Will There Ever be Peace Among Religions?

A commentary on the religious tensions on our planet.

09-donald-trump-bully.w536.h357.2xRepublican presidential candidate, Donald Trump has given several anti-Muslim orations perpetrating a
widespread belief that the United States is at war against Islam. Canada, too, has had its share of people who have an anti-Muslim sentiment.

The Archbishop of Canterbury in a Church Times article, is quoted as saying, “the global turmoil and conflict driven by extremism can be stopped only once religiously motivated violence has been purged from every faith tradition”. Archbishop Welby goes on to say; “the world was facing, for the first time in centuries, an obviously religious conflict that encompassed all faiths.” His claims are based in his travels around the Anglican Communion, where he says he had come across “Islamic violence, Christian violence, Hindu violence, Buddhist violence”.

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Euronews, a website that lists news about “Religious conflict” has numerous news articles about the latest religious skirmishes. Here are some of them.

Hundreds of Iranians held  protests in central Tehran over Saudi Arabia’s execution of the prominent Shiite cleric. A wave of anger against the Sunni-led kingdom has led to the ransacking of its embassy in Tehran.

Persecution against Pakistan’s Christians in the form of suicide bombs outside two churches killed at least 15 people in the eastern city of Lahore.

Iraq could once again descend into civil war between the Shiites and Sunni Muslim factions after the country’s most senior Shia Muslim cleric issued a call to arms to fight a rapidly advancing Sunni insurgency.

The United States, along with its allies, has launched airstrikes at Islamic State or ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) targets in Iraq in an expansion of its military campaign against the jihadists (those carrying out a war or struggle against unbelievers).

Two Buddhists have been jailed in the Southeast Asian nation of Myanmar for murders that took place during religious violence in March of 2015. They are the first Buddhists to be convicted of any serious offence relating to the rioting, which mainly targeted Muslims and left around 40 people dead.

The history of modern India has many incidents of violence. During the 1947 partition there was religious violence between Muslim-Hindu, Muslim-Sikhs and Muslim-Jains (followers of Jainism) on a gigantic scale. Hundreds of religious riots have been recorded since then in every decade of independent India. In these riots, the victims have included many Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Christians and Buddhists.

In 2013, hundreds of villagers fled their homes in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh after three days of bloody sectarian clashes left at least 38 people dead and dozens wounded. The fighting between Hindus and Muslims in the area, the worst in years, was sparked by a violent dispute between two families of different faiths last month, authorities said.

Researchers say statistics from the multi-state study tell us in 2015, anti-Islam attacks in the United States were up 78% from 2014, and anti-Arab hate crimes increased 219%.

This is but a sampling of the numerous religious conflicts on the planet. Hans Küng, a Swiss Catholic priest, theologian, and author and President of the Foundation for a Global Ethic since 1995, once said, “No peace among the nations without peace among the religions. No peace among the religions without dialogue between the religions. No dialogue between the religions without investigation of the foundation of the religions.” I’m beginning to think Mr. Kung may be right.

Rebecca Rosen, in her book, Awaken the Spirit Within, says,

“the path to God in life was not the way, but only a way and that truly all paths lead home [to God]. Consider that God, metaphorically, is the centre of a wheel. The spokes on the wheel represent the many unique and different paths people use to reach God, and yet each spoke is connected to the same central hub. Meaning that all religions, all paths serve a similar purpose, [that is], to connect us to and bring us closer to God. In fact, the root of the word religion means “to bind” or “to connect. When you think about it, whether you practice Catholicism, Judaism, Buddhism, any other religion, or Atheism, it’s really meaningful and purposeful connection that you’re after…no matter what your religion or belief system, we’re all searching for and wanting the same basic stuff.”

Rebecca says it so well. There is no one path to God, there are many. Every religion is a path. Once humanity understands this and accepts this, then maybe there will be peace among religions. There are even references in the sacred scriptures from the various world religions that support the idea that there are many paths to God.

