August 19, 2017
LIGHT SHINING IN THE DARKNESS
The religious traditions of the World emerged out of trouble, conflict and division. The common misconception is to believe the spiritual life is the result of centeredness, peace and vision born of leisure and quiet time. In fact, the Buddha came to enlightenment in the midst of devastating temptation. The Christian traditions emerged from an unjust and cruel execution. Biblical Judaism emerged from exile. Islam emerged in the midst of warring tribes. We might ask what is being born in the midst of the conflict and uncertainty that overwhelms so many in our contemporary time and World?
First, the recent conflicts in the United States concerning Confederate Monuments have unearthed the dark world of racism and white supremacy that has infected American identity from the beginning. However, the uprising against hate groups and movements may very well serve to reveal the true character of the American people after all. There is a growing intolerance against intolerance. More and more people do not want to be associated with the injustice of racism. While the Confederacy is part of our history it is not part of our heritage as a people. Cities across the United States are removing the symbols of hate and intolerance as a renewed consciousness of what it means to be a free people emerges. We are truly free when we do not oppress others. Freedom of speech is not permission to demean or dehumanize other people. The right to anything must be tempered by the virtue it commands.
Second, the religious leaders of the World are now faithfully, continuously, and courageously speaking out against the acts of terrorism foreign and domestic. Communities of Faith are more and more denouncing the idea that religion and intolerance can be paired in any meaningful manner. The day is quickly emerging when the faith traditions of humankind are becoming profoundly aware of the ethical and moral leadership they can provide in such turbulent times. Every faith tradition now must honestly reexamine itself to ensure its manner of thinking and acting does not contribute to violence and intolerance. Religion, if it is to be authentic, must contribute to the awareness of the dignity of each and every human person. It is simply not enough to condemn violence in the World and not repent of the explicit or implicit teachings and practices that might encourage what we abhor.
Finally, while it is fashionable in many circles to condemn or caution against the rise of social media and the power of the internet, the fact is these modern means of communication give people a means to achieve justice and hope. People all over the World are having their consciousness raised because of the genius of social media. We must not allow this tool to be dominated by those who would destroy and terrorize. Governmental and political leaders must do all in their power to enhance access to all forms of social global communication. Such global networks can be the source of compassion and empathy as recent events have revealed. Think of Paris, Sweden, and Jerusalem in recent days. What alarms us calls us to action.
Once again we are outraged by the hatred and violence we see and experience in our World. It is easy to see why people would despair. These are dangerous times and great moral leadership is demanded on the part of all leaders, governmental, political and religious. Dangerous times can disable us. But think of those who rise up against intolerance far and near. Do not let the world around you become the World within you. If you can, march in the streets. If you can, pray for justice and the courage to cause it. If you can, elevate the conversation with others beyond the partisan to the moral and responsible. If you can, be the sanity you seek. If you can, transform the World with your love and understanding.
The Interfaith Peace Project stands with you as together we seek to bless and calm even those who would hate and harm.
Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P.
The Board of Directors and
All of us at The Interfaith Peace Project