Since I am a Catholic priest and a member of the Society of Jesus, my sections on Ignatian Spirituality and Theological Reflection are coming from a Catholic and Jesuit perspective. The pillars of my vision of a new world structure are basic human rights, non-violence, economic democracy, and a democratic world authority. Though it may be worded differently by diverse cultures, the first pillar is a world ethic of all religions and those of no religion, based on human reason, basic human rights, and the faith of the major religions. All religions accept, for example, the counsel to do unto others as you would have others do unto you.
Before we move toward a world ethic, should we begin with a local ethic? The followers of St. John Baptist asked, "What are we to do?" Luke 3.10 ff. John responded, "One with two coats should give to him who has none. One who has food should do the same." If the main religions agree that nutritious food, basic health care, education, employment, security in old age are human rights, they can begin with local coalitions. Since some issues like potable water, arable land, healthy air, have world-wide implications, groups can begin to see that the principle of subsidiarity calls us to acknowledge we are one homo sapiens, one human family, living on the same planet. If the war system, an exclusive global economy prevents common sense from bringing about a humane world, then perhaps we need to stretch our imagination and our thinking to the regional, even the global level.
(For the value, even necessity, of a world ethic, see Hans Kung, Global Responsibility, In Search of a New World Ethic; The Ethics of World Religions and Human Rights, edited by Hans Kung and Jurgen Moltmann; Robert Traer, Faith in Human Rights, Support in Religious Traditions for a Global Struggle; Denise Lardner Carmody and John Tully Carmody, Peace and Justice in the Scriptures of the World Religions.)
Since most people in the world are religious, it will be difficult to have peace unless the religions of the world can agree on and live out a common ethic. "There will be no peace among nations without peace among religions. There will be no peace among religions without dialogue among religions" says Dr. Hans Kung. (See The Tablet, Oct. 15, 2011.)
We celebrate diversity of cultures, but there is a common acceptance of basic human rights. See Dr. Joseph Wronka in the section of Human Rights.
If most religions and most people of good will agreed that ordinary health care is a basic right, wouldn't we have a strong world-wide force moving toward providing ordinary health care for each human person in our world? Germs spread. If we don't address the health of all, We are all vulnerable to disease and epidemics.
Health care in a special sense is something we can promote by our view of the world. See Deb Reich, author of No More Enemies p.40 "Terrorism is a painful side effect of a medication, official, state-sponsored violence that we have prescribed for a preventable disease, enemies-driven thinking."
Dr. Hans Kung has written a libretto for an oratorio embracing the unity of all faiths with the diversity of numerous styles of music, Chinese, Indian, plainchant and several others.. With the British composer Jonathan Harvey, Hans Kung has created the 90 minute oratorio Weltethos A Global Ethic performed in Berlin for the German President, Christian Wulff, and Switzerland's President and Foreign Minister Micheline Calmy-Rey, in October, 2011.
In the Christian gospel of Matthew, 24.34-40, Jesus was asked, "Which commandment of the law is the greatest? Jesus said to him: "You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments the whole law is based, and the prophets as well." Muslim scholars approached Pope Benedict XVI and proposed "A Common Word." The Koran says Let us have a Common Word between us and you. See acommonword.com
"It is hoped that this document will provide a common constitution for the many worthy organizations and individuals who are carrying out interfaith dialogue all over the world. Often these groups are unaware of each other, and duplicate each other's efforts. Not only can A Common Word Between Us give them a starting point for cooperation and worldwide co-ordination, but it does so on the most solid theological ground possible: the teachings of the Qu'ran and the Prophets, and the commandments described by Jesus Christ in the Bible. Thus despite their differences, Islam and Christianity not only share the same Divine Origin and the same Abrahamic heritage, but the same two greatest commandments."
The World's Religions had a Global Congress September 11-15, 2006 in Montreal. (see www.WorldsReligionsAfter911.com )
A Vatican Council asserts that the global economy should be for the people and an inclusive economy. See http://www.zenit.org/article-33718?l=english ZE11102402 - 2011-10-24 Permalink: http://www.zenit.org/article-33718?l=english PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE ON THE GLOBAL ECONOMY
Below is another attempt to agree on general principles. In light of the global financial crisis there should be a movement to get moral principles into Congress, business, education, the media. But principles will be lifeless if they are not put into practice and enforced by our legal and constitutional structures. It is not enough for principles to be voluntary. In today?s global world, there needs to be a democratic world federation to make decisions individual nations cannot make by themselves. Now the more powerful nations make the rules in their own favor. I note the common good is the good of all. All is interconnected. If the system is not fair and inclusive, it will not be a moral system. To say all we need is a free economy is to tempt us to greed and selfishness. There must be laws for the common good, indeed for the global common good. On my web-site, see the sections on Economic Democracy and Global World Order. If we the people of the world have no representation when economic decisions are made, the poor will pay the cost of the decisions but be left out of the benefits. We are all human persons with economic rights, the right to meaningful, safe, quality employment that sustains the environment at adequate rates of compensation. Each person has the right to basic health care. I question using unemployment on the macro level as a means to control inflation or as a means to enforce conformity.
The Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility has put together Principles for Global Corporate Responsibility Bench Marks for Measuring Business Performance which are quite detailed and practical and should be read and studied in all universities. One of their principles is the precautionary principle, shifting the burden of proof from one of proving environmental harm to one of proving environmental safety. I ask whether this principle was followed recently by the US government in approving genetically modified alfalfa? Many scientists say it was not. Is research open and public? Did we the people make this decision? Do most people even know about it?
One initiative toward common cooperation came from Mulim scholars. See acommonword.com
In the Christian gospel of Matthew 22.34-40 Jesus was asked "Which commandment of the law is the greatest? Jesus said to him: You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. The second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments the whole law is based, and the prophets as well."
The World Trade Commission needs to be replaced by an agency of a Democratic World Federation. World trade decisions cannot be made solely by the G-8 or the G-20. The poorer nations should have a voice in world economic decisions. Otherwise they can be taken advantage of by the richer nations.
UN Headquarters, New York
6 October 2009
For the globalization of economic activity to lead to universal and sustainable prosperity, all those who either take part in or are affected by economic activities are dependent on a values-based commercial exchange and cooperation. This is one of the fundamental lessons of today?s worldwide crisis of the financial and product markets.
Further, fair commercial exchange and cooperation will only achieve sustainable societal goals when people?s activities to realize their legitimate private interests and prosperity are imbedded in a global ethical framework that enjoys broad acceptance. Such an agreement on globally accepted norms for economic actions and decisions ? in short, for ?an ethic of doing business? ? is still in its infancy.
A global economic ethic ? a common fundamental vision of what is legitimate, just, and fair ? relies on moral principles and values that from time immemorial have been shared by all cultures and have been supported by common practical experience.
Each one of us ? in our diverse roles as entrepreneurs, investors, creditors, workers, consumers, and members of different interest groups in all countries ? bears a common and essential responsibility, together with our political institutions and international organizations, to recognize and apply this kind of global economic ethic.
For these reasons, the signatories of this declaration express their support of the following Manifesto.
Manifesto for a Global Economic Ethic
In this declaration, the fundamental principles and values of a global economy are set forth, according to the Declaration toward a Global Ethic issued by the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago in 1993. The principles in this manifesto can be endorsed by all men and women with ethical convictions, whether these be religiously grounded or not. The signatories of this declaration commit themselves to being led by its letter and its spirit in their day-to-day economic decisions, actions, and general behavior. This Manifesto for a Global Economic Ethic takes seriously the rules of the market and of competition; it intends to put these rules on a solid ethical basis for the welfare of all.
Nothing less than the experience of the current crisis affecting the whole economic sphere underlines the need for those internationally accepted ethical principles and moral standards, which we all need to breathe life into in our day-to-day business practices.
I. The principle of humanity
The ethical frame of reference: Differences between cultural traditions should not be an obstacle to engaging in active cooperation for esteem, defense, and fulfillment of human rights. Every human being ? without distinction for age, sex, race, skin color, physical or mental ability, language, religion, political view, or national or social origin ? possesses an inalienable and untouchable dignity. Everyone, the individual as well as the state, is therefore obliged to honor this dignity and protect it. Humans must always be the subjects of rights, must be ends and never mere means, and must never be the objects of commercialization and industrialization in economics, politics, and the media, in research institutes, or in industrial corporations.
The fundamental principle of a desirable global economic ethic is humanity: Being human must be the ethical yardstick for all economic action: It becomes concrete in the following guidelines for doing business in a way that creates value and is oriented to values for the common good.
The ethical goal of sustainable economic action, as well as its social prerequisite, is the creation of a fundamental framework for sustainably fulfilling human beings? basic needs so that they can live in dignity. For that reason, in all economic decisions the uppermost precept should be that such actions always serve the formation and development of all the individual resources and capabilities that are needed for a truly human development of the individual and for living together happily.
Humanity flourishes only in a culture of respect for the individual. The dignity and self-esteem of all human beings ? be they superiors, co-workers, business partners, customers, or other interested persons ? are inviolable. Never may human beings be treated badly, either through individual ways of conduct or through dishonorable trading or working conditions. The exploitation and the abuse of situations of dependence as well as the arbitrary discrimination of persons are irreconcilable with the principle of humanity.
To promote good and avoid evil is a duty of all human beings. Thus this duty must be applied as a moral yardstick to all economic decisions and courses of action. It is legitimate to pursue one?s own interests, but the deliberate pursuit of personal advantage to the detriment to one?s partners ? that is, with unethical means ? is irreconcilable with sustainable economic activity to mutual advantage.
What you do not wish done to yourself, do not do to others. This Golden Rule of reciprocity, which for thousands of years has been acknowledged in all religious and humanist traditions, promotes mutual responsibility, solidarity, fairness, tolerance, and respect for all persons involved.
Such attitudes or virtues are the basic pillars of a global economic ethos. Fairness in competition and cooperation for mutual benefit are fundamental principles of a sustainably developing global economy that is in conformity with the Golden Rule.