Christianity: And Peter opened his mouth and said, “Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him [meaning a sense of respect, awe] and does what is right is acceptable to him.” (Acts 10.34-35)  

Hinduism: As men approach Me [Krishna, a Hindu deity], so I receive them. All paths, Arjuna, lead to Me. (Bhagavad Gita 4.11)

Judaism: Rabbi Johanan ben Zakkai said, “Just as the sin-offering atones for Israel, so righteousness atones for the Peoples of the world.” (Talmud, Baba Batra 10b)

Islam: Say, “We believe in God, and in what has been revealed to us, and what was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in what was given to Moses, Jesus, and the Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and to God do we submit.”(Qur’an 3.84)

Those who believe in the Qur’an, those who follow the Jewish scriptures, and the Sabeans and the Christians–any who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness–on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. (Qur’an 5.69)

Buddhism: Sometimes I [the Buddha] spoke of myself, sometimes of others; sometimes I presented myself, sometimes others; sometimes I showed my own actions, sometimes those of others. All my doctrines are true and none are false. (Lotus Sutra 16)

We must stop being so narrow-minded and get beyond the belief that “our religion” is the only path to the divine. It is incredibly naïve of a person to believe that they have the only exclusive knowledge on reaching God or the divine and that people of a different belief system have it wrong. Is it not so difficult to believe that all religions have truth and that there are many ways to reach the divine? Religious tolerance and understanding is a goal we must all strive for. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “We must learn to live together as brothers, or we are going to perish together as fools.”  Mahatma Gandhi says, “The pursuit of truth does not permit violence being inflicted on one’s opponent.”  Both of these men, two men who I admire, had wisdom for achieving peace, yet humanity continues to ignore it.peace-sign

Can Cars Really Run on Water?

An exploration to determine if water-fuelled vehicles are for real.

Star.com has an article, Above the Arctic Circle, climate change closes in, that says researchers predict that by mid-century Barrow, Alaska and its eight surrounding villages will be underwater despite decades of erecting barriers, dredging soil and building raised banks to hold back the water. Whatever the cause, climate change is a fact.

global_warming_0When I was an active teacher I taught science as well as other subjects. In many of those classes we used to discuss climate change, specifically the greenhouse effect, the buildup of greenhouse gases trapping heat in the atmosphere raising our planet’s temperatures. Often during class discussions, we would talk about solutions. That is when I would show them this Fox News video about the inventor, Dennis Klein.

This video would spark some interesting conversation. As you would expect some students would get excited about the solution given in the video. Others would be skeptics. Nonetheless, it made the class interesting. Over the years I often wondered about Mr. Klein’s invention.  I’ve guessed why I’ve never heard about this technology since the early 2000’s. What happened to this technology? My mind would try to explain possible responses. My mind sometimes went to conspiracy, that is, the idea that such a technology might have been discredited or maybe somehow made to disappear by the large oil conglomerates.  So I set out to find some answers.

Now whenever someone does research on the internet, one can get overwhelmed. There’s all sorts of information on the web and much of it  is conspiracy theories claiming that the technology is a scam. I always taught my students to be careful when using the Internet as there are many unreliable websites on the web. I used to tell my students “not to believe everything you read on the Internet as any ‘Joe Blow” can put up a website”. As far as that goes, don’t believe everything you read anywhere as not everything written is true, even when it comes from textbooks. I found many errors and some misinformation in school textbooks over my 35 years of teaching. So when I use the Internet I cross check information. If several websites are making the same claim; it is likely true. If only one site is making a claim, the information is likely not true.

Another thing to remember when researching on the Internet is to use only credible websites. These would be websites like universities, government sites, reputable organizations and so on. The University of Toronto  has a good article, Research Using the Internet, that explains the “ins and outs” of internet research.  So when I do my research, this is what I do.

So what did I learn? It seems the more I read, the more I don’t know. First of all, there are many sites, typically discussion sites, where people are putting forth all sorts of conspiracy theories. I like to stay away from these sites.

Wikipedia, a fairly reliable site, says in 2002, the firm Hydrogen Technology Applications patented an electrolyzer (a process of decomposing a molecule) design and trademarked the term “Aquygen” (changing the H2O to HHO, a new form of water) to refer to the hydrogen oxygen gas mixture produced by the device. The company claimed to be able to run a vehicle exclusively on water, via the production of “Aquygen”, and invoked an unproven state of matter called “magnegases” and a discredited theory about magnecules  to explain their results. Company founder Dennis Klein claimed to be in negotiations with a major US auto manufacturer and that the US government wanted to produce Hummers that used his technology. The company no longer claims it can run a car exclusively on water, and is instead marketing “Aquygen” production as a technique to increase fuel efficiency, thus making it Hydrogen fuel enhancement rather than a water-fueled car. Mr. Klein died in 2013.

