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How Can People Of Faith Be Good Examples For Peace?


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Ask the Religion Experts: How can people of faith be good examples for peace?


KEVIN SMITH is on the board of directors for the Centre of Inquiry, Canada’s premier venue for humanists, skeptics and freethinkers.

Here’s a question we’re all familiar with. Why in God’s name has religion, if it’s supposed to be a force for peace, caused the most violence in the world?

The history books are stained with the blood of The Crusades, The French War of Religion, and the Catholic-Protestant issue in Ireland; the list is endless. The Middle East conflict and the latest holy war, Jihad, continues to make headlines.

Richard Dawkins states that religion is the root of all evil, but I would re-phrase that as religion has been, and continues to be, an excuse for evil deeds to be carried out by human nature. We have an “us vs. them” attitude regarding skin colour, socio-economic class or political beliefs. Add in nationalism and top it off with religious differences, and we’ve got dynamite.

Out of these, differing religious faith is the most explosive. Some will interpret their assorted holy books to reassure themselves that their belief, their god, is the only truth. While I would never claim that non-believers are without evil, you will never see an atheist murder in the name of Darwin.

The best way for people of faith to promote peace is to lay down their holy books. Let’s have a level playing field. Why don’t we acknowledge the only truth we know is that everyone on this planet has the same aspirations of equality of rights, dignity and an acceptance of our differences? Why don’t we agree that as long as our lifestyle doesn’t affect others, we will leave people in peace? Can we accept that democratic laws, created by all, are the fairest way to provide protection of these basic human rights?

As a true holy man of peace, the Dalai Lama has said these secular ethics are necessary for world peace in the 21st century. Most importantly, let’s keep talking.

Rev. GEOFFREY KERSLAKE is a priest of the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Ottawa.

In his famous Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught us: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God” (cf. Matthew 5:3-12). The Catholic Church teaches, “earthly peace is the image and fruit of the peace of Christ, the messianic “Prince of Peace” (Catechism of the Catholic Church n. 2305). True peace is more than just the absence of conflict because it involves justice and acting for the benefit of our neighbor, both in our communities and in the world abroad. Being an instrument of God’s peace is a task for everyone, not just a role for priests or members of religious orders: “It is not the role of the Pastors of the Church to intervene directly in the political structuring and organization of social life. This task is part of the vocation of the lay faithful, acting on their own initiative with their fellow citizens. Social action can assume various concrete forms. It should always have the common good in view and be in conformity with the message of the Gospel and the teaching of the Church. It is the role of the laity “to animate temporal realities with Christian commitment, by which they show that they are witnesses and agents of peace and justice” (CCC n. 2442). By seeking to promote the common good of all, by respecting differences of religion, ethnicity and culture while promoting equality and justice for all, by prayer and the celebration of the sacramental life of the Church, Christians can be true witnesses to God’s Peace — Jesus Christ.

Rev. KEVIN FLYNN is an Anglican priest and director of the Anglican studies program at Saint Paul University.

In the late 1980s I attended a large gathering at which the keynote speaker was Archbishop Trevor Huddleston. Huddleston had served in township parishes in South Africa during the apartheid regime until his protests against it led to his banishment from the country. He concluded his address with by saying that the great cause for Christians of the 21st century would be the abolition of war. His words haunt me still.

It is important to be good individual examples of peace. But peace is more than an individual matter. Christians have, for a long time, bought the ideology that security and peace are the gift of the state. That peace and security only belong, however, to those who live within its arbitrary borders. Beyond that, we are told we might have to, indeed at times must kill those who are not found within those borders.

Christians have not always believed that. Recall the witness of the early Christian apologist Justin Martyr around the year 150: “We, who formerly murdered one another, not only refuse to make war against our enemies, but .... meet death willingly, confessing Christ.”

Or more recently, Martin Luther King Jr.: “To our most bitter opponents we say: ‘We shall match your capacity to inflict suffering by our capacity to endure suffering. We shall meet your physical force with soul force. Do to us what you will, and we shall continue to love you.’.... Jesus is eternally right. History is replete with the bleached bones of nations that refused to listen to him. May we in the twentieth century hear and follow his words before it is too late. May we solemnly realize that we shall never be true sons of the heavenly Father until we love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us.”

ABDUL RASHID is a member of the Ottawa Muslim community, the Christian-Muslim Dialogue and the Capital Region Interfaith Council.

God Almighty says: “Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has faith, verily, to him will We give a new life, a life that is good and pure” (Holy Koran, 16:97). True peace of mind for a faithful Muslim lies in seeking the pleasure of his Creator by following the Divine moral code.

