06MOSCOW7493, WORLD RELIGIOUS LEADERS SUMMIT IN RUSSIA CALLS FOR

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
06MOSCOW7493 2006-07-14 06:42 2011-08-30 01:44 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO8711
PP RUEHDBU
DE RUEHMO #7493/01 1950642
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 140642Z JUL 06
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8954
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 MOSCOW 007493 
 
SIPDIS 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 07/10/2016 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM SOCI PINR RS
SUBJECT: WORLD RELIGIOUS LEADERS SUMMIT IN RUSSIA CALLS FOR 
ACTIVE DEFENSE OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM 
 
Classified By: DCM Daniel Russell. Reasons 1.4 (B/D). 
 
1.  (C) SUMMARY:  Meeting in Moscow July 3-5, more than 200 
religious leaders and clergy from over 40 countries called on 
believers of all faiths to engage in dialogue and partnership 
to resolve global problems, as well as to challenge 
terrorism, extremism, and efforts to restrict religious 
freedom.  President Putin echoed this theme in his remarks to 
the group when he underscored the powerful unifying force of 
religion and encouraged interfaith dialogue to mitigate 
extremist tendencies that could lead to violence.  Most of 
the world's major religions were represented at the summit, 
which was organized by the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) and 
timed to take place just prior to the G8 Summit in St. 
Petersburg.  The final declaration encouraged interfaith 
cooperation and could signal easing of tensions between the 
ROC and some other denominations -- most notably the Roman 
Catholic Church -- but it will require considerable effort by 
all sides to follow up the soaring rhetoric with concrete 
action.  END SUMMARY. 
. 
========================================= 
WORLD RELIGIOUS LEADERS CONVENE IN MOSCOW 
========================================= 
 
2.  (SBU) More than 200 religious leaders and clergy from 
over 40 countries met in Moscow July 3-5 at the World Summit 
of Religious Leaders to promote interfaith dialogue and 
cooperation.  Representatives of the Christian, Muslim, 
Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, and Shinto faiths responded to an 
invitation from Russia's ROC-dominated Interreligious Council 
to convene in advance of the St. Petersburg G8 Summit. 
Pointedly missing from the invitation list were Pope 
Benedict, the Dalai Lama, Muslim leaders from Iraq, and 
leaders of some of the so-called (by the ROC) "new 
religions," such as the Hare Krishnas, the Church of Jesus 
Christ of Latter Day Saints, Jehovah's Witnesses, and other 
Protestant groups.  ROC spokesman Vsevelod Chaplin was quoted 
as saying: "It would be difficult for us to sit at the same 
table as Jehovah's Witnesses, who strongly distort the 
teaching of Christianity."  The Vatican sent a senior 
delegation consisting of five cardinals, and the Pope offered 
his personal greetings to participants, which ROC spiritual 
leader Patriarch Aleksey II subsequently acknowledged as a 
testimony to the "positive development of relations between 
the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches." 
Metropolitan Kirill, head of the ROC's External Church 
Relations Department, was the nominal chairman of the 
three-day event. 
 
3.  (SBU) In addition to senior religious figures, the summit 
attracted a number of political leaders.  Putin opened the 
meeting with an address in which he underscored the power of 
religion and encouraged believers to work together to counter 
extremism, xenophobia, and ethnic and religious intolerance, 
as well as to guard against those who used religion as a 
justification to advance political goals, including terrorism 
and separatism.  He warned participants that a "conflict of 
civilizations was unfolding in the world and that it was 
necessary to understand the consequences of this 
confrontation."  Putin described attempts to drive wedges 
between Christian and Muslim communities as a new global 
challenge.  He encouraged the religious summit leaders to 
develop recommendations, which he promised to convey to his 
G8 counterparts when they met in St. Petersburg July 15-17. 
Other senior GOR officials participating in the summit 
included Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and First Deputy 
Prime Minister Dmitriy Medvedev.  UN Secretary General Kofi 
Annan reportedly also sent greetings to the participants. 
 
4.  (SBU) Many participants of the summit addressed the issue 
of extremism, and religious education was proposed as an 
antidote to it.  "One of the reasons behind extremism is 
ignorance of religious tradition," said Kirill.  "An absence 
of positive knowledge about religion allows dishonest people 
to encourage others to embrace extremist views," he 
continued.  "We are facing international terrorism that 
misuses religion, especially when it is used for a pretext 
for hatred and murder," said Cardinal Walther Kasper, the top 
Catholic representative at the summit.  Armenia's Catholicos 
Garegin II also blamed secularism for extremist violence, and 
Russia's chief rabbi, Berl Lazar, said that international 
terrorism "is recruiting militants by using religion." 
Religious leaders should, in his view, play a more active 
role in society as "spiritual leaders."  "It is not religion 
at all that causes terrorism and extremism," said Mufti Ravil 
Gaynutdin, chairman of the Council of Muftis of Russia. 
"Religious feelings are fueled to the boiling point only 
against the background of social and economic problems, and 
it usually happens in the service of someone's concrete 
political interests," he added. 
 