II. Basic values for global economic activity
The following basic values for doing business globally further develop the fundamental principle of humanity and make concrete suggestions for decisions, actions, and general behavior in the practical sphere of economic life.
Basic values: non-violence and respect for life
The ethical frame of reference: To be authentically human in the spirit of our great religious and ethical traditions means that in public as well as in private life we must be concerned for others and ready to help. Every people, every race, every religion must show tolerance and respect ? indeed high appreciation ? for every other. Minorities ? be they racial, ethnic, or religious ? require protection and support by the majority.
All human beings have the duty to respect the right to life and its development. Respect for human life is a particularly lofty good. Thus every form of violence or force in pursuit of economic goals is to be rejected. Slave labor, compulsory labor, child labor, corporal punishment, and other violations of recognized international norms of labor law must be suppressed and abolished. With utmost priority, all economic agents must guarantee the protection of human rights in their own organizations. At the same time, they must make every effort to see to it that, within their sphere of influence, they do nothing that might contribute to violations of human rights on the part of their business partners or other parties involved. In no way may they themselves draw profit from such violations.
The impairment of people?s health through adverse working conditions must be stopped. Occupational safety and product safety according to state-of-the-art technology are basic rights in a culture of non-violence and respect for life.
Sustainable treatment of the natural environment on the part of all participants in economic life is an uppermost value-norm for economic activity. The waste of natural resources and the pollution of the environment must be minimized by resource-conserving procedures and by environmentally friendly technologies. Sustainable clean energy (with renewable energy sources as far as possible), clean water, and clean air are elementary conditions for life. Every human being on this planet must have access to them.
Basic values: justice and solidarity
The ethical frame of reference: To be an authentic human being means ? in the spirit of the great religious and ethical traditions ? not misusing economic and political power in a ruthless struggle for domination. Such power is instead to be used in the service of all human beings. Self-interest and competition serve the develop¬ment of the productive capacity and the welfare of everyone involved in economic activity. Therefore, mutual respect, reasonable coordination of interests, and the will to conciliate and to show consideration must prevail.
Justice and the rule of law constitute reciprocal presuppositions. Responsibility, rectitude, transparency, and fairness are fundamental values of economic life, which must always be characterized by law-abiding integrity. All those engaged in economic activity are obliged to comply with the prevailing rules of national and international law. Where deficits exist in the quality or the enforcement of legal norms in a particular country, these should be over-ruled by self-commitment and self-control; under no circumstances may one take advantage of them for the sake of profit.
The pursuit of profit is the presupposition for competitiveness. It is the presupposition for the survival of business enterprises and for their social and cultural engagements. Corruption inhibits the public welfare, damaging the economy and the people, because it systematically leads to false allocation and waste of resources. The suppression and abolition of corrupt and dishonest practices, such as bribery, collusion agreements, patent piracy, and industrial espionage, demands preventive engagement, which is a duty incumbent on all those active in the economy.
A major goal of every social and economic system that aims at equal opportunity, distributive justice, and solidarity is to overcome hunger and ignorance, poverty and inequality, throughout the world. Self-help and outside help, subsidiarity and solidarity, private and public engagement ? all these are two sides of the same coin: they become concrete in private and public economic investments, but also in private and public initiatives to create institutions that serve to educate all segments of the population and to erect a comprehensive system of social security. The basic goal of all such efforts is a true human development directed at the promotion of all those capabilities and resources that enable men and women to lead a life of self-determination in full human dignity.
Basic values: honesty and tolerance
The ethical frame of reference: To be authentically human in the spirit of our great religious and ethical traditions means that we must not confuse freedom with arbitrariness or pluralism with indifference to truth. We must cultivate integrity and truthfulness in all our relationships instead of dishonesty, dissembling, and opportunism.
Truthfulness, honesty, and reliability are essential values for sustainable economic relationships that promote general human well-being. They are prerequisites for creating trust between human beings and for promoting fair economic competition. On the other hand, it is also imperative to protect the basic human rights of privacy and of personal and professional confidentiality.
The diversity of cultural and political convictions, as well as the diverse abilities of individuals and the diverse competencies of organizations, represents a potential source of global prosperity. Cooperation for mutual advantage presupposes the acceptance of common values and norms and the readiness to learn from each other and to respectfully tolerate one another?s otherness. Discrimination of human beings because of their sex, their race, their nationality, or their beliefs cannot be reconciled with the principles of a global economic ethic. Actions that do not respect or that violate the rights of other human beings are not to be tolerated.
Basic values: mutual esteem and partnership
The ethical frame of reference: To be authentically human in the spirit of our great religious and ethical traditions means the following: We need mutual respect, partnership, and understanding, instead of patriarchal domination and degradation, which are expressions of violence and engender counter-violence. Every individual has intrinsic dignity and inalienable rights, and each also has an inescapable responsibility for what she or he does and does not do.
Mutual esteem and partnership between all those involved ? in particular, between men and women ? is at once the prerequisite and the result of economic cooperation. Such esteem and partnership rest on respect, fairness, and sincerity toward one?s partners, be they the executives of a firm or their employees, their customers, or other stakeholders. Esteem and partnership form the indispensable basis for recognizing situations in which unintentional negative consequences of economic actions pose a dilemma for all concerned ? a dilemma that can and must be resolved by mutual effort.
Partnership likewise finds its expression in the ability to participate in economic life, in economic decisions, and in economic gains. How such participation may be realized depends on the diverse cultural factors and regulatory structures prevailing in different economic areas. However, the right to join forces in order to responsibly pursue personal and group interests through collective action represents a minimal standard that must everywhere be recognized.
All economic agents should respect the internationally accepted rules of conduct in economic life; they should defend them and, within the framework of their sphere of influence, work together for their realization. Fundamental are the human rights and responsibilities as proclaimed by the United Nations in 1948. Other global guidelines issued by recognized transnational institutions ? the Global Compact of the United Nations, the Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work of the International Labour Organization, the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, and the UN Convention against Corruption, to name just a few ? all agree with the demands set forth in this Manifesto for a Global Economic Ethic.
Michel Camdessus, Gouverneur honoraire de la Banque de France
Walter Fust, CEO, Global Humanitarian Forum
Margot Kässmann, Lutheran Bishop of Hanover and Chairperson of the Council of the Evangelical Church in Germany
Georg Kell, Executive Director, UN Global Compact Office
Samuel Kobia, General Secretary of World Council of Churches
Hans Küng, President, Global Ethic Foundation
Karl Lehmann, Cardinal, Bishop of Mainz
Klaus M. Leisinger, CEO, Novartis Foundation
Peter Maurer, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the United Nations
Mary Robinson, President, Realizing Rights: The Ethical Globalization Initiative
Jeffrey Sachs, Director, The Earth Institute, Columbia University
Juan Somavia, Director General, International Labour Organization
Desmond Tutu, Archbishop emeritus and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate
Daniel Vasella, CEO, Novartis International
Tu Weiming, Professor of Philosophy, Harvard University and Beijing University
Patricia Werhane, Professor of Business Ethics, University of Virginia, Darden School of Business and DePaul University
Carolyn Woo, Dean, Mendoza College of Business University of Notre Dame
The declaration was composed by a working committee of the Global Ethic Foundation:
Prof. Dr. Heinz-Dieter Assmann (Tübingen University)
Dr. Wolfram Freudenberg (Freudenberg Group)
Prof. Dr. Klaus Leisinger (Novartis Foundation)
Prof. Dr. Hermut Kormann (Voith AG)
Prof. Dr. Josef Wieland (Drafter, Konstanz University of Applied Sciences)
Prof. h.c. Karl Schlecht (Putzmeister AG)
Officers of the Global Ethic Foundation:
Prof. Dr. Hans Küng (President)
Prof. Dr. Karl-Josef Kuschel (Vicepresident)
Dr. Stephan Schlensog (Secretary-General)
Dr. Günther Gebhardt (Senior Advisor)
Tuebingen, 1 April 2009
Globalization for the Common Good
THE ISTANBUL DECLARATION
An Interfaith Perspective on Globalisation for the Common Good: The Sixth Annual International Conference "A Non-Violent Path to Conflict Resolution and Peacebuilding" Istanbul 2007 - Fatih University
"All roads lead to Istanbul." Meeting place of two continents and capital of two empires [the Byzantine and the Ottoman], Istanbul has been a crossroads of cultures for nearly 1800 years. The city offers a powerful metaphor for understanding and reconciliation between East and West. We gather here on the beautiful campus of Fatih University, grateful for their warm hospitality and support. We come together from many countries, six faiths, and countless areas of expertise to continue our exploration of pathways to Globalisation for the Common Good. In Turkey we experience the vital bio-diversity of the Earth and the rich cultural diversity of humankind. Our time here has been richly inspiring and profoundly motivating. It has yielded a very fruitful dialogue.
In this sixth international conference we affirm our shared commitment to non-violent conflict resolution and the building of cultures of peace around the world. The urgency of the challenge is particularly apparent in a region of the world that is so tragically afflicted by violence. The time has come for concrete new democratic and non-violent strategies that reflect global, regional, and local cultural and spiritual realities.
We recognize the deep-seated human desire for harmony in diversity, the source of our strength. We strongly acknowledge the interdependence of peace with justice and ecological sustainability. We recognize the urgent need for dialogue not only among the religions but also between religion and the sciences and between the religious and secular spheres. The strong engagement of these dimensions of human endeavor is vital if we are to address the critical issues that arise in the wake of globalisation.
We believe that education is the key that unlocks the door to globalisation for the common good. We call in particular for approaches to education that nurture interreligious and intercultural understanding, awareness of interdependence, moral values, and global citizenship. These essential elements shape personal decisions of social consequence, concern for the well being of others, and respect for other human beings and for the whole of the planetary community.
The movement from the myth of redemptive violence to the new story of restorative justice has informed our inquiry and inspired our deliberations. We urge the recognition of the spiritual dimension of the global dilemma in the early 21st century and of the spiritual component that must be present in the solutions we attempt.
