A Great Religious Conference

THE WORLD’S RELIGIONS AGAINST WAR. (Published by The Church Peace Union, 70 Fifth avenue, New York.)

DURING September of last year a group of religious leaders from all parts of the world met at Geneva to lay plans for a universal religious peace conference in 1928. The volume here noted presents a record of the proceedings of the preliminary conference together with the principal speeches of the delegates representing all faiths — Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, Shintoism, Islam, Judaism, Zoroastriansim, Bahaism, Suffism, Theosophy, The Ethical Culture Movement, Swedenborgianism, Universalism, and various forms of Christianity.

One of the outstanding resolutions adopted by the conference was to the effect that members of the proposed conference shall not be official representatives of the various religious bodies, thus eliminating the handicap of edicts or rules which the delegate’s organization might insist upon. Each of the 1000 delegates will be chosen because of his ability, open-mindedness and willingness to work with those of other religions.

In explaining the conception and purpose of the universal religious peace conference, Dr. Henry A. Atkinson, general secretary of the conference, states in the forward: “No individual will represent more than his own opinions and his personal faith. There will be no attempt in this conference to compare religions, nor to judge the religious faith of any individual or people. It will not be the purpose to attempt to establish a formal league of religions as such, nor will any effort be made to expose or espouse any political or social system. The sole purpose of the conference will be to consider how the forces of religion in all nations can be brought to act concertedly against war and against that spirit and those things that make for war.”

Although the five sessions of the preliminary conference were primarily of a business character, many of the addresses delivered expressed views regarding the causes and cure of war. That “all covenants, treaties, and pacts are in and by themselves mere machinery,” and “merely amicable gestures” unless the will to peace and the spirit of peace are behind them was generally expressed in all of the speeches as well as the belief that “the peace of the world depends upon the spirit instilled in the growing generations by their teachers, by their religion, by their ethics, and by their ideals.” One of the delegates insisted that “respect for the religion of others is a true foundation for peace;” another member declared that “forbearance and tolerance of another’s views are not enough; but that appreciation is necessary, also overcoming our repulsions and objecttions to people of other persuasions and other nationalities than our own.”

Dr. Shailer Mathews, chairman in closing the last session of the conference, stated that “religion should be a sort of manual training school in altruism and co-operation.” He said “we have efficient scientific management in business also coercion without management in economic affairs, and now we are demanding and developing an efficiency in altruism, that is, the capacity to act in a given situation so that all elements in the situation will equally benefit. We have begun to develop the great forces of appreciation and co-operation. When we co-operate, somebody has to sacrifice and the most difficult thing to learn is to sacrifice intelligently not to lie down but to shake hands and pull together.”

By a happy coincidence, as one of the delegates pointed out, this conference was held on the 350th anniversary of the first parliament of religions, convened by Akbar the great Mogul Emperor of India in 1578, for the purpose of maintaining peace among the religions of the empire. At that parliament the following was spoken by one of the participants, and it is quoted by way of indicating the spirit in which the great conference of next year is to be held: “If thou art a Moslem, go stay with the Franks; if thou art a Brahmin, go mix with the Schismatics; if thou art a Christian, cultivate fellowship with the Jew. Whatever be thy religion, associate with men who think differently from thee. If thou canst mix with them freely and art not angered at hearing their discourse, thou hast attained freedom and art a veritable master of creation.”