mentioned the need to work with governments, so that the things taught at home can be also taught in the schools, and, to conclude, she read 1 Peter 3:8 “Be like minded, be sympathetic, passionate and humble, repay evil with blessing so that you may inherit a blessing” and hoped for all to be people who seek peace and pursue it.