We believe that enduring change emerges through the cooperative activity of men and women. Visionary activists must therefore work towards the evolutionary social transformation of fundamental values, especially those bearing on the empowerment of women.
We strongly acknowledge the vital importance of the following critical challenges for the 21st century. Each is a source of violence. But as we address each urgent issue, we open up a wellspring of peace. The path to that end leads through respectful encounter with the other, open dialogue, and cooperative common action to address the problems that face us all in the 21st century.
- Global poverty, hunger, disease, and unmet human life needs
- International militarization and obscene levels of military spending
- Unsustainable economic, political, cultural, and ecological structures of power
- Social and economic injustice and the systematic violation of universal human rights
- Worldwide gender inequity in the social, economic, political, legal, and religious spheres
- Coercive violence against women and children, including the horror of children forced into combat
- Rampant ecological degradation and disregard for the sacredness of all life
- Intercultural and interreligious ignorance, mistrust, fear, and hatred
We must strengthen the influence of the majority of humans that wish to live in peace. We strongly endorse efforts to combine our collective intelligence to build globalization from the bottom-up: creating a global consensus of commitment to the common good. In this way, we declare our global sovereignty and claim our global citizenship for the first time.
We urge the development of consensus for a common global action plan, beginning with a multi-stakeholder consultation process, and culminating in a common vision for ending poverty, reversing climate change, financing sustainable development and creating structural reforms in global trade, finance, and energy policy.
As committed participants in the Globalisation for the Common Good Initiative [GCGI] we commit our individual and group support to the following:
- To create a network of organizations whose aims resonate with those of GCGI. This Internet-based network will facilitate the sharing of ideas, information, and courses of constructive action.
- To develop and maintain - on the GCGI web site and in the Journal of Globalization for the Common Good - a dynamic list of "what's working": initiatives, projects, and civil society organizations that are making a significant contribution to the common good.
- To explore ways to encourage young persons from around the world to become actively engaged with Globalisation for the Common Good. This will include participation in future conferences, international exchange programs, interreligious and intercultural study and dialogue, and other initiatives.
Globalization for the Common Good has come a long way over the past six years. Six successful conferences and an increasingly influential journal and web site mark our progress. We have cultivated a diverse group of scholars, leaders of civil society, religious and spiritual leaders, and global activists for intense explorations of a value-centered vision of globalisation and the common good. We invite all others who share our vision to join us on the path to a better global future.
Globalisation for the Common Good, at Fatih University, Istanbul
8 July 2007
Globalisation for the Common Good met at Loyola Jesuit University of Chicago May 31-June 4, 2009 see
Value of Visioning
I think it's valuable for each of us to form a global ethic for ourselves. It can lift us out of the present and the past and move us together toward a world more in accord with God's Word. Not that study of the present and the past isn't valuable for forming a vision of the future. Especially young people can begin to form their vision of the future and their place in implementing that vision. Keeping a record of our insights and experiences are helpful in the process of forming an ethic leading to a peace with justice. A large part of our experiences should be hopeful, positive, and loving.
We don't have to wait until our full vision is implemented. Today we can begin to take small steps toward our vision. The more we read, study, and discuss, the more refined and developed our own vision will will be. We can also develop our vision with others in small groups.
If we have a vision, it can help us to prioritize what we are doing now. I hesitate to let my priorities be determined by those going in the opposite direction. I don't want to react just to what the current mode of thinking is, but be free to think new thoughts and take new approaches.
A global ethic has care of our one planet as a whole, a global ethic recognizes that we are one human family. Pope John XXIII thought that a democratic world authority was a moral imperative. Moving all nations and cultures together toward that part of a global ethic is a daunting challenge but one that is absolutely necessary. If we believe that a democratic world authority is essential to a peace with justice as I do, then we will join an active practical group like Citizens for Global Solutions. We will study the story of the International Criminal Court and work to have all nations especially our own join the International Criminal Court. All the sections of the vision are inter-related. One won't work without the other.
God is Love Pope Benedict XVI
Deus Caritas Est Pope Benedict XVI. 15. "This principle of love is the starting-point for understanding the great parables of Jesus. The rich man (Luke 16.19-31) begs from his place of torment that his brothers be informed about what happens to those who simply ignore the poor man in need. Jesus takes up this cry for help as a warning to help us return to the right path. The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10.25-37 offers two particularly important clarifications. Until that time, the concept of 'neighbor' was understood as referring essentially to one's countrymen and to foreigners who had settled in the land of Israel; in other words, to the closely-knit community of a single country or people. This limit is now abolished. Anyone who needs me, and whom I can help, is my neighbor. The concept of 'neighbor' is universalized, yet it remains concrete. Despite being extended to all humankind, 'neighbor' is not reduced to a generic, abstract and undemanding expression of love, but calls for my own practical commitment here and now. The Church has the duty to interpret ever anew this relationship between near and far with regard to the actual daily life of her members. Lastly, we should especially mention the great parable of the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46), in which love becomes the criterion for the definitive decision about a human life's worth or lack thereof.Â Â Jesus identifies himself with those in need, with the hungry, the thirsty, the stranger, the naked, the sick and those in prison. 'As you did it to one of the least of these, my sisters and brothers, you did it to me.' (Mt. 25.40)" Love of God and love of neighbor have become one:" in the least of the brethren we find Jesus himself, and in Jesus we find God."
Pope Benedict in Brazil, May, 2008
"How can the Church contribute to the solution of urgent social and political problems such as poverty, the growing distance between the rich and the poor, drugs, alcohol, false pleasures? . . Just structures are a condition without which a just order in society is not possible, but structures neither arise nor function without a moral consensus on fundamental values, and the need to live these values, even when living God's values goes against personal interest. Contact with God is essential if Latin America wishes to find consensus on common moral values or the strength to live according to our values.
Just structures will never be complete in a definitive way. As history continues to evolve, structures must constantly be renewed and updated. . friendship with Jesus is essential if we are to bring about just and loving structures.
We need to have concern for the human community but also for the protection of the natural environment of which we are all a part." (See Origins, May 24, 2007, Volume 37, No. 2.)
Structures are the way we organize our world and our lives externally and internally. Government, corporations, the church, the family are external structures. Our values, attitudes, philosophy of life are internal structures.
A structure is the way things are, the way we do things. Although society once had barter, now we use currency. Since there were not many horseless carriages in the beginning, automobiles managed on their own. Now we have stop signs and traffic laws
Science without Ethical or Spiritual Vision Equals Scientism
Science has invented many products that have advanced civilization. Science has also developed weapons of mass destruction, products harmful to the environment and dangerous for the consumer. The free market offers the wealthy limitless opportunities to consume. What are the ethical and spiritual consequences of frenzied consumption? "Beauty, justice, love cannot be reduced to mathematical formulas. Although science helps us to see part of reality, we need to develop an interdisciplinary vision of the world as a whole." (See Rabbi Michael Lerner, Spirit Matters).
Center for Religion and Diplomacy
"The International Center for Religion and Diplomacy is doing important and worthwhile work." - Colin Powell, Secretary of State -
Serving a Critical Need: The most worrisome threat confronting today's world is the potential marriage of religious extremism with weapons of mass destruction. In the coming years, considerable sums will be spent to address this problem, with the bulk of it devoted to countering symptoms and little to addressing the underlying cause. The ICRD is about "cause," and has as its highest priority the task of preventing conflict rather than dealing with its consequences after the fact. Capitalizing on the positive role that religious or spiritual factors can play in facilitating trust and overcoming differences is a trademark of the Center's approach.
Mission: To address identity-based conflicts that exceed the reach of traditional diplomacy by incorporating religion as part of the solution.
Regardless of one's spiritual persuasion, there are two compelling reasons why the Center's work is important: (1) the need for more effective preventive measures to minimize the occasions in which we have to send our sons and daughters in harm's way and (2) the need for a stable global environment to support continued economic growth that can benefit an expanding percentage of the world's population.
By linking religious reconciliation with official diplomacy, the ICRD is creating a new synergy for peacemaking that serves both of these needs. It also provides a more fruitful approach for dealing with ethnic conflict, tribal warfare, and religious hostilities.
Intellectual Basis: The intellectual basis for ICRD's unconventional approach to conflict resolution is the book Religion, the Missing Dimension of Statecraft and its sequel, Faith-based Diplomacy: Trumping Realpolitik (Oxford University Press, 1994 and 2003). These books explore the positive role that religious or spiritual factors can play in preventing or resolving conflict while advancing social change based on justice and reconciliation.
They also challenge the rational-actor model of decision-making that has governed the practice of international politics for the last half century.
"It is the will of God that we be tolerant of those who disagree with us about the will of God." Fr. Richard John Neuhaus
Religion has often been hi-jacked and used to justify war, violence, injustice. Religion has also been a crucial force for peace. Below areÂ understandings of peace of all the major religions.
Peace as Harmony
There are at least two main understandings of peace. To some peace is an absence of war. To others genuine peace certainly includes an absence of war, but it also includes the presence of justice. Pax Romana was an absence of any significant war. But it was hardly justice for Roman slaves.
Although Catholic social teaching certainly agrees that peace is the absence of war, peace is also the presence of justice. From a religious perspective, peace is harmonious relationships with God, our neighbor, ourselves, and the earth. Peace is respect for basic human rights.
Other religions also understand peace in a holistic sense. As we look at other religions, we see the notion of reconciliation is by no means unique to the Christian scriptures.
From Egypt Abram went up to the Negeb with his wife and all that belonged to him, and Lot accompanied him. . . The land could not support them if they stayed together. . There were quarrels between the herdsmen of Abram's livestock and those of Lot's. . So Abram said to Lot: 'Let there be no strife between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land at your disposal? Please separate from me. If you prefer the left, I will go to the right: if you prefer the right, I will go to the left.