As for peace ‘without,’ Islam recommends a path which moves from the peace of the individual conscience to the peace in the family and home. If the families in a community lack love, mercy and tranquility within themselves, they are unlikely to find peace among themselves. Islam then exhorts the well to do individuals and families to share their good fortune with their relatives and neighbours.

Islam advises its followers to live with others in peace and show, courtesy, respect, kindness and compassion for all of God’s creation. It establishes a simple general principle for establishing relationships with others: “Help one another in righteousness and piety but do not help one another in sin and rancour” (5:2).

A major source of international turmoil is the sacrifice of morality and justice at the altar of political expediency. Identical actions may be condemned in one place and lauded in another place. World religions can initiate movements towards world peace but they do not have the means to implement the required steps towards it. However, this does not absolve people of faith from their responsibility to exert moral and ethical influence towards peace.

Feelings and expressions of pride, superiority, prejudice and hatred lead to disturbance of communal and international peace. In this respect, Islam warns its followers lest, “the hatred of others to you make you swerve to wrong and depart from justice” (5:9).

Human beings are born with the desire for peace. Peace provides the human race with the opportunity to develop materially and spiritually. While peace is the source of human strength, it is also very fragile. For peace to flourish, it must be continuously nurtured with patience and perseverance.

Rabbi REUVEN BULKA is head of Congregation Machzikei Hadas in Ottawa and host of Sunday night with Rabbi Bulka on 580 CFRA.

People of faith, whether members of a congregation, or leaders within the congregation, carry with them a great responsibility. Because they are identified as “faith imbued,” their actions are more seriously scrutinized, if for no other reason than to learn from them what is right and what is not.

Even though people have differing ideas of what is meant by peace, it is reasonably safe to say peace is a universal desire. For some, it is a sincere desire for peace and harmony. For others, it is peace on their terms only. It is safe to say faith leaders have not acquitted themselves well on the matter of peace. Faith leaders past and present have actually encouraged more of a “peace on our terms” posture, such as “embrace our faith and we will not kill you.”

Leaders within any faith must be renounced for such a policy. And the true people of faith within those communities must be actively involved in calling their “leaders” on this. Faith and peace leave little room for passivity. If peace is important, it needs to be actively and vigorously pursued, even if in the process there are some distinctly unpeaceful exchanges.

That is on the more public side. On the more personal side, peace and harmony within communities and between people are often jeopardized by intrusion of petty issues, usually of relevance for no more than a fleeting moment but with repercussions that can last a lifetime. Religious people can be most helpful by being truly religious. This means avoiding conflict, not letting material concerns escalate into mini-wars, refusing to get angry and to hurl insult. It also means calmly trying to be understanding and considerate at all times, difficult as it may be.

These attitudes need not be restricted to the religious. But for people who claim to be religious, these attitudes are fundamental and unyielding.

BALPREET SINGH is legal counsel and acting executive director for the World Sikh Organization of Canada.

By getting along with each other and being living examples of tolerance and peace. Conflicts between people of different religions have, unfortunately, given rise to the opinion among many that religion and peace are incompatible. All people of faith have a duty to change this perception.

The Sikh faith is clear: all people, regardless of their faith, are worthy of respect and equal before God. It is for this reason that people of all faiths or no faith at all are welcome at Sikh places of worship and free to enjoy the community meal (langar) that is served every day.

The Sikh Gurus insisted that freedom of religion is a fundamental right. When the Sikh Gurus established towns and cities, not only did they invite people of other faiths, they even established places for them to worship.

The city of Sri Hargobindpur in Punjab was established by the sixth Sikh Guru, Guru Hargobind. The unique feature of this town is a mosque that Guru Hargobind, himself, built for the Muslim residents. Despite the fact that, today, the town no longer has a significant Muslim population, the original mosque remains and is maintained by the Sikh residents.

It remains open to any Muslim who wishes to pray but it is also revered by Sikhs as a structure built by the Guru. The mosque has also been recognized as a historical site by UNESCO’s “Culture of Peace” program.

The example of the ninth Sikh Guru is also one that teaches the importance of religious tolerance. When the Mughal Empire in India began to persecute the Hindu community and forbid certain Hindu customs, such as the wearing of the sacred thread, the ninth Sikh Guru, Guru Tegh Bahadur, defended the right of Hindus to freely practise their faith and, as a result, was executed.

The examples set by the Sikh Gurus continue to be an inspiration to Sikhs. Faith should teach love, compassion and equality. If we allow those values to guide us, there is no doubt we will be good examples of peace.

