Interfaith Council: Darfur is everyone’s responsibility
(Orlando Sentinel, September 28, 2007)
By Interfaith Council of Central Florida
All the great religions of the world advocate peace. Peace is a goal toward which all should aspire. And it’s the prime characteristic of the perfect environment, whether we label it utopia, paradise, nirvana or heaven.
But peace isn’t produced by passivity. Nor is it solely a future goal. We must work to ensure that it exists in the here and now. Moral people can’t bask in the beauty of the peace that may surround them when entire people groups are facing genocide.
Geographic distance, religious differences and cultural diversity are no excuse for inaction.
The situation in Darfur should weigh heavily on the consciences of all people of faith. The spiritual principle of coming to the aid of those less fortunate pervades the writing of all the great religions.
Through the Hebrew prophet Isaiah, God says that instead of fasting he would prefer that his people “loose the chains of injustice and . . . set the oppressed free. . . .”
The Quran says in equally strident terms: “And what is wrong with you that you fight not in the Cause of Allah, and for those weak, ill-treated and oppressed . . . ?”
Jesus declared his mission to be “to preach good news to the poor . . . to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and . . . to release the oppressed. . . .”
Buddhism’s Dalai Lama has said: “Every world religion, no matter what its philosophical view, is founded first and foremost on the precept that we must reduce our selfishness and serve others.”
What service could be higher than to help those who are facing systematic extermination in Darfur, where more than 350,000 have died and millions have been displaced since 2003?
In the biblical book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon says, “If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!” We mustn’t let that be the case in Darfur.
Interfaith Council: Seek alternatives to war
(Orlando Sentinel, August 03, 2006)
Despite a rapid increase in knowledge and astounding advances in technology, humans are already engaged in or teeter on the brink of all-out war in various regions throughout the world. Taking or threatening human life and destruction of property are used routinely as a means to achieve the goals of nations and other groups.
While our weapons have become increasingly sophisticated, our moral sensitivity concerning the sacredness of human life has lagged appallingly. Therefore, the Interfaith Council of Central Florida calls upon spiritual people of all persuasions to refocus attention and strengthen efforts to work for peace.
Although the sacred writings of the world’s great religions are not typically pacifistic, they consistently call for a higher level of moral responsibility in the resolution of conflict. Further, these writings point to peace as the ideal. Peace is portrayed as the prime characteristic of “paradise.”
Buddhism calls for adherents to honor the Five Precepts, the first of which says simply: “I undertake to refrain from taking life.” Amplified, this principle states: “Aware of the suffering caused by the destruction of life, I am committed to cultivate compassion. . . . I am determined not to kill, not to let others kill, and not to condone any act of killing. . . .”
Islam’s Prophet Muhammad said: “There should be neither harming nor reciprocating harm (Hadith 32). And in the Quran (5:32) we read: “If any one slew a person . . . it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people.”
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9). In the same discourse he advocated: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (verse 44).
The ancient Hebrew writers clearly longed for the day when war would be no more: “They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4).
The Hebrew scriptures begin with the simple words: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Implicit in those words are God’s ownership, mastership and parenthood of all.
All humans are equally from the hand of God. All are brothers and sisters. Therefore, we must respect each other. We must treat others as we would wish to be treated. The Golden Rule is advocated by all religious systems.
The Interfaith Council of Central Florida is not calling for pacifism or unilateral disarmament. Our plea, based on the precepts of the world’s great sacred writings, is for spiritual people to call upon governments, groups and individuals around the world to more diligently seek alternatives to war as a means of resolving conflict.
Is such a goal mere starry-eyed idealism? Perhaps. But remember, all of the world’s great spiritual movements began because some person or group was no longer willing to accept things as they were.