August 11, 2004 ... The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) participated in a gathering of religious and interfaith leaders from around the world in Athens in the run up to the 2004 Summer Olympics in Greece.
The Interreligious Conference in Athens, August 10 – 11, 2004, was hosted by the Greek Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in an effort to promote interreligious harmony, dialogue and peace. The gathering brought together representatives of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths for a series of sessions under the theme of "Religion, Peace and the Olympic Ideal."
Rabbi Gary Bretton-Granatoor, ADL Director of Interfaith Affairs, addressed the session on "Religion and the Olympic Ideal." He recalled how politics and hatred tainted previous Olympic Games, including the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin, where Hitler sought to prove the superiority of the "master-race," and the murder of 11 members of the Israeli Olympic team during the 1972 games in Munich, Germany.
Bretton-Granatoor said the Olympics, and excellence in athletics, also provide a positive metaphor for all that is great about the human spirit and its ability to overcome obstacles. He called on the gathered religious leaders to use that inspiration in striving toward peace, understanding and harmony.
"We cannot hope to celebrate the success of the human spirit and the striving for betterment without recognizing how far a distance we, humanity, must travel," he said. "When one considers the training, dedication and effort an Olympian endures in order to prepare for these games, one cannot help but be astounded. … Through diligence, dedication and selfless effort, the human can continue on the path towards the ideal."
Other sessions were devoted to "Religion and the Call for Peace," "The Olympic Ideal and Peaceful Coexistence Amongst All Peoples" and "Towards an 'Olympic Charter' for Peace." Speakers included representatives of Jewish and Islamic faiths and an array of Christian denominations, including Christian Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Ecumenical and Maronite Christians.