Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar is attending the World Economic Forum in Davos. It is focused on the global warming and world energy balance. There are 24 heads of state, 85 ministers, 24 ambassadors, 85 international organizations leaders, over 800 executives of major world companies, and 22 religious leaders. Rabbi Berel Lazar, a member of Group C-100 discussing East-West relations, told about his expectations from Davos-2007 in an interview with Interfax-Religion.
- What is your role at the Davos forum? What issues will you deal with?
- Religious leaders have been traditionally invited to the Davos forum, though it must be admitted this time their number is limited. We belong to the so-called C-100 Group, which deals with relations between East and West, the Islamic world and traditional democracies. There are statesmen, businessmen and representatives of major religions in the group. The fact that I represent in it the Jewish community in Russia and Eastern Europe as a whole suggests that the participants recognize the importance of religion in the spiritual revival and recovery of the former communist bloc. At the same time, they have shown in intense interest in the unique Russian experience in establishing inter-faith dialogue and ensuring a peaceful co-existence and mutual aid of various religious communities. A few meetings have already been held to discuss several real proposals for eliminating the roots of terrorism and violence as the main problems of the modern world. I should stress with satisfaction that religious representatives have enjoyed a great respect here, as there is a growing understanding that it is our traditional values that can make a decisive contribution to the solution of a great deal of problems to be settled. I would like to say also that the major world mass media have been concerned with getting objective information about Russia’s development in the period of transition from the old regime to a stable democracy. I have already told journalists that Russia faced a real moment of truth for making her choice not 15 years ago but precisely today. I believe the next two or three years will see the role of our country on the world scene clarified. Russia occupies a unique place as a natural bridge between East and West. Russia’s role in overcoming the confrontation may be not just useful but also decisive to some extent. That is why the turn Russia will take in the nearest future is so important.
Certainly I am asked about the role of religion in settling not so much Russian as world problems. In this connection I have reminded the journalists that our forefather Abraham was the founder of all the monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Abraham, as holy books say, ‘nourished people’, that is, not only fed them physically but also nourished them spiritually by giving them faith. People had only the good coming from him and realized how a believer looked like and what the faith in One God brought to the nations. Therefore, religion naturally stands in the way of violence and helps people to accept the common things they share and to seek solution to their problems in the ways of God. For this reason it is especially important that any abuse of religion be barred and first of all the terror disguised with religious slogans be stopped. Leaders of all religions should state responsibly that those who ‘in the name of faith’ commit terrorist actions do not just misunderstand religion but are its enemies.
- What do your expect of the forum at a time when leading economists and ecologists make negative prognoses?
- A prognosis is not a prediction of what will inevitably happen. It is a warning that if the humankind behaves in a certain way it will have to face certain consequences. Today’s pessimistic prognoses suggest that the humankind is now making mistakes and that if these mistakes are not rectified there will be negative consequences. But this is exactly the aim of international forums including Davos to analyze specialists’ warnings, to draw appropriate conclusions from them and to create conditions to prevent the negative consequences predicted from coming about. Gathered here are intelligent people who, among other things, wield a considerable influence on politics, economy and public life. The Davos forum is just the one called to work out recommendations for political leaders and the business community so that the worst scenario could be avoided. I hope this aim will be achieved.
- What is the place Russia occupies in your opinion in the world economy and at the forum?
- As I have already said Russia enjoys a heightened interest here. Members of the Russian delegation are in a great demand, so to speak. Western participants would like to know more about our state’s stand on the most burning political issues including the problem of Iran’s nuclear ambitions, considering also Russia’s sharply increased economic potential and its plans for further integration in the world economy including, of course, its energy component. That fact the our delegation is led by the first deputy head of government, Dmitry Medvedev, is seen as a very positive sign. Indeed, Mr. Medvedev is known as a person responsible for the national projects, who takes the pulse of the entire economic and social development of the country. The information that can be received from him therefore is of special value.