So, can vehicles really run on water? The science magazine Scientific American says, Water won’t aid fuel economy in today’s cars, but it may help power the hydrogen cars of tomorrow. The Popular Mechanic’s article, the Truth about Water Powered Cars, says

There is energy in water. Chemically, it’s locked up in the atomic bonds between the hydrogen and oxygen atoms. When the hydrogen and oxygen combine…there’s energy left over in the form of heat or electrons. That’s converted to mechanical energy by the pistons and crankshaft or electrical motors to move the vehicle. Problem: It takes exactly the same amount of energy to pry those hydrogen and oxygen atoms apart inside the electrolysis cell as you get back when they recombine inside the fuel cell…Subtract the losses to heat in the engine…and you’re losing energy, not gaining it.

The Huffington Post’s article, Water-Powered Cars: Possible or Impossible? explains it this way.

Everybody knows it [water] contains hydrogen, and that hydrogen can be burned or used to generate electricity in fuel cells. But what few people seem to realize is that hydrogen is not an energy source …we have to break up water molecules via electrolysis, a process that uses more energy as input than you can then get out of the hydrogen as output.

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From philippinetop10.blogspot.ca

We Are Change is a nonpartisan, independent media organization composed of individuals and groups working to expose corruption worldwide. Seems like a reputable organization to me. Their article, The Suppression of Water Powered Cars, argues that water-fuelled cars is being suppressed from the public, namely by big oil companies. The article goes on to say, should inexpensive water-power exist; these oil companies would be set to lose billions.

So what is my conclusion? If you look at the science, then the claim that water can be used as a viable fuel source is false. To use a proverb, If it’s too good to be true, then it probably is. Having said that, the idea that the truth is being kept from us is always a possibility. Conspiracy theorists certainly would claim this. It’s happened before. Global Research, an organization I’ve referred to before in other posts says in their article, Monsanto’s Sealed Documents Reveal the Truth behind Roundup’s Toxicological Dangers, a large body of independent research has accumulated and now collectively provides a sound scientific rationale to confirm that glyphosate, better known as Roundup®, is far more toxic and poses more serious health risks to animals and humans than Monsanto and the US government admit. Roundup® has always been touted by Monsanto as a safe, environmentally friendly and easy to use herbicide. Too many times we have been told that a chemical is safe only to learn later on that is was not. The pesticide DDT and the herbicide Agent Orange are two examples. I have come to believe over my many years of life that there is always more going on than we will ever know. Another way to put it is to use the idiom, there is more (happening) than meets the eye. Is the truth being kept from us? Who really knows for sure?  Or, does the government know?

Remembering 9/11 and Rethinking Terrorism.

A commentary on terrorism.

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From Huffington Post

This week is the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the United States. The world changed that day. I distinctly remember feeling that way when I learned of the horrific acts of terror effected that day. Mohammed Adam wrote a column in the Ottawa Citizen entitled, Fearful shadows of 9/11 still haunt Muslims, where he wrote:

Post-9/11, Islam was vilified and many Muslims were attacked and hounded as potential terrorists. Muslim women in particular, easily identifiable by their hijabs, faced verbal abuse, intimidation and even violence. A lot of bad things — the Iraq war, torture, Guantanamo — all happened. Draconian laws that curtailed age-old freedoms were passed, including here in Canada.

There has been a rise in anti-Muslim hate crimes in recent months especially since Donald Trump, Republican presidential nominee, has been spouting his rhetoric about a Muslim immigration ban.  The Guardian article, Hate crimes and attacks against Muslims, reports the Council on American-Islamic Relations (Cair) published new data showing that incidents against Muslims in California increased by 58% between 2014 and 2015, and that communities throughout the US are seeing similar trends.