A third century Rabbi Alexandri points to God as solving conflict in nonviolent ways through the Torah. He tells the story of two donkey-drivers who hated one another. They were traveling the same road when one of their donkeys sat down. The other driver went on. Later he thought "It is written in the Torah: 'If you see the ass of one who hates you, you shall surely help him to lift it up.' So he returned and helped the driver who was his enemy. The former began to say to himself: 'So-and-so is my friend and I did not know.' Both entered an inn and ate and drank. Rabbi Alexandri attributes their reconciliation to the Torah.
Muslims also believe in justice as a part of reconciliation. Peace is dependent upon justice; and justice is dependent upon jihad f sabin Allah, striving in the cause of God. Although Muslims believe in self-defense of themselves and others, especially the weak, Muslims must be fair even to their enemies. Moreover, if an enemy takes an initiative toward peace, a Muslim must be reconciled and respond in good faith and with good will.
Buddhists are especially inclined to nonviolence. In the sixth century before the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, in the area which today is the border between India and Nepal, the Sauciness and the Callowness shared the river Roughhewn as a border, using its waters to irrigate their crops. In a very dry year there was not enough for both sides. Each armed themselves and set out to the battlefield to fight over who would get the water. Gautama, of the Sakyan clad, had become the enlightened one, the Buddha. When the Buddha came between the opposing armies, he asked a very pointed question: "What is more valuable, water or human persons?' The answer was obvious. Buddha concluded, "It is not fitting that because of a little water, you should destroy warriors who are beyond price." The Sauciness and the Callowness agreed and found a nonviolent solution.
Even under torture or when in danger of being killed, Buddhists are to train themselves to abide compassionately, lovingly, and without resentment. Self-protection itself is not placed above the ideal of nonviolence. The first of their ten precepts is "to abstain from harming living beings."
In the Hindu tradition Gandhi pursued satyagraha, which means "clinging to truth." The purpose of satyagraha was not coercion but persuasion and conversion. It aims to win others over by the power of love, trying to arouse in others a sense of injustice. Those who pursued satyagraha wanted a new consensus between parties in conflict in which both parties could feel they were satisfied. When deep-seated prejudices are present, an appeal to reason alone is not considered sufficient . Reason has to be strengthened by suffering which opens the eyes of the understanding.
Gandhi practiced nonviolence and was at least partially successful with all kinds of injustices. Gandhi opposed the caste system, the segregation of the untouchables, and discrimination against women. Gandhi's most well-known use of nonviolence was his success in attaining India's independence from the British.
Jesus stated that his peace was unique. To achieve the peace of Christ is a grace. The peace of Christ is integral peace, peace within the person and with all persons. "Even though the disciples had locked the doors in fear. . . Jesus came and stood before them. Peace be with you," he said. When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. At the sight of the Lord the disciples rejoiced, 'Peace be with you,' Jesus said again."
Jesus indicated his peace was unique. "Peace is my farewell to you, my peace is my gift to you. I do not give it to you as the world gives peace. Do not be distressed or fearful." Feeding the hungry and curing the sick, Jesus was certainly concerned with peace in this world. He confronted the leaders of his day on justice issues. But the New Testament understands "world" in a special way. "The world is humankind as fallen, as alienated from God and hostile to God and to Jesus Christ." We should not be too quick to conclude that we fully understand what the peace of Christ is or can be. Repeating a theme frequent in Scripture, Jesus considers fear as an obstacle to peace. It's hard to grow in our understanding of others or of ourselves when we are afraid.
The US Bishops understand peace as harmonious relationships among God, the human family, and the earth. "The Catholic tradition has always understood the meaning of peace in positive terms. Peace is both a gift of God and a human work. It must be constructed on the basis of central human values, truth, justice, freedom, and love. The Pastoral Constitution of Vatican II states the traditional concept of peace: 'Peace is not merely the absence of war. Nor can it be reduced solely to the maintenance of a balance of power between enemies. Nor is it brought about by dictatorship. Instead, it is rightly and appropriately called 'an enterprise of justice' (Isaiah 32.17) Peace results from that harmony built into human society by its divine founder and actualized by us as we thirst after ever greater justice.
The Jewish concept of Shalom is similar to the Catholic notion. Peace includes being a co-creator with God, with God's help striving to perfect the act of creation. The Hebrew word yetzer 'creative impulse' connotes a creative role for the peacemaker. The concept of tikkun olam, fixing the world, assigns to God's creatures the task of co-creation, the task of assuming partnership with God in the building of a world at peace. Martin Buber urges us to become no less than God's fellow workers. Shalom derives from a Hebrew root meaning wholeness or completeness, the state of positive well-being that is our task as God's co-workers to help realize.
The Muslim concept of peace shares the same vision of wholeness as that of Christians and Jews. The very term Islam is derived from a root, one of whose basic meanings is peace. . . the ideal of being at peace with oneself, one's fellow human beings, the world of nature, and God, is deeply cherished by Muslims. Many tend, unfortunately, to define peace negatively, as an absence of war. But in quranic terms, peace is much more than mere absence of war. It is a positive state of safety or security in which one is free from anxiety or fear. Peace on earth (which is a precondition of peace in heaven) is the result of living in accordance with God's will. In quranic terms, peace is obtained when human beings, conscious of their duty to God, fulfill their duty to other human beings. In fulfilling this duty they honor what I call the human rights of others. These rights are those that all human beings ought to possess because they are rooted so deeply in our humanness that their denial or violation is tantamount to negation or degradation of that which makes us human. These rights came into existence when we did: they were created, as we were by God in order that our human potential could be actualized.
Thus we see that Christians, Jews, and Muslims share at least in theory a common understanding of peace as not only the absence of war which is certainly important but also the presence of justice which is equally essential. It's a tragedy that members of these three great religions have been often at war with one another.
Of course, a world religious ethic will not be effective until religious people integrate an ethic of peace with justice into their lives and actions. For Catholics, small faith-based communities like Christian Life Community support members, minimize self-deception, help solidarity, and move together toward social justice and peace.
Excerpts from Interviews on Peace
As I have said, when I got my doctorate I took either oral or written interviews from those with a background in Ignatian spirituality on the one hand and involved in peace and justice on the other. Those whom I interviewed understood peace in the holistic sense of harmonious and just relationships with God, our neighbor, ourselves, and the earth.
To the question "What is your understanding of peace?" I received the following responses:
- "I'd be reluctant to call peace an absence of war, particularly where there had been conflict previously. I'd probably call it a state of non-aggression or a state of non-active hostility. I see peace as having a positive dimension in terms of good relationships between all of those involved in a situation of conflict."
- "That's a tough one. Peace is a recognition that life can have difficult conflicts, but that we are going to work through it together. A peaceful state is people joining together to face all of the inevitable problems and injustices that happen."
- "As St. Augustine said, peace is the tranquillity of order coming from justice. Positive peace is the ability to settle differences with justice without resorting to power."
- "I think peace is a gift from God, the primary gift is the gift of the Spirit which leads to my total well-being, the joy, the consolation, the reconciliation on this earth. Peace at the end-time will mean the total well-being of my relationship with God and others in the afterlife. Jesus said my peace is my gift to you, my peace I leave with you."
- "Working for peace must be working for the conditions that make war useless and senseless. St. Thomas Aquinas says peace is the right ordering of relationships."
- "Peace is a very precious thing, the absence of war, but it's also the establishment of a just society with both political and economic implications. Peace must involve some kind of participatory society or at least a society where human rights are respected. Economic justice is very important. In South Africa 10,000 people control eighty-five percent of the land and eighty-five percent of the economy. There won't be peace in South Africa until the forty percent unemployed get decent employment, until there is a redistribution of wealth. Why is there crime? Primarily the reasons are economic."
- "Shalom is my notion of peace, right relationships, harmony (that's the Confucian notion). Peace is the presence of dynamic growth, love, and life. Obviously not just the absence of war but a very solid positive thing. Peace is the positive presence of justice, truth, love, freedom, growth, love of God, the kingdom coming into the world."
- "Peace is a wholeness and in the biblical sense Shalom, more than just the absence of warfare. We pray for it and work to see it happen."
- "Pope Pius XII used to say peace is the work of justice."
- "The Roman historian Tacitus said, 'Solitudinem faciunt, et pacem appellant.' They devastate the whole countryside and call it peace. My concept of peace is mutual recognition of the right and dignity of each individual, respect, harmony, concern for the well-being of each other, everyone looking to see what is for the common welfare, the common benefit of all. Peace for me is that each person has what is necessary materially, psychologically, and spiritually to live in a dignified human way as brothers and sister and children of the one Father."
- "Peace is definitely not merely an absence of war. To be at peace we need to be at peace with ourselves, with God, with others, and with our planet. Peace and justice co-exist. The concept of peace encompasses our entire being."
- "In Central America there is an absence of war now; the Contras are not warring against the Nicaraguan government, similarly in El Salvador and Guatemala. But I don't think anybody could say that true peace has arrived to Central America. The rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer. The fundamental problems that gave rise to the revolutionary struggles of the '70's and '80's are still very much there; in fact, they've become worse. Peace to me means the fullness of life, which implies the satisfaction of peoples' fundamental human needs for survival. Peace is still very far from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and most of the countries of the world."
- "Peace is a proper relationship between ourselves, God, one another, the animals and the earth. Peace has to be found interiorly and sought wherever we are."
- "I'll tell you right now peace is not simply the absence of war. I think of the Jewish shalom. Not necessarily peace and quiet, as we often say in our Western world, but peace in relationship with those in our community, local and large. Peace is not with just with a few. I'd much rather risk being at peace with everyone."
- "Peace would encompass our relationship to our Creator. Peace is tranquility, harmony, order."
- "Peace is that inner state of oneness and love for neighbor, community , animals, plants, minerals, because one is accepting and loving, committed to one's own true self."
- "Peace to me means the active promotion of basic human rights of all peoples everywhere. It implies that nations work together to secure basic rights and do not attempt to impose their will or way on others. Peace means that nations work together to promote a just global economic system."
- "First we have 'Glory to God in the highest.' Then we have 'Peace to His people on earth.'"
