Interview With Ilaria Morali, Specialist in Theology of Grace
ROME, JAN. 14, 2005 (Zenit.org).- The idea of dialogue with other religions needs some clarifications, says theologian Ilaria Morali.
A specialist in the theology of grace, and a lecture in dogmatic theology at the Gregorian University, Morali teaches courses on salvation, non-Christian religions, and interreligious dialogue.
In this interview with ZENIT, Morali discusses what the Second Vatican Council stated about dialogue with other religions, and makes distinctions between doctrinal documents and pastoral texts.
A lay Catholic, Morali gives particular importance to the declaration "Dominus Iesus," published by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2000, to remind mankind that Jesus Christ is the only valid mediator for salvation.
Q: The first time the term "dialogue" is found in a document of the magisterium is on Sept. 19, 1964. Can we say that, from that moment, a doctrine of dialogue began?
Morali: Paul VI's encyclical "Ecclesiam Suam" was promulgated on Aug. 6, 1964, and was distributed to the Fathers, who participated in the Second Vatican Council, on Sept. 15.
Note, when we speak today of dialogue we understand it almost exclusively as interreligious dialogue. But in a more complete and balanced view, as proposed by Paul VI, it is only one aspect of dialogue between the Church and the world.
In relation to interreligious dialogue, Paul VI's encyclical came therefore at a crucial moment between the institution of the Secretariat for Non-Christians, which took place in May 1964, now known as the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, and the promulgation of "Lumen Gentium," the dogmatic constitution on the Church, on Nov. 21, 1964.
This occurred one year before the publication of the "Nostra Aetate" declaration on Oct. 28, 1965, and the "Ad Gentes" decree of Dec. 7, 1965. "Lumen Gentium" is, therefore, the first magisterial document that presents a whole number, 16, dedicated to non-Christians.
We can say therefore that a doctrine of dialogue took shape in its essential principles with "Ecclesiam Suam," promulgated when No. 16 of "Lumen Gentium" was already in the final phase of its writing. There is, therefore, a privileged relation between the teaching on dialogue, proposed by Paul VI, and the doctrine of "Lumen Gentium" on Christians.
To understand the magisterial idea of dialogue in Paul VI, I would mention, in sum, at least three important points.
In the first place: Paul VI believed that reflection on dialogue must be preceded by reflection on the conscience of the Church. The faithful must be conscious of the vocation received at baptism. To forget such dignity acquired by grace means to lose sight of one's own identity.
In the second place: The paradigm of dialogue that the Church establishes with the world, and therefore also interreligious dialogue, is the "colloquium salutis" [dialogue of salvation] established by God in Christ with humanity. The Church must allow herself to be inspired by this model in her approach to the world.
In the third place: This interest is translated in apostolic concern and missionary action. Dialogue is precisely the name that Paul VI attributed to the impulse of interior charity, which tends to become an exterior gift of charity. Historically this is the first definition of dialogue by the magisterium and the Pope presented it immediately after the quotation of Matthew 28:19 on the missionary mandate.
I think, really, that a "doctrine" of dialogue began to exist 40 years ago. Doctrine in the sense of a "normative teaching" of the magisterium that establishes precise limits to the definition and the practice of dialogue and, if forgotten, runs the risk of entering a view of dialogue that is different from that of those who introduced it in the ecclesial vocabulary.
Q: What must be recalled of Vatican II in this connection?
Morali: The conciliar reflection 16 of "Lumen Gentium" gravitates around the affirmation that non-Christians can attain eternal salvation and that such salvation is realized through grace that operates in persons.
A careful description is given in this number of God's action in the innermost conscience of men who are ignorant of the Gospel. I would like to remind that no mention is made of the other religions as mediations of grace or ways of salvation.
I add that "Lumen Gentium," 16, remained as constant reference in the writing of the rest of the documents that subsequently would address the topic of non-Christians: the "Nostra Aetate" declaration and the "Ad Gentes" decree.
