US officials in Oz to learn ways to deal with Muslim world
Melbourne: The US sent officials to Australia on a secret mission to seek advice from interfaith religious leaders participating at a meet attended by Tibetan leader Dalai Lama on ways to engage with the Muslim world.
State Department's head of religious freedom Peter Kovach, White House religion expert Mara Vanderslice and a Gulf states policy planning head arrived at the Parliament of the World's Religions unexpectedly and asked to meet delegates, according to a senior parliament staffer Tim Mannatt.
The Parliament of the World's Religions was closed last night by the Dalai Lama, who told delegates that the world faced a moral crisis that only inner values such as compassion could solve, the Age reported.
Mannatt said there was a private meeting early this week with a small group of interfaith leaders the staffers invited and a larger meeting on the next day which involved about 100 leaders from all the religions at the parliament.
The newspaper said it was told the doors were shut and guarded and the usual sign outside the room was absent.
One of the Muslims, leading American imam Abdul Feisal Rauf, said the administration staffers were looking for input and advice, and were extremely well received by delegates.
"It was a great indicator of hope, and an important part of the parliament," he said, adding "Their position was 'we are here to learn from you'. They asked three questions: what should the Obama administration do, what should it not do, and have you any immediate or long-term suggestions. They just listened and took notes.”
Imam Rauf said he told the trio that religion was an extremely important part of the solution. As the US formally separated church and state, it tended not to look at religion in its foreign policy.