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From National Post

Many French Riviera mayors imposed a ban on full-body bathing suits known as burkinis this summer. France’s top court later ruled that basic freedoms were infringed upon and that mayors had overstepped their powers when they decreed a ban on burkinis at the beach. BBC News reports that French cities, such as Nice, have since lifted the controversial ban to be in line with a national court ruling. French opinion polls suggested most French people backed the burkini bans igniting fierce debate in France and around the world, with Muslims saying they were being unfairly discriminated against. Now I think the court decision was the right decision. It is simply discriminatory for one group with one set of values to tell another group that their set of values is wrong or at the very least unwelcome.

Pope_Francis_Korea_Haemi_Castle_19_(cropped)Even Pope Francis, leader of the world’s Catholics, defends Muslims. In the CBC article, Pope Francis defends Muslims, the pope says,

“I think it is not right to identify Islam with terrorism. It is not right and it is not true. I don’t like to talk about Islamic violence because every day when I look at the papers I see violence here in Italy – someone killing his girlfriend, someone killing his mother-in-law. These are baptized Catholics. If I speak of Islamic violence, I have to speak of Catholic violence. Not all Muslims are violent.”

The pope went on to talk about the causes of terrorism. He said,

“I know it is dangerous to say this but terrorism grows when there is no other option and when money is made and it, instead of the person, is put at the centre of the world economy. I ask myself how many young people that we Europeans have left devoid of ideals, who do not have work. Then they turn to drugs and alcohol or enlist in ISIS.”

Now  I certainly don’t agree with everything Pope Francis says but I agree with him on this. I agree that terrorism is related to social problems. Terrorism is defined by Dictionary.com as the use of violence and threats to intimidate or coerce, especially for political purposes. With that definition one could argue that many if not most acts of violence are acts of terrorism. Let’s look at the city of Chicago, Illinois in the United States as an example. That city has been making news headlines lately because of its high rate of gun violence. CNN reports in its report, 500 homicides. 9 months. 1 American city, that on Labor Day weekend Chicago’s 500th homicide of the year took place.  These are Americans carrying out acts of terror on one another and I suspect the majority of violent acts are not carried out by Muslims. So I asked myself, Why? This article says there are nearly 82 shootings per week. What does that tell me? Guns are too readily available but that is a whole other post. But why would people want to carry out acts of violence? Some Chicagoans blame the violence on economic struggles and lack of jobs. What’s interesting to note is Chicago’s unemployment rate fell from 6.1% in 2015 to 5.5% in 2016. Others say social problems are the root cause of the violence. Regardless of the cause, my point is that there is so much media emphasis on Islamic extremism when really there is much more terrorism being caused by non-Muslims. Most acts of terrorism are carried out by home grown  non-Muslim citizens.

In our local paper recently there was headline titled, Mobile Muslims launch 40-day campaign. The story explained that members of the Muslim community stopped in our little town spreading teachings of peace and love in hopes of changing their religion’s stereotype. One of the Mobile Muslims said, “There are many and false teachings associated with Islam and we need to dispel them.” CBC did a piece on this group called, Muslims go on cross-country tour. Kudos to the Mobile Muslims who are trying to set the record straight. It’s time to stop blaming terrorism on the all Muslims.  The number of radical Muslims who practice terrorism is only a small group.

But let’s not forget that radicalism is not unique to Islam. The news site, AlterNet.org, published an article called, 6 Modern-Day Christian Terrorist Groups You Never Hear About, which talks about six Christian terrorist groups. These are groups like the “Army of God” who openly promote killing abortion providers and who also have a history of promoting violence against the LGBT community. It also talks about “The Lord’s Resistance Army” (LRA) who according to Human Rights Watch, has committed thousands of killings and kidnappings. It seems terrorism does not exclusively belong to Muslim extremists. The Christian religion has had its fair share of extremists. Terrorism, no matter who carries it out, is WRONG! Discrimination against any group is WRONG! It’s time we focus on building a world of tolerance and understanding.

Dance Could Change the World Too

A commentary on the value of dancing.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post entitled, Music can change the world suggesting that music is a way to unite the world. I personally believe this to be true. A few days ago a link to the following video landed in my inbox.