Comments on Interviews about Peace
Those interviewed looked at peace as positive, embracing justice and basic human and animal rights. Some also mentioned that peace is a gift from God, a grace given to us by Jesus. Peace begins with ourselves but extends to all of God's creation. Peace does not mean an absence of conflict but working together to solve conflict in a human way. I find the lack of peace discouraging. The torture, genocide, injustice in our world fills me with acute sorrow. Few of those interviewed felt that we were closer to peace. Although most felt we were getting farther away from genuine peace, most of those interviewed have an inner peace and have not lessened their commitment to peace.
I do not want to identify the peace of Christ with political and economic peace. Jesus' peace is supernatural. Nor would I want to exclude from peace what most would agree is fundamental justice and equity. In one sense, the notion of integral peace is a mystery. Comprehending peace can be as elusive as God, the author of peace, or the human person, who never fully reaches peace, or the human family, who at this stage groans and is in agony as it searches for peace. But I think it's better to know just a little about peace than a whole lot about most of what we presently spend academic time on. Fr. Ben Urmston, S.J.
Peace with the Earth
We have considered reconciliation among the human family and with God. Christian scriptures extend reconciliation to that of physical creation. We need to be in harmony with the earth.
Christian Scripture indicates that even physical creation is included in the redemptive act of Jesus. "In Him everything in heaven and on earth was created, things visible and invisible. . all were created through him, and for him. . in Him everything continues in being. . it pleased God to make absolute fullness reside in Him, and by means of Him to reconcile everything in his person, both on earth and in the heavens, making peace through the blood of his cross."
I think we are not used to considering the earth as being redeemed by Jesus, but the earth's salvation is clearly stated by St. Paul. "It is in Christ and through his blood that we have been redeemed and our sins forgiven, so immeasurably generous is God's favor to us. God has given us the wisdom to understand fully the mystery, the plan he was pleased to decree in Christ, to be carried out in the fullness of time: namely, to bring all things in the heavens and on earth into one under Christ's headship."
Since God created nature, the earth is good. God enjoins us to farm the earth and take care of it. We are called to be stewards of God's creation, to be co-creators with God in perfecting God's act of creation.
God did not create the earth in order to destroy it. If we are to act as daughters and sons of God, the dominion we have over nature is a dominion of nurture and care, not one of destruction and careless exploitation. Since we are not the creators, not the lords of the earth, the dominion women and men exercise is delegated power. We are stewards, not absolute owners.
The Covenant at Sinai provided for a Sabbath year when the land was left fallow. Every fiftieth year a jubilee was to be proclaimed and property was to be restored to its original owners.
Jesus is our Lord. But Jesus gave us an example; he acted as a servant doing good to all. When the disciples argued over who was number one, Jesus urged them not to lord it over others, but to serve one another. Jesus came not to be served, but to serve.
A scriptural image of our world is that of a banquet to be shared by all. The early Christians shared all in common. Early church Fathers used the banquet image and its antithesis. If we don't help the person dying of hunger, we have killed them. Today we could translate: help the one gasping for pure air, or searching for potable water; for if you have not helped them, you have killed them.
St. John Chrysostom says we share all the resources of the earth together: "Do not say â??I am using what belongs to me.' You are using what belongs to others. All the wealth of the world belongs to you and to others in common, as do the sun, air, earth, and all the rest." If we use this image of the earth as a banquet, should some gorge themselves on seconds and thirds before others have their first helping? Both Pope Paul VI and John Paul II urge a new world in which the poor man Lazarus can sit down at the same table with the rich man.
Christian theology has always held that humankind has a collective sin called original sin. In a mysterious way the earth participates in and reflects the sin of humankind. "Cursed be the earth because of you." But in the covenant with Noah this curse is removed.
Christians believe that the death and resurrection of Jesus redeems humankind from original sin. As we have said, St. Paul includes physical creation in Christ's redeeming act. "The world itself will be freed from its slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God. All creation groans and is in agony even until now.
Not only is physical creation redeemed by Jesus, Christ creates and sustains the earth. "In Jesus everything in heaven and on earth was created, things visible and invisible. . . all were created through him, and for him. . . in him everything continues in being. . . It pleased God to make absolute fullness reside in him, and, by means of him, to reconcile everything in his person both on earth and in the heavens, making peace through the blood of his cross.
St. Paul repeats that reconciliation of the earth is part of the death and resurrection of Jesus. "It is in Christ and through his blood that we have been redeemed and our sins forgiven so immeasurably generous is God's favor to us. God has given us the wisdom to understand fully the mystery, the plan he was pleased to decree in Christ, to be carried out in the fullness of time: namely, to bring all things in the heavens and on earth into one under Christ's headship."
God made a Covenant with the Hebrew people and later with the Christian people. Scripture states that that Covenant is extended by God to physical creation. "See I am now establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you and with every living creature that was with you." The sign is the rainbow.
Jeremiah connects the covenant with David and the covenant with physical nature: "If you can break my covenant with day and my covenant with night so that day and night no longer alternate in sequence, then can my covenant with my servant David also be broken." This same theme of the covenant extending to physical creation is also part of the Christian Covenant.
Creatures are thus praise of the Creator. If we are close to the rhythms of nature, we are close to the Creator of those rhythms.
We are co-creators with God, called to farm the earth. God, of course, is the first Creator, but creation was far from complete in the beginning, and through our talents we are invited to assist in bringing God's act of creation to completion.
We are like nature and nature is like us. "Look at the birds in the sky. They do not sow or reap; they gather nothing into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them."
Fr. Edward Carter, S.J., professor of theology at Xavier University in Cincinnati, agrees that physical nature participates in humankind's sin and is mysteriously redeemed by the blood of Christ.
In assuming a human nature, Christ united to Himself humankind, also the material creation below humankind. In the words of Teilhard de Chardin, Christ is the physical center of the Universe. . Christ has redeemed man, and as a consequence of man's redemption, the whole physical universe has been redeemed. . . With the intrusion of sin into God's creation, man and nonrational creation were both affected. Through his misuse of God's creation by sin, man not only puts disorder into himself, but also into the creation which he misuses. . Christ as king wants His redemptive grace to spread out and touch deeply humankind and the physical universe. . The mission of the Church consists in imprinting the name of Jesus Christ more deeply upon the entire universe, men and matter alike.
Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. says that matter is transformed, divinized when Jesus enters the waters at his baptism:
Who can fail to perceive the great symbolic gesture of baptism in this general history of matter? Christ immerses himself in the waters of the Jordan, symbol of the forces of the earth. These he sanctifies. And in the words of St. Gregory of Nyssa, he emerges streaming with water and elevating along with himself the whole world. . . By virtue of your suffering incarnation, disclose to us the spiritual power of matter, and then teach us how to harness it jealously for you.
I think land and food have a spiritual connection. Food is the first unifier; our primary experience of communion. Communion leads to a sense of oneness with the whole of creation. We grow in reverence for the earth, the great Mother that confers life and power.
Science tells us there is a physical interdependence of every element in the universe. Gravitational fields, electric fields, magnetic fields have no limits.
Chardin saw this physical interdependence as uniting us with all of creation and with Christ. Physical creation is essential for sacramental life in the Christian churches. Without bread, wine, oil as visible signs, there are no sacraments. In the sacraments Christ comes again to create a new heaven and a new earth and present it to the Father. To Fr. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the Eucharistic Christ is not just the spiritual center but the physical center of the universe.
Physical creation, ourselves, and Christ are one, physically one. The physical environment is one with us and with Christ. As friends or husband and wife grow together over the years, we strive to become more one. A pre-eminent way in which we do this is through the Eucharist of the Christian Mass.
All the communions of all men and women, present, past and future, are one communion. . . Christ is discovered in every single reality around us, and shines like an ultimate determination, like a Centre, one might almost say like a universal Element. Through our humanity assimilating the material world, and the Host assimilating our humanity, the Eucharistic transformation goes beyond and completes the transubstantiation of the bread on the altar. . . In a secondary and generalized sense, but in a true sense, the sacramental species are formed by the totality of the world and the duration of creation is needed for its consecration. In Christ, we live and move and are.
Through the Eucharist all creation is being drawn to Christ as to its center. But I think we have to grow a better grade of wheat and bake a better loaf of bread before Christ will come and consecrate the world fully into His body. The Eucharist is unity. If there is someone hungry anywhere in the world, the Eucharist is incomplete everywhere in the world.
In 1979 on my radio show Faith and Justice Forum I interviewed Bishop Maurice Dingman who at that time was the President of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference. He told listeners that at a social function a farmer approached him and handed him a letter. "I heard the Pope is coming to the United States, and I think he should come to a rural area." Bishop Dingman took the letter to his advisors and asked what he was supposed to do with the farmer's request since the Pope obviously wasn't going to come to Iowa. His advisors countered, "You always say the best ideas come from the people. The Pope could say Mass here at Living History Farms. The people could stay with other farmers. We could host the Pope."
As he listened, Bishop Dingman decided it could be done. He wrote a letter to Bishop Kelly, at that time secretary to the United States Bishops. He received no reply. Waiting a couple of weeks, Bishop Dingman then called Bishop Kelly who said: "There's no way the Pope is coming to Iowa. His itinerary is already settled." Undaunted, Bishop Dingman then wrote to the Apostolic Delegate in Washington, D.C. A few weeks later the Apostolic Delegate called to say he would forward Bishop Dingman's letter to the Pope. Soon Bishop Dingman got another call. "The Pope thinks coming to a rural area is a superb idea and would be delighted to come to Des Moines! We'll come there from Chicago."
The homily of Pope John Paul II at Des Moines was an excellent theological exhortation on food, farming, and the Eucharist.
"As one who has always been close to nature, let me speak to you today about the land, the earth, and that which earth has given and human hands have made. The land is God's gift entrusted to people from the very beginning. It is God's gift, given by a loving creator as a means of sustaining the life which he had created. But the land is not only God's gift. It is also man's responsibility. Man, himself created from the dust of the earth, (Genesis 3, 7), was made its master. (Gn 1.26). In order to bring forth fruit, the land would depend upon the genius and skillfulness, the sweat and the toil of the people to whom God would entrust it. Thus the food which would sustain life on earth is willed by God to be both that 'which earth has given and human hands have made.' Though our life here leads to the next life, we pray that Jesus come to create a new heaven and a new earth, the heavenly Jerusalem."
