On his 90th birthday, 3FF co-founder Sir Sigmund Sternberg shares his views on the importance of building a more united society by encouraging dialogue and engagement between people of different faiths and beliefs.
If there is one thing I have learned in my decades of interfaith dialogue and the struggle against prejudice, suspicion and bigotry. it is that there is no magic wand which can be waved to make things better. The struggle is an ongoing one, with many disappointments and setbacks along the way. But there are also those moments of satisfaction and solid achievement.
I have been fortunate to have experienced those moments of achievement: the first was in my association, which remains, with the International Council of Christians and Jews, now a global organisation which has extended its reach and concern to Muslims as well.
The second was as a co-founder, with the late Sheikh Zaki Badawi and with the Rev. Marcus Braybrooke, of the Three Faiths Forum. As this newsletter attests, after 14 years of existence, the Forum has become one of the foremost organisations working at the cutting edge of creating true, trusting and open relations, in the first instance between the three Abrahamic faiths, but also more widely with all people of goodwill.
Looking back on my own early youth in Hungary, where the harsh racist tones of the ‘twenties and ‘thirties foreshadowed the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis, I do believe fervently that we need to work actively today to prevent the forces of hatred to ever unleash such destruction again.
That conviction, that racism can be countered and reversed, has motivated my efforts of the last few decades and fuels my ongoing involvement in the work of the Three Faiths Forum. That work is needed every bit as much today as when we established the Forum.
If I have a sadness, it is that we are hampered in our vital work in schools and universities through the lack of adequate funding. If there is one present I would value more than any other in this, my 90th year, it would be that we might have the funding to bring our experience in teaching tolerance to thousands more young people. They would benefit and so surely would the society of which they are a vital part.