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Faith plays many roles in the world, but perhaps none so immediately important—to believers and non-believers alike—than its ability to promote peace and understanding, or to undermine it. We have asked our panel of global experts to weigh in on this aspect of faith in the modern world. [End Page 3]
Marcus Braybrooke Interfaith forgiveness
For many, religion is more a matter of identity than of belief. The focus is on what you wear, what you eat, or whom you marry. As such, religion is seldom the primary cause of conflict but can add to hostility. You may be killed because you are uncircumcised, but not because of what you actually believe in. When conflict starts—besides caring for the injured and refugees, protecting non-combatants, counteracting propaganda, and calling for peace—there is little a religion can do.
Communities of faith acting together, however, can play a vital role in healing the wounds of conflict. Many truth and reconciliation commissions are inspired by teachings of forgiveness. In Guatemala, the Catholic Church established a "Truth and Memory Project" in 1998, chaired by Bishop Juan Gerardi, who was brutally murdered two days after presenting the report. It described human rights violations against civilians during the civil war from 1960 to 1996. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa was headed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Increasingly, religious leaders are working together for peace through interfaith sharing, which is essential to conflict prevention. Ignorance and prejudice can be dispelled by helping people learn about each other's beliefs and practices. Effective communication creates friendships and overcomes the xenophobia lurking within us.
Rev. Dr. Marcus Braybrooke is President of the World Congress of Faiths, co-founder of the Three Faiths Forum, and the author of numerous books on religion, including Beacons of the Light.
Master Jinje in Introspection, Truth
When it comes to promoting peace, it is up to each individual to seek it. If we genuinely seek to understand the essence of our "True Self," great peace will naturally follow. We should strive to understand who we really are before we are ensnared by intolerance, jealousy, and greed. When we develop this internal wisdom, the world becomes One House.
In great peace, there is great freedom and great wisdom. These transcend the volatility of emotion (or the absence of emotion). Love or no love, judgment or no judgment—these are not pairs of opposing concepts but are one and the same. In great peace, we find blessings, freedom, comfort, and compassion. Each of us already has this great wisdom in our minds. Within our "True Self," lies every truth of the universe. The most direct way to get to peace is at the primary state. If we seek our "True Self," we can be of One House—within our hearts, within our minds, within our world.
Great Korean Seon Master Jinje is the 79th Dharma Heir of the Buddha and is the greatest living master of Ganhwa Seon (Korean Zen).
Ayeda Naqvi Sufism Celebrates Differences
When it comes to promoting peace, there is no force as pivotal as faith. In Sufi philosophy, faith means to surrender to the divine will, a belief that there is a power greater than us at work in the universe. At the core of this belief lies the concept of tawhid, or unity. Tawhid is not only the unity of God but also a unity of all creation. For the mystic, all creation is a reflection of the One because, as the Quran observes, "Wheresoever you turn is the face [End Page 4] of Allah." So, honoring all creation in its diversity is a Divine duty. In fact, the mystic should celebrate differences rather than demonize them, seeing all beings as the culmination of Divine love.
One can't attack another if the other is also the reflection of God.
Ayeda Naqvi is a Sufi journalist for the Daily Times (Pakistan).