MOSCOW 00007493  002 OF 003 
 
 
 
5. (SBU) There was obvious tension at the conference between 
Jewish leaders and Iran's leading ayatollah for interfaith 
relations, Muhammed Ali Muhammed Taskhiri.  At the opening 
ceremony, Israel's Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yona Metzger 
pointedly said with reference to Iran's president Mahmud 
Ahmadinejad: "There are leaders in the world who deny the 
Holocaust and speak of genocide against themselves only, and 
it is our duty to tell these people that not a single person 
in the world has the right to say that another country should 
disappear." In response, at the final press conference, 
Taskhiri said he could have a dialogue with Judaism but not 
with Zionism: "If you mean dialogue between Iran and Israel, 
I see nothing in common here on which to base a dialogue." 
 
6.  (SBU) The final declaration, which had been drafted 
before the summit, underscored the importance of religion for 
social order, cross-cultural dialogue, and international 
peace.  It has two basic premises:  first, that religion 
should be a unifying and pacifying force, rather than a 
divisive tool that incites conflict; and second, that 
religion, government, and civil society should partner to 
fight major threats at both the domestic and international 
levels.  It called for respect for all religions, encouraged 
state-civil-religious partnerships to enhance ethical values 
in domestic society and promotion of global development -- 
from fighting poverty to dealing with AIDS and drug 
addiction.  The declaration also addressed social issues, 
emphasizing the value of human life "from conception to final 
breath and natural death" and the importance of the family. 
The declaration emphasized the importance of human rights as 
a concern for religious leaders, but within the confines of a 
religious re-interpretation of human rights, similar to the 
one announced at a national forum organized by the ROC in 
April.  The declaration also included several statements on 
international affairs that clearly echoed GOR thinking.  For 
example, it referred to the virtue of combining democracy 
with the "moral feeling, way of life, various legal and 
political systems, and national and religious traditions of 
people," and to the desirability of a multipolar world with 
many different but equal types of government.  It also stated 
that religious leaders should have a "more systematic 
partnership" with the United Nations. 
 
7. (C) Participants at the summit told us that in general 
they were pleased with the event.  They said it was mainly a 
showpiece for the ROC and another feather in Putin's cap in 
the run-up to the G8, but nevertheless it gave the 
participants a chance to interact with one another.  Those 
who were not invited -- such as the Hare Krishnas, who asked 
to attend but were denied -- complained that it was just 
another sign the ROC did not really believe in a 
multidenominational society and that the ROC thought it could 
cherry-pick which religions were "legitimate" in Russia.  The 
Hare Krishnas also made the point that, although Hinduism is 
the world's third largest religion with around 850 million 
followers, only two Hindus were invited to the summit. 
. 
======= 
COMMENT 
======= 
 
8.  (C)  Carefully orchestrated to take place just prior to 
this year's G8 Summit, the World Summit of Religious Leaders 
was an opportunity to portray Russian society as tolerant and 
magnanimous, as well as to showcase Putin's acknowledgment of 
religion as a powerful social and political force that should 
be harnessed to benefit society.  The summit was also 
designed to bolster the credentials of the ROC, casting the 
Church as inclusive and welcoming.  The deliberate failure to 
invite the Dalai Lama, however, demonstrates that the ROC is 
still not ready to ignore political realities, i.e., Chinese 
objections to the Dalai Lama, for the sake of religious 
harmony.  It is also worth noting that the final declaration 
issued by summit leaders incorporated several themes of 
Russian foreign policy, such as a reference to double 
standards and the importance of fighting terrorism, and 
implicitly acknowledged the increasingly intimate 
relationship between the GOR and the ROC. 
 
9.  (C) That said, the summit was an important event that 
brought together in one place senior religious figures who 
represented the vast majority of the world's population. 
They produced an uplifting declaration that balances the 
demands of religious believers for tolerance and acceptance 
with a pragmatic acknowledgment that secular problems must 
also be addressed if the effort to shape healthy community 
attitudes is to succeed.  In addition, the exchange of 
positive messages between Pope Benedict and Aleksey II is 
evidence of the continuing thaw in relations between the two 
churches.  Nonetheless, it will take considerably more than 
 
MOSCOW 00007493  003 OF 003 
 
 
soaring rhetoric and good feelings to transform the summit 
leaders' declaration into a concrete action plan that 
tangibly advances religious tolerance. 
BURNS

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