Thursday, December 22, 2005

Fears of Intolerance Grow World Wide

In an increasingly Conservative world climate largely triggered by events surrounding 9/11 the emergence of politically aligned conservative religious groups has raised alarms in mainstream and traditional liberal communities. The greatest western democracies have been secular in nature, tolerant and understanding of diversity, whether that be religious, political, lifestyle or cultural. These tenets of Liberalism are today under threat across the world and here in Australia as some seek to mould political parties to their own narrow religious dogma. At times of fear and uncertainty people are attracted to authority and a sense of control and certainty. We have witnessed the disgraceful racial riots in Sydney over the past few weeks. Mobs motivated by prejudice and hatred fueled by difficult climate in which we live across the world today. For liberals the challenge is to continue the advocacy and representation of the strength in diversity, a genuine plurality and secular government. The New York Times reports that liberal Jewish leaders in the US are concerned about the rise of religious intolerance.

Jews fear growing religious intolerance

US Jewish leaders are increasingly worried that Christian conservatives want to turn America politically and culturally into a country that tolerates only their brand of Christianity.

"There is a feeling on all sides that something is changing," said Abraham Foxman, director of the New York-based Anti-Defamation League.

"The polls indicate a very serious thing - that over 60 per cent of the American people feel that religion and Christianity are under attack.

"Some are saying we are attacking [Christianity]. This whole movement is not anti-Semitic or motivated by anti-Semitism. But sometimes unintended consequences are much more serious than intended," he said.

Mr Foxman recently arranged a meeting in New York involving six Jewish organisations to discuss the problem. While participants did not agree on the exact level of the problem, they felt a strategy was needed, he said.

Jews are a people of faith but are opposed to anyone who would say only they know the truth and want to impose it on everyone else, he said.

The issues raised go deep into US society, ranging from challenges to teaching evolution to bans on abortion and same-sex marriage or deciding what kind of people should serve on the US Supreme Court.

Rabbi James Rudin, former head of interreligious activities for the American Jewish Committee, said he had met pastors "who say that Jesus Christ is the ultimate leader of America and that God's law trumps the constitution Â… I'm very concerned".


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