Faith: The Journal of the International League of Religious Socialists

Spring 2002 Edition (HTML Version)

Previous Editions
ILRS Condemns Religious Intolerance in Georgia
A Buddhist Perspective on Social Justice: Thich Nhat Hanh’s Message for a New Century
Retrospective: Highlights from Past ILRS Congresses
Helsinki 1997: The Price of Freedom and the Cost of Poverty
No 'Shabbat Shalom': Fighting Against Neo-Nazis in Berlin Ulrich Peter (from BRSD)

ILRS Condemns Religious Intolerance in Georgia

In February ILRS Vice-President Harry Watson was alerted to a disturbing situation in Georgia where a renegade Orthodox priest has been leading attacks on other faiths in the former Soviet republic. Harry informed the League, as well as other religious organisations, and on 12 February, the ILRS released the following statement:

The International League of Religious Socialists, along with religious leaders in Georgia. has condemned the recent acts of religious intolerance that took place in Tbilisi on 3 February.

Responding to the Sunday morning raid on a warehouse owned by the Baptist church which resulted in the burning of thousands of bibles, ILRS President Evert Svensson said that 'this is not the first time that such acts of persecution and violence have taken place against the Baptist Church and other religious faiths. It is very important that those who perpetrated such destruction should be arrested and brought before the courts and charged for this crime.'

Stressing the importance of Georgia's relationship with Europe, Svensson stated, 'This act of vandalism taking place in a European city like Tbilisi, in a nation which wishes to be seen as an important part of Europe, could damage the future of Georgia and its relationships with other European countries. It is essential that this kind of action be condemned by the Georgian government.'

The ILRS is an international political organisation comprised of religious believers in the world's social democratic political parties. Founded in 1921, it is affiliated with the Socialist International. More information may be obtained from the organisation’s web site at Questions may be addressed to

A Buddhist Perspective on Social Justice: Thich Nhat Hanh’s Message for a New Century

In the community of Buddhism, Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh is universally known and respected for his teachings on social justice and ‘mindful living’. Coming to prominence through his principled opposition to the Vietnam War, Thich Nhat Hanh led the Buddhist delegation to the Paris Peace Talks, and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King. We reprint here an excerpt from his New Century Message, delivered in December of 1999. As our century is still new, and increasingly dangerous, the message of Thich Nhat Hanh remains relevant to the matter of where we go from here.

Dear Friends,

The Twentieth Century has been marred by mass violence and enormous bloodshed. With the development of technology, humanity now has the power to "conquer" Nature. We have even begun to intervene in the chemistry of life, adapting it to our own ends. At the same time, despite new and faster ways to communicate, we have become very lonely. Many have no spiritual beliefs. With no spiritual ground, we live only with the desire to satisfy our private pleasures.

We no longer believe in any ideology or faith, and many proclaim that God is dead. Without an ideal and a direction for our lives, we have been uprooted from our spiritual traditions, our ancestors, our family, and our society. Many of us, particularly young people, are heading towards a life of consumption and self-destruction.

Ideological wars, AIDS, cancer, mental illness, and alcohol and drug addiction have become major burdens of this century. At the same time, progress in the fields of electronic and biological technology are creating new powers for mankind. In the 21st century, if humans cannot master themselves, these new powers will lead us and other living beings to mass destruction.

During the 20th century many seeds of wisdom have also sprouted. Science, especially physics and biology, has discovered the nature of interconnectedness, interbeing, and non-self. The fields of psychology and sociology have discovered much of these same truths. We know that this is, because that is, and this is like this, because that is like that. We know that we will live together or die together, and that without understanding, love is impossible.

From these insights, many positive efforts have recently been made. Many of us have worked to take care of the environment, to care for animals in a compassionate way, to reduce the consumption of meat, to abandon smoking and drinking alcohol, to do social relief work in underdeveloped countries, to campaign for peace and human rights, to promote simple living and consumption of health food, and to learn the practice of Buddhism as an art of living, aimed at transformation and healing. If we are able to recognize these positive developments of wisdom and action, they will become a bright torch of enlightenment, capable of showing mankind the right path to follow in the 21st century. Science and technology can then be reoriented to help build a new way of life moving in the direction of a living insight, as expressed in terms of interconnectedness, interbeing, and non-self.