Excerpts from Interviews about the Earth.
To the question: "What connections, if any, do you see between faith, justice, peace, ecology?" I received the following responses:
- "The ecological dimension of peace is being stressed now, more than ever before. In the world of nature there is lots of conflict. Animals kill each other. We kill animals. The full restoration of peace is eschatological. We may be growing toward that, but it will not be till the end of time that the lion lies down with the lamb. We may, as nations, be able to stop war. I think we can in our time. But I don't know that we are going to have ecological peace, where there is no more killing in nature. I think the killing is an effect of original sin. . until you have respect for God's creation as such in its lower forms, how can you have respect for it in its higher forms?
- "I haven't been that much ecologically oriented in my thinking about peace, but certainly events of recent days would want us to include that for sure."
- "Sensitivity to ecology, to the earth is something I have learned from the United States, and we are not very much in touch with ecology in Haiti where I am. Even though there is much erosion and de-forestation in Haiti, we are just not paying enough attention to it. We have not learned that we should be thinking more about the earth. Ecology is really a new matter to me, something that I have learned from Fr. Al Fritsch. Fr. Fritsch came to Haiti once, and he is really the first man that taught us to pay attention to the earth."
- "I believe faith, justice, peace, and ecology are connected because in many ways they are interdependent on each other. We need to be at peace with God and our planet."
- "I hold to the Teilhard de Chardin approach to the universe. We're all in this together--God and His creation."
- "We are called to be faithful servants, do justice, be peacemakers and good stewards of our gifts and the gifts God has given us in creation."
- "Unfortunately few as yet in Catholic higher education seem to take ecological issues or threats seriously."
- "Ecology is defined as biology dealing with the mutual relations between organism and their environment. In its most transcendent sense it could refer to the relations between human beings and the whole God-context into which they fit. In a more strict and restricted sense, ecology refers to the relations between the things of physical nature and the water, air, climate, etc. into which they fit. The works of justice are directed toward correcting and fostering ecology."
- "Ecology is an element of justice. Ecology is the study of environmental systems, e.g. the web of life. Ecological inquiry reveals the interrelatedness of the natural world. Ecology details the fragile balance among all living organisms. Ecology is a necessary tool for the study of peace."
- "Our interior harmony, our local or global community is the environment for the thriving of social justice among peoples. That harmony becomes inner and exterior ecological concern. We need to know the conditions wherein peace will better thrive and thus we need to know the ecological foundations of our world. More than just knowledge, we need to establish that harmony, and so ecology that is balanced is an expression of justice. We cannot have a just world without an ecologically balanced one."
- "Ecology, the understanding of the connectedness of all life forms, is by definition part of the woof and warp of human Christian praxis. Within the Christian project (faith) of building up and tearing down socio-historical, socio-cultural structures (justice) towards greater human community (peace) is the just stewardship of all of life on the planet which is the material source and future of our life. Our just relations with each other is in good part determined by the care, production and distribution of the earth's resources."
- "Everyone must work for peace on their own level, and that must include a peace with the environment which would hopefully make people want to work to keep a balance in the world's ecosystems and ecology. How can people feel they are living in peace when the environment they are living in is in complete disarray? I don't think they can."
Comments on Earth Interviews
Those interviewed certainly considered peace with the earth as an integral part of peace. God created the earth on which we live. We are called by God to be stewards of that creation. We are one with the earth. We come from the earth and return to the earth.
We are dependent upon the resources of the earth for our livelihood. Unfortunately material resources can also be the object of greed and selfishness. Most wars are fought over the resources of the earth. In the Great Lakes region of Central Africa many seem more interested in mineral rights than they are in human rights.
I feel we should use the resources of the earth in a sustainable way. I think we should pass on to those who will come after us a better earth than we inherited, not a worse one.
I think our relationship with animals often lacks sensitivity and balance. Much of the medical experimentation with animals is cruel and unnecessary.
We use the materials of the earth in the Christian sacraments. Without bread, wine, or oil there are no sacraments. Obviously the churches consider material creation as integral to human life and meaning. The churches certainly consider material creation to be of high value. Native American religions and Eastern religions are especially high in their regard for physical creation.
Some ask whether we are to go back to the stone age and ignore the conveniences of modern technology. If we want the conveniences of present-day technology, the earth will not be as perfect as we would like it to be.
I think that appropriate technology will fit the situation or area in which it is used and will be employed in a sustainable way which will enhance the earth rather than destroy it. Appropriate technology will help us to pass on a better earth to those who will come after us than the one we have received.
I think society is growing in its appreciation of the earth and what it means to us. We have today a greater sense of the interconnectedness of ourselves, animals, and physical creation.
Contribution of my Catholic Faith to a Peace with Justice
This brief presentation is a reflection of my own listening, reading, experiencing of how my Catholic faith can contribute to a peace with justice. Some years ago I formally interviewed over fifty persons who had familiarity with the spirituality of the founder of my religious order, St. Ignatius of Loyola, and who were involved in peace and justice. For twenty-six years I have had a radio show Faith and Justice Forum and a web-site that many find helpful. I went to the Holy Land in the Holy year 2000 for an international Jesuit Conference on Conflict Transformation. We visited with His Beatitude Michel Sabbah, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem; the Holocaust Memorial Yad Vashem; the Palestinian Authority; a Palestinian Muslim professor at Al Quds University; Dr. Mordechai Bar-On, the Jewish founder of the Jewish group, Peace Now; Open house, Ramle; and many others.
The Constitution of my religious order the Society of Jesus enjoins Jesuits to engage in a ministry of reconciliation. Jesuits are followers of Jesus who pursued a ministry of reconciliation, healing divisions. Jesus prayed that we be one as He and the Father are one. "I pray also for those who believe in me through their word, that all may be one as you, Father are in me, and I in you. I pray that they may be one in us, as we are oneâ??I living in them, you living in meâ??that their unity may be complete. " (John 17.20-23) "I give you a new commandment: Love one another. Such as my love has been for you, so must your love be for each other. This is how all will know you for my disciples: your love for one another." (John 13.34,35.)
Although few would argue with our need to love one another, Jesus went beyond ordinary notions of love by enjoining us to love even our enemies. Scripture does not preach class hatred. Jesus does preach solidarity. Great wealth existing side by side with acute poverty is a lack of solidarity and community. We are one human family living on the same small planet.
Jesus calls his followers to a ministry of reconciliation. "God has reconciled us to Himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation. I mean that God, in Christ was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting our transgressions against us, and that he has entrusted the message of reconciliation to us. This makes us ambassadors for Christ, God as it were appealing through us. We implore you, in Christ's name: be reconciled to God!" ( 2 Corinthians 5.17-21)
Christian scriptures tell us we have different spirits moving us. "Beloved, do not trust every spirit, but put the spirits to a test to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have appeared in the world." (1 John 4.1-20) We need honesty so we don't rationalize and kid ourselves. In the First Covenant Solomon prayed: "Give your servant an understanding heart to judge your people and to distinguish right from wrong. For who is able to govern this vast people of yours? The Lord was pleased that Solomon made this request. So God said to Solomon: Because you have asked for this, not for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies, but for understanding so that you may know what is right I do as you requested. I give you a heart wise and understanding." (1 Kings 3.9-12) All of us need honesty. We have many selves we need to integrate. We want to put our best selves forward. I want God's grace to be the operative principle in my life. If I get an ignoble movement on the surface of my being, I don't want it to get the better of me. I allow time and space to get hold of myself and act with God's grace in accord with my inner self, the core of my being. I want to respond freely to God's love, recognizing the contrary and conflicting voices within me.
Sometimes God's call to us is evident. At other times discerning the better course of action is far from clear. I pray for more and more spiritual freedom so I can respond to God's love even in difficult situations. Christian scripture sets standards for discerning the good spirits from the evil spirits. "We distinguish the spirit of truth from the spirit of deception. If anyone says, my love is fixed on God' yet hates his sister or brother, that one is a liar. One who has no love for the neighbor we cannot see, cannot love the God he has not seen. Whoever loves God must also love his neighbor." (1 John 4.1-20)
In the First Covenant God creates us because He wants to share with us. Since we have been created in God's image, we can love and be loved. We can understand and be understood. Since God can recognize each one of us as a daughter or son, each one of us has dignity, value and worth in God's eyes. Each one of us is called to help unfold God's act of creation, to be co-creators. We are called to use our intelligence and ingenuity to make this a better world for those journeying with us and for those who will come after us.
By sin we separate ourselves from God, from one another, and from physical creation. No individual can worship God and be unjust to her/his neighbor. True worship must be an expression of justice. "Take away the noise of your songs." If you are unjust, do not raise your arms in prayer. Your hands are full of blood." (Isaiah 1.11-19)
Nor were foreigners or sojourners to be excluded from care. "When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. The stranger who sojourns with you shall be to you as a native among you, and you shall love him as yourself; for you were stranger in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." (Leviticus 19.33-34) Leviticus describes the Jubilee year during which wealth and property were redistributed. (Chapter 25)
God gave Joseph the grace to forgive his brothers who had plotted to kill him and who sold Joseph into slavery. Joseph was not vindictive. Later Joseph fed his brothers in time of famine. (Genesis, Chapter 45)
Tobit feeds the hungry. He who does not feed the hungry is a murderer. "The bread of the needy is life itself for the needy; he who withholds it is a man of blood. He slays his neighbor who deprives him of his living; he sheds blood who denies the laborer his wages." ( Sirach 34.21,22)
Nor can we separate peace from justice. Ezekiel Chapter 13 condemns the false prophets who said there was peace while injustice continues. "Say to those who prophesy their own thought, "You did not build a wall about the house of Israel that would stand firm on the day of the Lord. . You have spoken falsehood and have seen lying visions. . False prophets have led my people astray saying Peace! When there was no peace. . I will tear down the wall that you have whitewashed and level it to the ground, laying bare its foundations. .Woe to those prophets who are fools, who follow their own spirit and have seen no vision. They shall not belong to the community of my people, nor enter the land of Israel; thus you shall know that I am the Lord."