Dance has always been a part of my world. I grew up in a small town where there were dances, often wedding dances, many weekends of the year. It was at those small town dances that I learned to dance. When I was in college and university I joined the dance club where we learned to do such dances as the Rumba, Samba, the Foxtrot, old-time waltz, swing and even square dance. My wife tells me that one of the things that attracted her to me was the fact that I could dance. She also tells me that now I don’t dance with her enough. Our daughters danced for years with the local dance association doing Hip Hop, Ballet, Modern, Jazz and Lyrical dance. My wife and I also volunteered when our club held their dance festivals. So when I watched this video I was immediately enlivened and inspired. What a great video! Watching it put a smile on my face. The video raises one’s spirits. Dance, even just watching it, has the ability to put us in a better mood.

I wanted to learn more about what kind of person would make such a video and why they would make it, so, like I typically do, I did some research.   Can dancing unite the world? is an article I found on the Pocket Cultures site, a website which aims to increase connections, awareness and understanding between different cultures.  According the article, the video was created by Matt Harding who became an Internet celebrity by creating a series of videos of himself doing silly dances in numerous countries around the world. The video above is his latest and was made in 2012. If you go to Mr. Harding’s website, where the heck is Matt, you will find other videos he has created. Matt says he started dancing with locals because he thought it looked like fun but some people have argued that he is actually improving world relations by connecting people around the world. clapping-hands-transparent-b-g-mdI applaud Mr. Harding for his diplomatic projects and for showing us that everyone in this world just wants to dance and enjoy life.

Dancing is a great way to connect people around the world, just as music is. Really, when you think about it, the two are connected. You can’t have dance without music and probably visa versa. It’s difficult to dance without music and I suspect music is what inspired dancing to arise in the first place. So I wondered, are there organizations or movements that share this vision of connecting through dance to unite the world? Using Google, this is what I discovered. United Dance is an organization with the purpose to unite and train dancers all over the world. They desire to show the heart of God in unity through creative expressions of worship and dance to the world. Another is Movement Exchange, a community of dance diplomats, who aim to unite the world through dance and service. This movement believes that sharing movement creates more joy in our world. That is so true! If you watch the above video carefully, you will notice that no matter what country Matt is in, the people dancing with him are smiling and joyful. I’m sure there are other movements as well.

Even the United Nations acknowledges dance music as a positive global force. According to this article, United Nations Secretary General Bam Ki-Moon praised Belgium’s Tomorrowland music festival, one of the most noteworthy global music festivals; a festival that began in 2005.

The Secretary General commented on the true power of global dance music, and its positioning within a wider cultural dialogue; one meant for a world of togetherness and universal acceptance. Now even though the festival isn’t specifically a dance festival, you can bet that the “dance music” had people dancing. In my view, dance and music go hand in hand.

Not only does music and dance unite people of different races and cultures, but dance is good for you.  According to the Better Health Channel’s article, Dance-Health Benefits, the health benefits of dancing are:

  • improved condition of your heart and lungs
  • increased muscular strength, endurance and motor fitness
  • increased aerobic fitness
  • improved muscle tone and strength
  • weight management
  • stronger bones and reduced risk of osteoporosis
  • better coordination, agility and flexibility
  • improved balance and spatial awareness
  • increased physical confidence
  • improved mental functioning
  • improved general and psychological well being
  • greater self-confidence and self-esteem
  • better social skills.

Time’s article, The Hidden Health Benefits of Dance, says:

“People who took dance class improved their fitness three times more than non-dancers”.

The Toronto Star reports in the article, Toronto researchers test benefits of dance for dementia patients, that a few studies suggest dancing programs in care homes appear to decrease problematic behaviour and increase social interaction and enjoyment.

Psychology Today’s article, Why Should We Dance?  says,

Studies have shown that dance, in particular, can decrease anxiety and boost mood more than other physical outlets

So the bottom line is dance has value in this world. We live in a world that needs unity. All one has to do is watch the news to come to that conclusion. So the more ways there are to unite the world, the better this world will be. I think dance, like music, is another way to do this. So, I encourage you to celebrate the different forms of dance in the world. I especially enjoy watching people from Africa dance. The African people know how to move and express themselves.

dancingSo let loose and dance. To quote Satchel Paige, an African-American Major League Baseball pitcher,

“Dance like nobody’s watching.”

It’s a good way to get fit. It makes you feel better. It unites the world because every country has their own unique dance forms. What more can I say?

So now I’m curious. Tell me what you think?