Ronald Lauder, head of WJC.
Ronald Lauder, head of WJC.Flash90

World Jewish Congress (WJC) President Ronald S. Lauder addressed world leaders at the 2021 G20 Interfaith Forum on Sunday in Bologna, Italy, delivering an impassioned plea for a global effort to strengthen religious education.

The Sept. 12-14 gathering, entitled, “Time to Heal: Peace Among Cultures, Understanding Between Religions,” focuses on the role of religion in ameliorating global challenges that include the pandemic, widespread violence, the massive disruption of formal education, racism and climate change.

“With all the problems we face, it is religion that is most in danger,” Amb. Lauder said in his remarks, shared virtually. Religion has given humankind “hope and purpose for thousands of years,” he said, and has taught us essential concepts such as forbearance, charity, purpose and the importance of family.

“A new generation has been raised with no connection to religion whatsoever,” Amb. Lauder cautioned.

He then pointed to the lethal attacks against people at US houses of worship as evidence of the need to counter hate and intolerance. Calling the incidents “sacrilegious,” he spoke of the mass shootings that occurred at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh; the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina; and at the Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin.

“When young people are not learning the basic rules of decency, they gravitate toward the teaching of hate and intolerance,” he said, adding, “All of us have the power and responsibility to turn this around. This can only come through education.”

“We must foster a dialogue of positive interfaith relations, we must help people in poor nations educate their youth with the best parts of their religion, we must recruit the most thoughtful and decent teachers for this process, and we must use the internet, because that is the only way to connect with young people today,” he said.

Convened each year in the host country of the G20 Summit, the G20 Interfaith Forum offers an annual platform where people representing religiously-linked institutions and initiatives engage on global agendas. The yearly gathering builds on the premise that religious institutions have a vital role in world affairs and in highlighting diversity as a means of solving some of the world’s greatest challenges.