"From Egypt Abram went up to the Negeb with his wife and all that belonged to him, and Lot accompanied him. .The land could not support them if they stayed together. .There were quarrels between the herdsmen of Abram's livestock and those of Lot's.. So Abram said to Lot: "Let there be no strife between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are kinsmen. Is not the whole land at your disposal? Please separate from me. If you prefer the left, I will go to the right: if you prefer the right, I will go to the left."(Genesis, Chapter 13)
Jesus said "As often as you did it for one of my least sisters and brothers, you did it for me." (Matthew, Chapter 25)
"The Catholic tradition has always understood the meaning of peace in positive terms. Peace is both a gift of God and a human work. It must be constructed on the basis of central human values, truth, justice, freedom, and love." (US Catholic Bishops. The Challenge of Peace, God's Promise and Our Response, No. 68.)
I invite all of you to join with me in building a wall that will keep out injustice, violence, hatred. I want to build a world without war and poverty. My Catholic tradition urges that we work day and night, night and day for a democratic world authority, economic democracy, basic human rights, non-violence, and a common world ethic.
There needs to be an end to national offensive armies except for internal policing and helping with national disasters. War and poverty are barbaric, expensive, and irrational. We are one human family living on one planet. We need regional and international courts so that those who violate basic human rights are judged by law. Law distinguishes the innocent from the guilty and distinguishes different degrees of guilt. War does not.
In The Challenge of Peace (No. 334) the US Bishops state: "War is no longer viable. There is a substitute for war." "Looking ahead to the long and productive future of humanity for which we all hope, we feel that a more all-inclusive and final solution is needed. We speak here of the truly effective international authority for which Pope John XXIII ardently longed in Peace on Earth, and of which Pope Paul VI spoke to the United Nations on his visit there in 1965. The hope for such a structure is not unrealistic, because the point has been reached where public opinion sees clearly that, with the massive weaponry of the present, war is no longer viable. There is a substitute for war. There is negotiation under the supervision of a global body realistically fashioned to do its job. It must be given the equipment to keep constant surveillance on the entire earth. Present technology makes this possible. It must have the authority, freely conferred upon it by all the nations, to enforce its commands on every nation. It must be so constituted as to pose no threat to any nation's sovereignty. Obviously the creation of such a sophisticated instrumentality is a gigantic task, but is it hoping for too much to believe that the genius of humanity, aided by the grace and guidance of God, is able to accomplish it? To create it may take decades of unrelenting daily toll by the world's best minds and most devoted hearts, but it shall never come into existence unless we make a beginning now. No. 336. We beg our government to propose to the United Nations that it begin this work immediately; that it create an international task force for peace; that this task force, with membership open to every nation, meet daily through the years ahead with one sole agenda: the creation of a world that will one day be safe from war."
Can we say war is a last resort when we not only make no effort to create according to the principle of subsidiarity with sufficient checks and balances an effective democratic international authority, but we use our military and economic power to subvert the international criminal court and many other international treaties?
Pope John Paul II's 2004 World Day of Peace Message
"In this task of teaching peace, there is a particularly urgent need to lead individuals and peoples to respect the international order and to respect the commitments assumed by the Authorities which legitimately represent them. Peace and international law are closely linked to each another: law favors peace.
"The United Nations Organization needs to rise more and more above the cold status of an administrative institution and to become a moral center where all the nations of the world feel at home and develop a shared awareness of being, as it were, a family of nations."(6)
The scourge of terrorism has become more virulent in recent years and has produced brutal massacres which have in turn put even greater obstacles in the way of dialogue and negotiation, increasing tensions and aggravating problems, especially in the Middle East.
Even so, if it is to be won, the fight against terrorism cannot be limited solely to repressive and punitive operations. It is essential that the use of force, even when necessary, be accompanied by a courageous and lucid analysis of the reasons behind terrorist attacks. The fight against terrorism must be conducted also on the political and educational levels: on the one hand, by eliminating the underlying causes of situations of injustice which frequently drive people to more desperate and violent acts; and on the other hand, by insisting on an education inspired by respect for human life in every situation: the unity of the human race is a more powerful reality than any contingent divisions separating individuals and people.
In the necessary fight against terrorism, international law is now called to develop legal instruments provided with effective means for the prevention, monitoring and suppression of crime. In any event, democratic governments know well that the use of force against terrorists cannot justify a renunciation of the principles of the rule of law. Political decisions would be unacceptable were they to seek success without consideration for fundamental human rights, since the end never justifies the means.
Scripture holds up for us a vision of peace. "God shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again." (Isaiah 2.4)
Jesus indicated that his peace is unique. "Peace is my farewell to you, my peace is my gift to you. I do not give it to you as the world gives peace. Do not be distressed or fearful." (John 14.27) Although I have always tried to live the peace of Christ, I don't identify the peace of Christ with political and economic peace. I look upon integral peace as grace and mystery. Comprehending peace can be as elusive as God, the author of peace, or the human person, who never fully reaches peace, or the human family, who at this stage groans and is in agony as it searches for peace. I don't think we should be too quick to conclude that we fully understand what the peace of Christ is or can be.
The Jewish Tradition and Peace with Justice
Below is a talk by a Rabbinical student at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati given at Xavier during a discussion of Israel-Palestine.
"I would like to begin by thanking Father Ben for warmly welcoming me to Xavier and to this discussion. I also want to thank everyone for coming to this discussion tonight.
(Before I discuss the Jewish concepts of peace and justice, I wanted to quickly tell you who I am and what informs me. I am currently a rabbinical student at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, located across from the University of Cincinnati in Clifton. I grew up in Denver, Colorado where I spent most of my weekends during the winter on the ski slopes and my summers hiking in the mountains of Colorado. I graduated from the University of Denver with a degree in International Studies with a focus on Middle East. During my undergraduate experience I studied at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, located in Beersheva where I researched for and published with the Nigimin Center for Bi-National Research, the Negev Center for Regional Development, and Mutah University in Karach, Jordan on an evaluation of the Israeli-Jordanian Peace process. My research required me to spend significant time in Jordan - I have been there five times. After college I matriculated to HUC-JIR, which requires its first year students to study at our Jerusalem campus. After returning from studying in Jerusalem, I returned to Cincinnati where I currently serve a small 100 member synagogue in Winnipeg, Manitoba - on the weekends.)
I may not be presenting on the same exact issues as Father Ben or Karen Dabdoub of the Muslim Community since I only found out that I was speaking yesterday, I want to make it clear to everyone here that if I do not cover an important subject, I am certainly open to your questions and I will try my hardest to answer them the best I can.
The discussion of peace with justice must be understood through the lens of what causes strife. To attain peace and justice we must challenge or subvert the causes of conflict within our world.
The root cause of conflict begins when individual or group needs for physical safety and well being, access to political and economic participation, cultural or religious expressions, are threatened or frustrated. Strife especially arises when one group is being unfairly disadvantaged compared to other groups.
Conflicts between ethnic groups or nationalities begin when basic human needs, such as the need for physical security and well being, communal or cultural recognition, participation, and control, have accumulated to the point where one group is disadvantaged in relation to another. When this occurs, we should call this a lack of "human security."
Therefore, human security is the best foundation upon which peace with justice can be built and sustained. Evidence suggests that the most secure states in the world are those that provide the greatest human security to their populations. Weak states are those that either do not, or cannot, provide human security.
In a world where resources are finite, their supply is often distributed unevenly. Dominant groups enjoy adequate satisfaction of their needs; Non-dominant groups suffering privation. Property rights, jobs, scholarships, educational admissions, language rights, governmental contracts and development allocations all confer benefits on individuals and groups. In many societies competition over resources is at the very center of what begets strife.
Generally, in the 21st century, it is the political state that provides physical and cultural safety and regulates political and economic access. Thus, the prime objective of any oppressed group (ethnic, cultural, or economic class) is the mobilization for the goal of political access. Typically, most non-dominant groups begin non-violent protests, which may escalate to violence, if their concerns are ignored.
We need not look further than Cincinnati to find this very issue. Sure, we have not had race riots in Cincinnati in the past few years, everything is calm - - but I ask you, is there really Peace in this city? Is there justice? Strife is not the only indicator of a lack of peace or injustice. If people in power ignore the needs of the poor, you can say that there is calm but you can not say there is peace with justice.
The denial of physical security, recognition of group identities, and access to scarce resources is largely regulated by the political state and not our religious theologies.
So, when I turn on the news, read the newspaper, or browse internet news portals, and I see the economic injustices, the lack of health care for our citizens, the lack of equality for all people in the world - I do not think for a second that the people leading our political bodies are reading our sacred texts and then acting incorrectly. In reality, our sacred texts and theologies do not often inform the political process of our leaders. That isn't to say that politicians aren't crude enough to use religious symbols or theology to garner support for their political cause. They are. But the use of religious symbolism does not equate to acting with religious piety.
In my religious tradition, the attainment of peace and justice is presented as a map. But, Judaism's sacred texts do not offer an analysis of any modern situation. Rather, Judaism offers a spiritual map and not a political solution.
Furthermore, the religious traditions of any of the faiths presented (Christianity, Judaism, or Islam) are not responsible for the political conflicts that have dragged religion and theology into them. Just as most Muslims do not wish their theological positions on peace and justice to be represented by the fundamental Islam found in the hills of Afghanistan - which led to destruction in this country, or those who encourage children of fourteen and eleven years old to commit homicide bombings in Israel, Christians do not want their theological positions on peace and justice to be represented by the actions and precedent of the crusaders, Torqemoda in the inquisition, or even those right wing Christians who determined that the war in Iraq was supported by Christian theology. Likewise, Jews do not want their positions on peace and justice to be represented by minority groups of Jews in the West bank or various inappropriate and un-ethical actions of the political state of Israel.
