Syncretist Group Accuses Religions of Promoting Terrorism

Founder of United Religions Initiative Slams Violence in Scripture

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NEW YORK, OCT. 15, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The founder of the United Religions Initiative (URI), a movement that seeks to become the dominant religious voice at the United Nations, blamed religion for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

The Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM) reported that at a Oct. 10 meeting at the U.N. Church Center, Episcopal Bishop William E. Swing of San Francisco asserted that the airline hijackers did not hold a corrupted version of Islam since religions — all religions — are guilty of fostering terrorism.

«There is a lot of terror and violence in a lot of Scripture,» Swing said. «There has to be a critique of that. We have to hold the religions´ feet to the fire for the violence and terror within them.»

He added: «The nations of the world have met every day for the past 50 years; the religions of the world have not. Who is more moral, the nations of the world or the religions of the world?»

URI aims to create a permanent body of religious ambassadors, a parallel organization to the United Nations, to address the problem of «fundamentalists in our own groups,» an issue that traditional religion «wimps out on,» Swing contended.

In light of the terrorist attack, «it´s a new day for interreligious activity in the United States,» he added.

Other participants at the meeting criticized either religion or capitalism. One person said, «The problem is religion — the whole concept of religion that requires conformity. The truth is different for every individual.»

Another said, «The underlying causes are economic. We want more oil and bigger cars.»

Swing agreed, repeatedly saying, «We must address the brokenness at the root of the terrorist attacks by bridging the chasm between the ´haves´ and the ´have-nots.´»

One participant wondered «how we can have a heart-to-heart dialogue with the terrorists.»

But Giandomenico Picco, former U.N. undersecretary-general, recounted his experiences dealing with terrorists in Lebanon and Afghanistan. Picco grew increasingly exasperated by the comments of Swing and the other participants. Picco said the terrorists engaged in a «hijacking of Islam, a hijacking of ideas.»

Picco also said, «Collective responsibility is baloney — there is individual responsibility for actions or no responsibility at all. Blaming institutions, religious or economic, allows individuals to get away with murder, literally. Why did they do it? Because they are wrong, they are criminals. We should not look for profound justifications.»

According to Picco, the real «chasm» Swing referred to is not between rich and poor, but between «those willing to kill innocent people and those not willing to kill innocent people.»

In response to the anti-Western bias of many of the statements, Picco said, «We still are very good.»

Picco, who is the personal representative of the secretary-general for the U.N. Year of Dialogue among Civilizations, warned that dialogue with terrorists often results in death.

URI was founded in 1995 and is active in 58 countries. Along with Protestants and disaffected Catholics, URI includes witches, Druids and members of New Age movements.

The Vatican has condemned URI for syncretism, the blending together of elements of all religions.

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