Rev. RAY INNEN PARCHELO is a novice Tendai priest and founder of the Red Maple Sangha, the first lay Buddhist community in Eastern Ontario.

Buddhists hold that the beginning of peacefulness lies in our own awareness of ourselves. Unless we can approach our personal or collective hurts, desires and vulnerabilities with understanding and compassion, we will simply continue to re-energize and re-enact a path of violence, in us or the world. This is the heart of pacifism, Gandhi-ji’s satyagraha, “soul-power.” Humans have the capacities to be compassionate or cruel, loving or hate-filled. We become the one we energize the most.

There is a story of Shakyamuni, when he was leading his early followers across North India. His reputation had grown and there were those who were jealous and hostile. Once, his followers saw a huge man, a renowned murderous criminal approaching, shouting threats and curses. The followers scattered for safety. The Buddha continued uninterrupted. When confronted by this man, he did not let fear, anger or anxiety take over. He focused on recognizing the humanity of the other. Relying on his own profound awareness of his own weaknesses, he saw the man as no different than himself. The criminal was so disoriented and touched by this reaction that he ceased his threats. In time, he became one of the many loyal followers. That is “soul-power.”

Those caught up in greed and anger will dismiss pacifism as passive-ism — weak sentimentalism. Nobel Peace Prize winner Thich Nhat Hahn explains: “If you think compassionate people do not resist and challenge injustice, you are wrong ... When we are armed with compassion and understanding, we fight not against other people, but against the tendency to invade, to dominate and to exploit.” Bob Marley wrote: “Everyone cries out for peace, no one is crying for justice.” For us to be examples of peace, we must confront injustice, at all levels.

Rev. RICK REED is senior pastor at the Metropolitan Bible Church in Ottawa.

In our troubled world, we desperately need peace within families, among communities and between nations. That’s why God calls Christians to be good examples for peace: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:17-18).

These verses highlight three ways Christians can be good examples for peace.

First, we are not to be surprised by evil. The Bible realistically warns us to expect evil to come our way.

Bad things happen to all people.

Second, we are not to resort to revenge. Rather than repaying evil for evil, we are to seek “to do what is right.”

Third, we are to actively pursue peace. As far as it depends on us, we are to promote peace with everyone.

This means choosing to forgive those who hurt us and being willing to work at rebuilding trust.

All this sounds fine until we have to do it! Working for peace with those who have wounded us is hard to do. We naturally desire to seek revenge or run away.

That’s why we must come to understand this foundational truth about peace: before we can be examples of peace in our relationships with others, we must first experience peace in our relationship with God.

And how do we experience God’s peace?

The Bible says that God’s peace is given to all who trust in Christ Jesus. Faith in Jesus brings us “peace with God” (Romans 5:1) and fills us with “the peace of God” (Philippians 4:6).

Ultimately, it is a relationship with Jesus that enables us to have peace with God and to become peacemakers in our relationships with others.

JACK MCLEAN is a Bahá’í scholar, teacher, essayist and poet published in the fields of spirituality, Bahá’í theology and poetry.

The short answer is by being active in the cause of peace. All of us desire peace and realize war is an offence to God and the greatest destroyer of human happiness. But the essential thing is action. Being active in the cause of peace can be expressed in any number of ways, both individually and collectively. To be an example of peace, one must be at peace with oneself. To achieve peace of mind, the Bahá’í teachings counsel contentment with the conditions of one’s life and thankfulness for spiritual blessings received. Peace in the heart will help us to radiate peace to our family, friends and relations.

The 5.5-million, worldwide Bahá’í community is at peace with itself and represents a microcosm of humanity. It is not divided up into contending, hostile sects. Through the provisions of its firm Covenant, it remains organically and spiritually one. People of various former religious and secular backgrounds — Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, Zoroastrian, Communist and atheist — live together harmoniously as a model of a peaceful and progressive society. This great feat has been achieved through the divine teachings of the Prophet-Founder, Bahá’u’lláh (Glory of God) (1817-1892), God’s latest emissary.

One may join societies and organizations dedicated to the cause of world peace such as Education for Peace. One may found or join model United Nations clubs or plan a career with one of the agencies of the UN or UNESCO or work for development in the developing world.

Global peace should be viewed as the end-result of the vigorous application of many other divine teachings such as non-violence, the equality of women and men, universal education, interfaith harmony, elimination of extremes of wealth and poverty, social justice, voluntary sharing, and the elimination of prejudices of all kinds.

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

Read more: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/life/R...amples+peace/4857197/story.html#ixzz1NiRTXAL6



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