All three faiths could say that some of their religious symbolism, sacred texts, theology and faith have been hijacked for reasons that are not of the higher calling. Yet, how is this possible? How is it that the sacred texts of the different faith traditions could possibly be used for unjust means? Aren't the people who are causing ethnic strife in the name of our religions reading the same verses from scripture that we are?
Herein lies the problem with the activity of blindly citing verse after verse of scripture and solely relying on scripture alone as the roadmap towards peace with justice. If fundamentalists use scripture to support their position and we disagree with it by responding with another biblical verse, there is an implication for us that violence is a result of either not reading correctly or being so unlucky that our traditions may not have the right verse to counter the religious fundamentalism.
But the truth is that any scripture, the Koran, the Hebrew Scriptures, and the New Testament contains within it good and difficult verses - verses that can be understood as both loving and punishing, accepting and rejecting. Thus, the exercise of blindly citing verses in scripture is a truly empty exercise - because our collective scriptures are so vast that they often contain contradictory values. Let's face it, anything out of context can be read in any way. We must understand that scriptural verses ARE NOT the reason that people are killing each other or why there is poverty in the world.
It is therefore extremely important to remember that the concept of a liberal religion means that scripture is not like an autocratic parent. Rather, we interpret the tradition. Thus, where our tradition is constricting we can expand. We try to negotiate between the text that we receive and the pulse of a modernly conscious society. It is in that tension where we find the balance of Judaism. As a modern Jew I am able to balance between the traditions and the values that I cherish as part of the liberal pluralistic society.
Therefore I recognize, and we should all recognize that the poor and underserved in America, or the recent invasion of Iraq is not the result of a poor reading of Christian Scripture. The Shiites that were gassed by Saddam Hussein or the homicide bombers that have taken innocent lives is not the result of a poor reading of Sharia Law. The Jewish settler who has killed Palestinians or taken land away from a Palestinian is not a result of a poor reading of the Torah or the Talmud. It is not Christianity, Islam or Judaism that is responsible for these events. The political people in power have literally hijacked our religious scripture, theologies, and symbols for advancing their political causes.
Yet, just because these political leaders have hijacked our religious symbols, we should not hide from using our religious traditions to inform our concepts of sustainable peace with justice.
Theology is a notoriously difficult exercise. Unlike other academic disciplines, one can never attain knowledge of God because any attempt to understand God's essence is bound to fail. The classical Jewish thinkers said, "If I knew God, I would be God." This is partly why Judaism is wary of finished theological statements and prefers to work in the realm of practicalities and regulative principles. I do not presume to define God's nature rather; I am interested more of what God wants of me. How does Judaism's theology inform me towards reaching peace with justice? How would God want me to act?
The essence of Judaism is the eradication of violence. Strife contravenes the basis of divine creation because violence leaves a trail of human and environmental devastation that diminishes humans and all of God's creations. By diminishing God's creations, we are diminishing God.
The Talmud, our Oral law, which was compiled centuries after the Bible, actively dissuades violent acts. The Talmudic sages even call a court that convicted someone of murder and then enforced capital punishment, a murderous court.
Judaism teaches that peaceful means to responding to strife must be our first priority. The fear of destructive violence is exemplified by the Talmudic dictum that if someone tells you kill or be killed, you must rather choose to be killed than commit murder. This is the meaning of martyr. A martyr does not kill and killing does not make you into a martyr.
Therefore, Judaism offers a road map for how to live our lives. Judaism's core is scripture the written law, and the Talmud, the oral law. It further contains thousands of years of commentaries and preserved dialogue concerning these varied issues. (LOOK AT THE HANDOUT)
Therefore, in the meantime, Jewish tradition motivates me to take positions on unrest, strife, economic equality, human rights, gay rights - - any number of moral and political issues. I have included a VERY small sampling of Jewish responses to various issues that relate to my concept of the road map to peace with justice. Human security is the foundation on which peace with justice must be built. Through ensuring equal access to finite resources, equal access to affordable health care, a quality education for all humans, jobs and the ability to provide for oneself and one's family, religious freedom, we will ensure a proper road map towards a much higher goal. Not just peace with justice but a sustainable peace with justice.
I certainly hope that our presentations and discussions tonight can open a dialogue for our community in which we are able to learn how our different faith traditions inform our concepts of the pursuit of peace with justice.
Muslim Faith and Social Justice
For how the Muslim faith interfaces with the world in which we live, I recommend Dr. Farid Esack, On Being a Muslim, Finding a religious path in the world today. P. 2, 3. . "I believe that there is a path between dehumanizing fundamentalism and fossilized traditionalism. This is a path of a radical Islam committed to social justice, to individual liberty and the quest for the Transcendent who is beyond all institutional religious and dogmatic constructions; an Islam that challenges us to examine our faith in personally and socially relevant terms. This Islam, I believe, provides a set of personal responses in an increasingly materialistic society where most people are living, and very many dying, lives of quiet desperation with a frightening sense of alienation from themselves, others and Allah. Muslims can make an effective contribution alongside those of other religious convictions to the creation of a world wherein it is safe to be human.
One of the things that often distinguishes religious groups from other ideological groups is our commitment to personal introspection. We struggle not only to examine the socio-economic structures that create and entrench oppression but also to examine our personal roles in, as well as reactions, to, them. We ask questions such as 'How do we relate to our faith in concrete terms?" 'How do we become witness bearers for Allah in an unjust society?', 'How do we strengthen ourselves in a common commitment to establish a just order on earth?' and "how do we commit ourselves to others in an atmosphere of honesty and acceptance?' Our personal responses to these questions are, in the final analysis, the only barometer of our commitment to a holistic Islam.
It most however, be emphasized that this re-examination or reviewing of our faith in personal terms cannot be done in isolation from the struggle to work against unjust socio-economic systems. Islam was never nurtured in a protective hothouse; the history of early Islam was a continuous struggle of socio-political engagement, introspection, revelation and more engagement.
And so the bottom line in this book is comprehensive commitment to personal growth through involvement alongside others in a struggle to create a more humane and just world where people are truly free to make Allah the centre of their lives."
Badshah Khan was a pioneer in non-violence who worked closely with Mahatma Gandlhi. Below is a description of his biography:
Nonviolent Soldier of Islam: Badshah Khan, A Man to Match His Mountains by Eknath Easwaran
Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (1890-1988), a Pathan (or Pushtun) of Afghanistan, a devout Muslim, raised the first nonviolent army in history to free his people from British imperial rule. He persuaded 100,000 of his countrymen to lay down the guns they had made themselves and vow to fight nonviolently. This book tells the dramatic life-story of this heroic and too-little-known Muslim leader. It gives at the same time a glimpse of the Pushtuns, their society, 100 years of their recent history, and describes the rugged terrain in which they live.
Khan's profound belief in the truth and effectiveness of nonviolence came from the depths of personal experience of his Muslim faith. His life testifies to the reality that nonviolence and Islam are perfectly compatible.
Nonviolent Soldier of Islam tells Khan's life-story through narrative, 58 photos and Khan's own words.
Khan and Mahatma Gandhi worked closely together with great mutual respect using and shaping the practical tool of nonviolence to gain independence for their people. They both believed that the uplift of their people was essential preparation for independence. Khan opened schools, brought the women out of the home into roles in society, and included a vow taken by his nonviolent soldiers to do at least two hours a day of social work. Today's world is traveling in some strange direction. You see that the world is going toward destruction and violence. And the specialty of violence is to create hatred among people and to create fear. I am a believer in nonviolence and I say that no peace or tranquility will descend upon the people of the world until nonviolence is practiced, because nonviolence is love and it stirs courage in people. - Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan to an interviewer in 1985
A devout Muslim and devoted ally of Mahatma Gandhi, this brave freedom fighter struggled for the rights of his people for almost eighty years without ever wielding a weapon. Were his example better known, the world might come to recognize that the highest religious values of Islam are deeply compatible with a nonviolence that has the power to resolve conflicts even against heavy odds.
Hidden from view is the toll that terrorism is taking on Muslims who do not identify with the terrorists, and those Muslims who feel that Islam has been deeply dishonored by those using violence in the name of this holy religion. "My children are being threatened and hardened by having to defend our religion," Ms. Zeinab Schwen, co-founder of the Cincinnati based, Muslim Mothers Against Violence, says with a strong passion. "We are Americans, full citizens of this country, and my children were born right here in Cincinnati," she continues, "and I do not like how we are being treated by either Americans or terrorists." Ms. Schwen, a Palestinian by birth, raised in Egypt, possessing graduate degrees in pharmacy from both the University of Cario and the University of Minnesota, is an American citizen, married and the mother of three high school and college aged children. Zeinab, as she prefers being called, is a very attractive woman in her 40's, with blazing brown eyes, a wonderful bright smile, and a fearless soul.
Zeinab gives the history of this new organization, founded immediately after and in response to the bombing in London, England, in July, 2005. "The bombers were home grown young British people, average and well educated members of the London community. If they could turn to suicidal bombing, what would prevent our children from going that route? Since September 11, 2001 women wearing the head scarf and men who have been identified as Moslem have been subjected to an experience of hatred, distrust, and frustration." Zeinab had noticed, as had other Moslem mothers in Cincinnati, that their children were being placed in school situations that they were unprepared for. No longer seen as Americans, or, as regular kids, they were now the victims of hard looks, prejudiced comments, and scary actions that brought a new pressure to their relationships. How much pressure could they take? Would their good hearts be changed by the dramatic shift in symbols and actions of their fellow schoolmates? "What would keep them from turning violent?," Zeinab asks with heartfelt concern.
"We are good Moslems, and believe that Islam is a religion of peace, and means, "inner peace by following our God," "Any action that links violence to Islam is wrong, and what the non-Moslem world is seeing is the opposite of our teaching about being a good Moslem. No one is to be treated violently, Moslem or non-Moslem, according to our teaching," ""non-Moslems are to be treated with kindness and gratitude, especially if they are of a different faith."