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