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On Quieting Zealots and Achieving Peace

Interview With Gary Krupp

NEW YORK, MARCH 27, 2007 (Zenit) - To achieve peace, religions must respond to their own zealots, with the support of governments and media, says an interreligious-relations expert who was recently honored by Benedict XVI.

Gary Krupp of the Pave the Way Foundation, a U.S-based, nondenominational organization founded by him and his wife, aims to eliminate the use of religion as a tool to achieve personal agendas and cause conflict. Their work to advance peace includes culture, education and technology.

For example, Pave the Way was responsible for giving an ancient papyrus containing parts of the Gospels to the Vatican library recently. And it has met with Palestinian leaders to search for solutions to the conflict with Israel.

Benedict XVI recognized Krupp for his work by bestowing upon him the rank of Knight Commander with a Silver Star of the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great. Krupp was also honored by Pope John Paul II in 2000.

In this interview with us, Krupp speaks of priorities in interreligious relationships and signs of hope for the future.

Q: The Pave the Way foundation is working in a plethora of causes, including relations between Jews, Muslims, Orthodox and Catholics, a resolution to the Palestine-Israeli conflict, and in cultural and technological fields as well. What are the primary priorities?

Krupp: Our primary priority is the fulfillment of our mission to eliminate the malevolent use of religion. This should be the common denominator that everyone can agree on. Creating a fertile environment for this must be advanced by identifying and eliminating the obstacles that exist between the faiths.

For example, a priority is helping with the finalization of the fundamental agreements between the Holy See and the state of Israel.

Others are the affirmation of the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem by the Israeli government, helping to establish the Wasatia Party, or any electoral party, for peace and honesty in the Palestinian territories.

I would like to see the use of the Cenacle restored to the Church which will greatly enhance Christian tourism, helping all people in the region, as well as return this most important shrine to Christian use.

We would like to host a conference on religious extremism where the participants will be lay people who will only meet with their own religions to identify examples of there own extremism and how the everyday person can develop a real workable solution to respond to violence.

Over 85% of the world is secular and we must appeal to them to help, if we hope to curb violence.

Q: In a recent speech you gave to ambassadors in London, you mention the role of media, saying that many of them "tend to make a bad situation worse and typically illustrate events in a way which are crafted to inflame emotions." You say that media reports often contradict your personal experience. Could you explain this?

Krupp: The media is simply a business which generates its income from advertising and distribution. Sensationalizing a story directly affects sales.

I have seen on too many occasions where the media will take a biased position in its reporting style, resulting in intelligent people getting bad information resulting in incorrect assessments of the real conditions.

I travel to Israel for our work many times a year and the picture of hatred and discord painted by the media is simply wrong.

As a Jew I can say that I have been deeply offended by the Catholic bashing that I see here in the international press. Typically with the millions of examples of charitable outreach and ministries around the world, rarely are these wonderful benevolent acts ever reported. If someone commits some terrible act the media will be all over them in a feeding frenzy, but reports of the good that wonderful men and women do is hard to find in the international press.

Q: The mission of the Pave the Way Foundation seeks to "eliminate the use of religion as a tool to achieve personal agendas and to cause conflicts." You suggest that governments have a role to play in this. How do you see that working?

Krupp: I told the ambassadors that we are facing a world where the name of religion is being used as a tool to justify personal agendas and malevolent acts. Almost every conflict on earth is motivated by the intentional misuse and manipulation of religion and the holy texts. Religions must become active defenders of God's name. I think that demonstrated action by quoting the holy text in the defense of religion and the condemnation of violence will be very effective.

I said that governments cannot respond to religious zealots, only the religions can. I urged the governments to reach out to religious leaders from all faiths, to become an ally or a partner in the struggle against those who defile religion by their violent acts. This unified offensive against the violent must also be embraced and vocalized by the media who must assume a level of responsibility by reporting this defense of religion and opposition to violence.

Q: The misuse of religion is perhaps a contributing cause to growing secularism or even atheism. What would you say to this?

Krupp: This is definitely a contributing factor. I believe that when religion and politics are mixed it is like a thirsty man is given muddy water to drink. If a religious leader wants to express his political beliefs, take it outside -- not in the pulpit.

This only serves to separate people and pollute the true message of religion. The laity, who I come to meet, say they don't go to synagogue or to church, but they all say they are spiritual and they believe in God. I think people see the violence and bigotry in the name of God as being so negative and are disillusioned by the silence from leaders in their faith, who in many cases simply stay silent because they do not want to offend anyone.

Q: Benedict XVI has spoken about the need to have hope for the future. With current trends of increasing religious extremism, what do you see as the most hopeful trends?

Krupp: Pope Benedict XVI is my personal hero. I met him first while he was cardinal and then three times while Pope in Poland, at a special Mass for Padre Pio and when we presented him with the Bodmer Papyrus on Jan. 22, 2007.

The Holy Father recognizes the dangers of religious extremism, in all religions, as a menace to peace. Almost every conflict on earth today is fueled by the misuse of God's name. The Holy Father sees this and speaks out as a defender of the word of God at almost every opportunity.

Are there hopeful trends? Yes there are, it is where religious leaders are beginning to follow the lead of Pope Benedict XVI. In the United States, we have an old expression "I see you talk the talk but do you walk the walk?" Pope Benedict XVI walks the walk.

Q: How essential is interreligious dialogue and cooperation for the battle against religious extremism?

Krupp: Interreligious dialogue is and has been essential in "paving the way" to opening the door between the faiths.

We believe that once that door is opened it must be followed by interreligious action and gestures. An example of action is where Pave the Way initiated the largest historic Jewish audience with Pope John Paul II on Jan. 18, 2005, to simply thank him for all he has done in religious reconciliation.

Gestures are like our work to bring the Bodmer Papyrus to the Vatican Library and the Vatican Library's loan of the manuscripts of Maimonides to the state of Israel.

We don't have to all agree on theology but a gesture is a thousand times more effective in sending a message of love and cooperation. Once the practical relations between the faiths have been established, then the religions can work together to effectively confront those who use God's name to destroys God's creations.

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Keywords

Zealots, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Peace, Terrorist, Krupp

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