Israeli chief rabbis set out peace plan at Kazakhstan interfaith meeting

Israeli chief rabbis set out peace plan at Kazakhstan interfaith meeting

Sephardi Chief Yitzhak Yosef and Ashkenazi counterpart, David Lau, take part in landmark gathering in Astana

Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef
Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef

Israeli leaders this week called for mutual respect and education between faiths at a conference of religious leaders in the Kazakhstan capital of Astana.

Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and his Ashkenazi counterpart, David Lau, this week joined Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Taoist and other religious leaders at the sixth Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions.

Rabbi Yosef said: “We are taught that everyone should live according to their faith and with respect for others.”

Addressing the plenary session, he noted that peace was “God’s greatest value. Peace meant more to God than anything else. Peace is at the foundation of the world, and peace is one of the names of the creator”.

Yosef recalled his days as a dayan and head of a rabbinical court in Israel. He said he saw a lot of people going through divorce and the common denominator was that “people don’t listen to one another”.

Conference attendees

The Torah teaches us, he said, that “if one loses the ability to listen, it’s like death”. As we are all made in God’s image, Yosef said “we must not be angry if we hear a different view to our own. We don’t have to agree but we must listen”.

He urged all world leaders, religious and political, to condemn forthrightly every terror attack, especially those “done in the name of religion”.

Lau mentioned religious terrorism when he referred to Sunday’s attack on the West Bank in which a young Israeli mother and an Israeli man were murdered at an industrial complex for Jews and Palestinians.

“Three days ago, I went to the Western Wall to pray and next to me stood a man from Nigeria and he said how wonderful it is that we can pray together,” he said.

“But when I got into my car I heard the terrible news of the terrorist attack, and it occurred to me that someone had forgotten to teach the 23-year-old attacker about the importance of life and respect for the ‘other’.”

Reciting from the Book Of Micha, Rabbi Lau said that “all nations will go with their Gods.”

Both rabbis said it was wonderful that Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev had brought leaders of all religions and faiths together to work together, “to speak, to listen and to look each other in the eye”.

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