Tuesday, 10 September 2002
Respect for all religions needed for world peace
Many lie within the warm cocoon of their beliefs. They are the lucky ones who have established what they believe to be a direct link with the main server upstairs.
Many more wander the spiritual wilderness in the hope of some supernatural intervention that would prove to them beyond any reasonable doubt that there is something out there to log on to - to belief in.
But believer or wanderer, there is something we seem incapable of leaving behind: our human prejudices.
Indeed, while all the belief systems on earth preach about love for fellow men, peace, harmony and good triumphing over evil, in practice they make nonsense of those notions.
Great wars have been waged down through the ages in the name of our beliefs, convinced always that one belief is far superior and the one true thing for all. Nations and peoples have been conquered and cultures purged to extinction to impose beliefs. Hence, the popular excuse by western colonisers: "...in the name of God, King & country".
Yet as mentioned above, all the world's major belief systems teach doctrines that are strikingly similar. They teach about attaining a purity of spirit and a perfection of action and thought in this life that is prerequisite to oneness with a superior supernatural presence in the universe.
That presence is a single omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent entity in all the belief systems. Even in the belief of the Hindus who pray to what they claim are many deities, they are really manifestations of the Supreme God as Paramãtma who Himself creates these forms for His own pleasure and sport and for the various activities of the universe.
All belief systems preach that good is rewarded and evil is punished or that evil causes the reward to be delayed interminably until good is finally reached.
Believers of the various faiths the world over have often, by their words and deeds, exhibited a message far removed from and often opposite to the doctrines preached by the founders of their faith.
Are the events of September 11, 2001 in USA the work of a devout Muslim who concurs with Prophet Muhammad's teachings? They surely are not.
The way Palestinians (mostly Muslims) and Israelis (Hebrews) go at each other, you would think they believed in separate Gods.
Yet they share with Christians the same source of their religion - Adam and Eve, Abraham, Noah and even Jesus. Allah, Yaweh or God are one and the same thing.
Even the followers of Jesus Christ - Christians - are divided into so many different sects with such differing views and practices and with such hatred against each other that would put Christ himself to shame. "Love your neighbor as you would yourself," he preached in quite unequivocal simplicity.
Even the Buddha's words on kindness convey pretty much the same message:
"Let none deceive another,
"Or despise any being in any state.
"Let none through anger or ill-will
"Wish harm upon another."
So does the Protestant of Belfast love his Catholic neighbor? Not for a hundred years and it looks like going the next one hundred.
In our own PNG there isn't exactly love among the different Christian churches in the country. There is fierce and sometimes violent competition for followers and for territory.
As with each independent religion, each of the various Christian sects believes fervently that it alone holds onto and practices the one true faith as taught by founder Christ Jesus. Those others...well, they lack something quintessential. Others go so far as to preach that unless you follow a particular teaching and follow certain rituals you shall not enter the pearly gates. Those who fall short of those prescribed actions also fall short of the glory of God, they claim.
Such teaching itself falls short of the teachings of Christ.
"Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?"
Mattew 7, 2-3.
The youngest independent world religion, the Bahai faith concurs entirely and preaches that religion ought to be the cause of love and affection, not the cause of hatred and division.
The Bahai holy writings states thus: "Religion should unite all hearts and cause wars and disputes to vanish from the face of the earth, give birth to spirituality, and bring life and light to each heart. If religion becomes a cause of dislike, hatred and division, it were better to be without it, and to withdraw from such a religion would be a truly religious act."
Sound advice when you chance to look at the way certain Christian sects set themselves up to conquer the hearts, minds and souls of their brethren.
If Christians cannot share the Christian spirit, how much more difficult is it for them to relate to people of other religions.
It is perhaps better that in religious instructions in all our institutions, an introduction of all the world's religions are taught to give Papua New Guineans a basic understanding of the underlying beliefs of those religions.
They would be most fascinated at the similarities that pervade all the major belief systems of the world.
I believe that is because deep down, when the misunderstandings and misinterpretations are removed, all of the world's people desire for a maker.
And they desire for good to triumph over evil.
Humankind, realizing its mortality, desired quite early in its sojourn on earth for an existence beyond this physical realm. That wish has been immortalized in all the belief systems of the world - hence the similarities.
The differences have to do with human nature and culture.
I do not think that one belief is entirely right or wrong. Indeed, they might just form the many roads that will eventually lead to Heaven.
It would be desirable to form only one road to Heaven but since that appears to be impossible (the Bahais would disagree here), it would do us well to respect every person's belief.
True peace, harmony and good will on earth - the object of every religion on earth - will come about if we truly respect each other's right to worship in our own way.
Respect your neighbor as you would he did you.
©Copyright 2002, The National (Popua New Guinea)