Sharing Vocations – July 2013

It is my pleasure to present the latest edition of Sharing Vocations, the newsletter for sharing information between members of the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders.

Introducing the Steering Committee

Members of the steering committee of the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders take much of the responsibility for the programs of the biennial meetings and for the work of the Board between meetings. They assist in the drafting of response statements and offer guidance to Executive Director, Alon Goshen-Gottstein, and his professional staff.

After the last gathering in Oxford, the committee was expanded and Rabbi Richard Marker, who had been one of its foundation members, resigned. It is my pleasure to introduce the current steering committee:

Metropolitan Nikitas Lulias. Metropolitan Lulias is a foundation member of the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders and steering committee. Although he joined Elijah as the permanent representative of Patriarch Bartholomew, he continues to contribute leadership and wisdom in his own right. Currently a Director of the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute, a member of the Graduate Theological Union of the University of California at Berkeley, he was installed as a Metropolitan in Hong Kong in 1997.

Rabbi Awraham Soetendorp. Rabbis Soetendorp has been a member of the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders since it began and joined the steering committee after the Oxford Meeting, replacing Richard Marker. An activist on behalf of the environment, and water in particular, he has been the author of several statements which the Board has whole-heartedly endorsed, including a statement for the Rio climate change conference.

Swami Atmapriyananda. Swamiji is a stalwart of Elijah. In addition to his role as a leader, he is also a member of the Elijah Academy and has contributed vastly to Elijah’s intellectual resources. With a PhD degree in Theoretical Physics, his blending of science and religion adds a unique dimension to Elijah. He is an active member of the Hermes Forum on the Mystical and Spritual Life.

Shrivatsa Goswami. Shrivatsa was co-opted onto the steering committee recently. He, too, has contributed to the work of the Hermes Forum and he was active in organizing a local event on behalf of Elijah for Interfaith Harmony Week. Shrivatsa comes from the family of eminent scholars and spiritual leaders at Sri Radharamana Mandir of Vrindavan and his current academic interests include religion and conservation.

Nazeer Ahmed has been a long-time member of the steering committee. Representing Shaykh Muhammad Hisham Kabbani, he has spent his life spreading the teachings of peace, tolerance, respect and love.


Rev Dr Katharine Henderson. Dr Henderson joined the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders in 2012. As President of Auburn Seminary, New York, she has pioneered interfaith programs and academic programs of the highest order. She is committed to developing moral leadership in religious leadership. Her statement on the meaning of interreligious friendship, inspired by the Oxford meeting, can be found on the website.

Imam Plemon El-Amin. Another new member of the steering committee, Imam El Amin has served for the past 24 years as the Resident Imam of the Atlanta Masjid of Al-Islam. With a PhD from Harvard University, he is both leader and scholar.

Bhai Sahib Bhai Mohinder Singh. As leader of the Sikh community in Birmingham, UK, Bhai Sahib is one of the most significant personalities in the Sikh world today and his contribution to Elijah has been immense. A civil engineer by profession, he personifies the values of hospitality and humility. Two of his current projects are the Charter for Forgiveness Project and the Museum of World’s Religions Project

The idea behind the Charter for Forgiveness is that forgiving is an activity necessary for healing and reconciliation to take place, enabling the overcoming of legacies and memories of injustice, conflicts and wars, thereby liberating people from being imprisoned in the past and allowing the grace of the Divine to restore peace and harmony amongst individuals and communities. The Charter will draw attention to the activity of ‘forgiveness’ which arises from the quality of compassion. It would be a ‘next step’ from the existing Charter for Compassion, pointing us towards concrete actions resulting from compassion and their transformative power, in the private as well as the public sphere. The focus on tangible examples of forgiveness in action will help to identify and promote forgiveness as an effective contribution to resolving conflicts and fostering reconciliation.

The proposed Museum of Worlds Religions (MWR) in the UK, is intended to be a major world class educational and cultural institution which will be inspiring, outstanding and innovative. Its purpose is to provide information and act as an educational resource for individuals and groups to reflect on the meaning and role of religion amidst the many different challenges confronting humanity in the 21st Century.  The Museum will reflect the central importance of religion in human life and will provide a common space for the many local religious communities. It will be inclusive and avoid any particular religious or political affiliation. It will have an educational value for all, including those with no religious faith.

Maria Reis Habito represents Dharma Master Tao on the Board. The inspiration for the Museum of World Religions (MWR) project in the United Kingdom is the one founded by the Dharma Master – Hsin Tao of Taipei, Taiwan. After his experience as a war orphan and child soldier, Hsin Tao became a Buddhist monk and was inspired to build an MWR in Taipei, Taiwan which sought to realize the values of ‘Respect, Tolerance and Love’, cherished by the different religious traditions, and to turn them into an inter-religious reality.

A new film on the 30 years of work and accomplishments, as well as future projects by Master Hsin Tao and the Ling-jiou shan organization has been produced for the occasion.  Please view it on

A sample of the past few months demonstrates the diverse activities in which Dharma Master Tao is engaged. After organising prayers for world peace to usher in the Chinese New Year for the spectrum of religious communities in Taiwan, in March, Master Hsin Tao led a pilgrimage of 150 people to Bhutan. In May, Master Hsin Tao offered a Zen-retreat in the Domicilium in Weyarn near Munich, Germany, together with Elijah Academy member, Professor Michael von Brueck.

Maria has been crucial to the development of Elijah. She serves as a member of the think-tank and has provided skilled leadership to workshops and discussions at all past Board meetings.

Brother Josef Goetz. Br Goetz came to the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders representing  Rev Dr Notker Wolf and has endeared himself to his colleagues. His energy in interreligious work makes him a valuable member of the Board. Very recently he created a shared spiritual experience for Christians and Buddhists at the St Ottilien monastery, while also welcoming Muslims, theologians from Qoom in Iran, into the community.  Br Goetz and his Benedictine community will be the hosts of the next meeting of the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders.

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