While world attention focuses the soccer superstars taking part in the World Cup 2006 in Germany, religious leaders hope to use the month-long event to promote peace between the faiths, writes Frauke Brauns for Ecumenical News International.
In Berlin, Christians, Jews and Muslims are looking forward to an inter-religious soccer tournament on 25 June 2006, following a first match between Christian clerics and Muslim imams in May (as reported on Ekklesia).
"We played for the peace message, and that's a good reason to play on," said Christopher Jage-Bowler, the Anglican chaplain in Berlin, who helped dream up the idea.
In the match on 6 May, a team made up of a member of the Salvation Army and seven people from other Protestant and Anglican churches played eight Muslim imams. The Christian team won by 12 goals to one.
Jage-Bowler devised the match after reading about a similar "clerics against imams" fixture in Leicester in northern England, refereed by a Jewish rabbi. In the event, it proved impossible to find a rabbi to referee the Berlin match because it was played on a Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath.
A Roman Catholic priest who also wanted to take part fell ill shortly before the game. "Next time we have to make sure we play when every religion can join us on the field," Jage-Bowler told ENI.
Meanwhile, in the South Korean capital of Seoul, more than 100 clerics of different faiths took part in an inter-religious soccer tournament on 25 May, the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) reports. They came from the traditions of Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism and Won Buddhism, a religion founded in Korea in the early 20th century.
In the final match, the Won Buddhist team defeated the Protestants 1-0 to win the trophy. Son Chang-seon, a Won Buddhist representative, described the event as "meaningful", noted UCAN. "We have different doctrines," he acknowledged, but "the fundamental goal we are aiming for is the same."
Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.
[Also on Ekklesia: Soccer fans and foes asked to Give Injustice the Red Card 09/06/06; Give injustice the red card Jun 9, 2006 An alternative World Cup guide for those with global vision; German churches to be peacemakers during World Cup, by Fran race; Fairtrade football - fair trade football gift ideas; Christians and Muslims score a goal against soccer racism; Will Baptist soccer bosses teach England's Sven about crosses?; World Cup proves a football blessing to Iran; Hallowed be thy game]