If the 20th century was the century of humans conquering Nature, the 21st century should be one in which we conquer the root causes of the suffering in human beings—our fears, ego, hatred, greed, etc.

If the 20th century was characterized by individualism and consumption, the 21st century can be characterized by the insights of interbeing. In the 21st century, humans can live together in true harmony with each other and with nature, as bees live together in their bee hive or as cells live together in the same body, all in a real spirit of democracy and equality. Freedom will no longer be just a kind of liberty for self-destruction, or destruction of the environment, but the kind of freedom that protects us from being overwhelmed and carried away by craving, hatred, and pain.

Retrospective: Highlights from Past ILRS Congresses

Address by
Kalevi Sorsa

Helsinki 1997: The Price of Freedom and the Cost of Poverty

As we are improving our archive of ILRS documents available online, we decided to feature some highlights from previous ILRS congresses. In this issue, we are featuring an address from our 1997 Helsinki congress, given by Kalevi Sorsa.

Mr. Sorsa is a Vice-President of the Socialist International, and former Prime Minister of Finland.

Kalevi Sorsa

I was very excited when the organisers of this Congress proposed the theme to me, because it covers the essence of today's societal debate, both in political, i.e. practical, and philosophical ways. I will explain what I mean.

World War II was fought for freedom and democracy. It is true that these are popular slogans for any war, but in the case of the last — I hope — World War it can be truly said that the greatest part of humanity organised itself against those forces whose ideology was racism, oppression and denial of both democracy and freedom. Admittedly, among the winners were also those whose democratic conviction and societal freedom could be criticised, but so strong was the appeal of freedom in the 1940s that even they accepted the rhetoric of liberty and in some cases, probably for tactical reasons, undertook measures to prove that they were serious — a famous example being the restitution of religious freedom in the Soviet Union.


No 'Shabbat Shalom' :
Fighting Against Neo-Nazis in Berlin

Ulrich Peter

The following article on the December neo-Nazi demonstration in Berlin comes to us from Ulrich Peter of the BRSD, and was originally published in CuS, the journal of the BRSD.

(Translated and redacted by Andrew Hammer)

The scripture for the community on 1. 12. 2001: ‘The Israelites implored the Lord: “We stand guilty. Do to us as You see fit; only save us this day!”’ (Judges 10.15).

On 28 November 2001, after a two-year revision, the exhibition ‘Crime of the Armed Forces — Dimensions of the War of Extermination’, presented by Jan-Philip Reemtsma and the Hamburg Institute for Social Research, opened again in the Kunst-Werken in the Berliner Auguststraße.

On Saturday, 1 December , the nationwide demonstration of the NPD and other groups of Nazis also came to Berlin. The Berlin police shot teargas and watercannons at Jewish (and non-Jewish) demonstrators inside, who had gone on the road, in order to protect Berlin’s most important synagogue from this fascist demonstration. The march of the NPD was announced to go by the Scheunenviertel and the Spandauer suburb in the proximity of the Alexanderplatzes, and the Nazis wanted also to march past the synagogue in the Oranienburgerstraße. The Auguststraße, in which the army was positioned, is a side road of the Oranienburger. This was to be the largest fascist demonstration was in Berlin since smashing fascism and it brought out about 3000 NP hangers-on.

Up until the Holocaust, the Scheuenviertel was the center of Jewish Berlin, a city with 170.000 Jews, with hundreds of Jewish municipalities and institutions and with representatives of all religious and political directions of the Jewish community. In 1925 a third of all German Jews lived in Berlin. While the middle-class Jews lived in the western urban districts (Charlottenburg, Tiergarten, Wilmersdorf and Schöneberg) , the Jewish proletariat was concentrated particularly in the district centre. The Scheuenviertel northwest of the Alexanderplatzes accommodated above all Eastern European Jewish immigrants coming from Poland. These ‘east Jews’ were the preferential scapegoat of the right-wing extremists of all stripes. Moving from theory to practice was only a small step.

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