Coming Together Again – The 9th biennial meeting of The Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders

December, 2020

The Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders has been meeting in person every other year, since 2003. Unable to meet in person, this year we held our 9th Meeting over Zoom. Turnout was huge, as no travel was involved. With over 60 participants taking part, COVID-19 gave us the opportunity to learn how committed members of the Board are to our vision of sharing wisdom and cultivating friendship. Participants ranged from California to Indonesia, united in sharing the challenges of the year and advancing an outreach program of friendship across religions.

We have already shared with our readers the opening ceremony. Following a series of prayers, we took the time to remember members of the Board who had passed away since our previous meeting. Each was appreciated by a member of another faith tradition, a testimony to appreciation in the most personal way, across religious line.

The meeting was devoted to two themes – sharing experiences of leadership during COVID-19. Personal and communal issues were shared, but more importantly, this provided a forum for leaders to speak freely and intimately about their struggles and challenges as religious leaders during the pandemic. The three opening talks, offered by Cardinal Schonborn (Austria), Rabbi Lazar (Russia), and Ven Khandro Rinpoche (India), offer a fine balance of the personal and communal voice that leaders speak with. They are moving because they feature our leaders in their humanity.

Following Elijah’s friendship across religions campaign and theoretical reflections on the subject during earlier meetings, leaders met in small groups to offer scripturally based teachings in support of the relatively novel idea of practicing friendship across religions. These teachings will be used as part of a planned launch of a declaration of friendship that Elijah leaders will issue and that will serve as the basis for a global campaign to have religious leaders sign and act upon this friendship declaration.

The meeting concluded with messages of hope, to be taken back to our community and their communities. The friendships that our leaders model in their relationships with one another and their openness to learning from one another provides inspiration and hope for a better year to come.