Interview with Josef Kral

Josef Kral participated in the Istanbul Conference last year and is currently planning to found a new CC in the Czech Repbublic, together with Blanka Czerna

Josef and Blanka 

Josef Kral: 

1) Could you please say a few sentences about your background and about how you came to URI as well as a few sentences about your experience at the Istanbul Conference and what an impact it had? 

If we could divide URI people in to three categories: (1) "old dogs" who

have known URI for a long time, and who  meet many CC/s around them, (2) "regular CC practitioners" who have got to know URI somehow and have CCs in  their home towns, and (3) "pioneers" who are now getting into the URI family and know no CCs around them, then we come under number 3. We don’t know any CC here, and we are always looking around to see if we will get to know someone. I will describe what I feel about my past. I was born into a truly religious family and I was brought up under such good circumstances that I had the chance to be in contact with many people practicing different religious during my childhood. M mother is Catholic and my father an (esoteric) humanist with a strong commitment to selflessgiving. One day in my last year of elementary school I found my father's hand transcript of the Basic Buddha's Word book at the top of the house-. (It was also quite interesting because at those times there was still communism in our country.) I read the whole book and thought about it many times when I met people of different religious practices. Life in a neighborhood of different religious people seems to be my life’s destiny. My best friend from university is Protestant, and our best friend in our volunteer-centre is Bahai. But during my life I have also met those of different spiritual orientation, I have also met many propagating xenophobic and frightening people, who argue that all "false-believers" will go to hell. Because I stepped into the Buddhist-perspective early on this seemed to me to be even much more like a horrorparody. I have never understood such xenophobia, but in daily life I have had to meet it frequently.


As I grew up it came into my mind that like any spiritual-guidance there must be some organization which offers the warm glow of non-xenophobic inter-religious "tolerance". (Friendship). I had summary experience, that (maybe only in the Czech Republic) only individuals have the energy to promote non-xenophobic friendship, and when someone needs to prove his/her searches for orientation, then such inspiration from individuals doesn’t have enough power for him/her. I was searching with my own small means for a long-long time; and after around (let us say) 10 years, I found URI on the internet. I contacted URI by email, and something like a miracle happened: Karimah welcomed me pragmatically and precisely. I should like to say a new life started –!

In Istanbul  we were lucky to be welcomed there. The journey had two main goals for me: to verify my opinion about URI as an organization of real quality and to understand organizational details. I discovered both there. (I had two personal side-goals: to meet URI-oriented Buddhists there and to step into any international action-plan if it could be possible.) These side-goals did not come to fruition, but even as such, I made progress in both. In Istanbul I achieved the  next goal which I had not thought about much before the quest started: to set up an own action-plan for my-local Brno. I started to think about that seriously and it is progressing, too. So as such we can say in "action-plan" terms. But in my personal daily life - my heart received some "non-action" input, which is much more important:for me it was like an oasis for me. We work with Blaniczka volunteers in a hospital for old people. There with other volunteers we feel something which one can sometimes feel in happy homes In families where  unconditional love prevails: the – acceptance of the heart’s fragility. This impression is most important for us. We are little bit hungry for that in meetings in the "spiritual communities" which we sometimes meet. But there we too frequently meet that xenophobia. In Istanbul I personally met a living community which goes forward towards this heart’s fragility and to humanity of heartswhich seems sustainable and strong. It is so important in comparison to what I have described.  Individual people "encourage" what it is like if we want to use lightning-flashes instead of sun-shine : that is too weak in the encounter with organized xenophobic propaganda).

I returned from Istanbul with the experience that organization focused on inter-religious friendship can exist. It is so different from my previous state where I was able to tell both friends and opponents that "I hope I am not alone in feeling non-xenophobic friendship as a spiritual call". (One says, ‘oh, Joseph, you are nice but my priest said "be careful, you will go to hell if you meet those others"’.) Now, it is very different. The second thing is support. I must say I got many important quotations, addresses and contacts with URI engaged organizations, and this helps me regarding details, and can also help me in progress.

2) Could you please give us a few sentences about your current activities and the plans and activities you plan in the future? Maybe you could also tell us about the first event you organized?

From the beginning when I started to think about the Czech action-plan, I saw "Czech specifics"; I will summarize it in terms of atomistic "own-yard" propaganda. (In Buddhism it could be called "my-me-mind".) It is not accidental that only  in the Czech Republic there is no CC yet. So my vision is to work patiently in the long-term and on more domains in parallel. I am slowly contacting people around Brno who are interested in inter-faith and my goal is "to stay in touch with them until some strong inspiration, or chance comes". We had something like an "Istanbul exhibition party" in our home. We were around ten people and the goal was to talk about that personally from the heart. I think it was very good and it opened a chance to be in contact with people who were really interested enough. There were many very interesting people there. (Usually the most hopeful and helpful ones are those whose time is most filled). One of them is planning to organise a small talk in a summer ‘philosophical’ camp. We are both very much looking forward to this. For now we are actually about five, and the "chance" which I see in the nearest future is the great offer of Karimah, that she could come to the Czech Repbulic. I'd like to treat it here as a chance to "organize something together" - to make a program together for such a workshop with those five people in cooperation. We will see what will grow from that. 

3) How do you evaluate the importance of interfaith activities and the impact it can have to improve mutual respect/understanding for one another?

I feel "interfaith activities" as a possible principal resource for what is now so much happening in the Western world: the " integration fault of minorities ". We must all understand that non-integrated enclaves occur because of xenophobia. We must understand that particular folklore traditions are different from understanding and practising humanity. It is so important and clear. Any tradition (spiritual or even materialistic) is a technique to access wellness ("Peace"). Some do it in some aspects more effectively, some less. Of course we should mainly respect techniques of the hosting country. But what we must understand is that one tradition meeting a different tradition in the field where both respecthumanity, then there is no more need for fear. The principal of "tolerance" has been distorted. (The propaganda of everywhere-rivalry has distorted the term tolerance - to the meaning of "to ignore violence and imperialism". The interfaith activities which I encountered in URI  are very pure. The principle of secure trust and appreciation in the field of humanity is very well cared for there. This principle could be very helpful in our intimate daily lives, but only setting-up CC-like long-term projects can help to make it visible to people who are outside. I must add that interfaith activities (as I saw at the Istanbul meeting) are not only "spiritual" in nature. Those could also be such "worldly" occupations (as cooking), or "entertaining" (like movies and camps) – those can all make visible that spirituality is not for imperialism but to encourage selfless kindness, an open heart, humanistic appreciation. (No-one could believe any spiritual evangelist if s/he does not reject a taste for dominance and xenophobia (or even violence). Spiritualitiy must do something real to show their “real” label quality" otherwise they will be legitimately criticized as fakes.)

"Impact to mutual respect"? It is impact towards this because it is the practice of mutual respectandunderstanding for one another. Furthermore; my opinion is that the only way to improve mutual understanding is to practise it. So interfaith activities are an important choice for that.

4) What is your motivation and inspiration?

"Motivation and inspiration"?  What motivates me is a need of it in daily interaction with others. What inspires me is to meet people with a "soft heart". Those who are brave enough not to hide themselves behind games of sovereignty, behind games of stars and celebrities, behind games of angry salvors. People who are soft enough to be able to caress warmly, those able to talk kindly, those able to give time for non- profit, those who can listen, those given by the heart to fragile humanity. And may URI inspire me!

5) What do you see as the biggest challenges?

"The biggest challenges" - These are two: the lack of interest around us. And the lack of time. It is so difficult.

6) What has been your nicest experience in this context so far?

"Nice experiences" come from time to time. One of the biggest is of course Istanbul. But I cannot forget emails from Karimah, those are very nice. Those are very important for me (and I think for everyone,too . Other nice things are every positive response through which I hear what we can do in Czech Republic.