I would like to make one final observation, in relation to the value of "Nostra Aetate."
I think it is not an accident that in an official writing on "Nostra Aetate," Cardinal Augustine Bea [first president of the secretariat for promoting Christian unity] explained to those who thought of attributing to "Nostra Aetate" the value of a doctrinal document, that the declaration only gave guidelines of a practical order on the specific relationship between the Church and members of other religions.
Thus, "Nostra Aetate" was conceived as a practical appendix to the lines dictated by "Lumen Gentium" and more generally of conciliar ecclesiology. Whoever today in the ecclesial and theological realm tends to forget "Lumen Gentium" and to attribute a doctrinal value to the "Nostra Aetate" declaration falls, in my understanding, into great ingenuousness and historical error.
Q: So, then, Vatican II never referred to the other religions as "ways of salvation"?
Morali: In regard to a judgment on the role of religions, the Council spoke of "evangelical preparations" in relation to "something good and authentic" that can be found in persons, and at times in religious initiatives. In no page is explicit mention made of religions as ways of salvation.
From the historical-theological point of view, the patristic term of "evangelical preparations" used by the Council in "Lumen Gentium" and "Ad Gentes" is imitated by that vein of 20th-century theology that defined religions as preparations for the Gospel, as opposed to the thesis of religions as ways of salvation.
In a study that I will publish shortly, I show how, in the light of the conciliar minutes, it is obvious that the Council in no way wished to favor this last thesis.
Someone might object that this reading of Vatican II is already contradicted by the very fact of the institution of the Secretariat for Non-Christians.
Q: Yes, that's true. One could argue that with the creation of the Secretariat for Non-Christians the Church goes beyond this idea of the Council.
Morali: Indeed, many think that with the creation of this institution the Church would give religions a saving and peer role.
But this is not so, I repeat, recalling a very important historical detail: on September 29, 1964, hence, a few days after the distribution of the encyclical to the conciliar Fathers, the latter received an official Note which explained what the Secretariat for Non-Christians is not and must not be.
Essentially, this Note stated:
-- that the secretariat "is not an organ of the Council," given that it worked in an environment of "non-Christians," namely, of persons who "do not have valid reasons to justify their presence in the Council."
-- the secretariat does not tend "to treat doctrinal problems, and much less so to be concerned with the ministry of preaching and grace, or the task of missionaries, but to establish contacts with non-Christians, on questions of a general nature."
Warning was given of "the dangers, if one was not careful, that threatened the activity of those who worked on the sense of the Secretariat for Non-Christians": defeatism and indifference.
"By indifference we do not understand the coldness or incredulity of some in regard to the Christian faith, but the attitude of those who see all religions as being the same; in each one of them they see ways that lead to the top of the mountain. Therefore, they say to themselves, that if the guest arrives at the meeting, we should not be worried about the path he took.
"In regard to syncretism, suffice it to know something of the religions of the Far East to realize the force of such a tendency. All the known beliefs come together and melt into one, so long as they present some secondary common aspects. The phenomenon is so strong and general that it has become a principle in the science of comparative religions. We think it opportune to open wide one's eyes to these dangers." This is found in the conciliar minutes [AS III/I, 30-35].
Q: Do you mean to say by this that Vatican II's documents are doctrinal but those of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, the former Secretariat for Non-Christians, are pastoral?
Morali: As we see, this Note explains indirectly the reasons why the "Nostra Aetate" declaration was not written by the secretariat and it reminds us implicitly that the documents of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue are not of a doctrinal character, but only of a practical and pastoral nature.
In light of what we have just said, we can affirm, therefore, that, in the view of Vatican II, interreligious dialogue has an eminently pastoral and practical role. This is also true for the documents issued by the pontifical council.
Dialogue is a motion that comes from the Christian's conscience and stems from the desire to communicate the unexpectedly received gift in Christ: the gift of having been constituted children of God.
It also has, according to the view of the Church, an exquisitely human function, of creating premises for an international collaboration oriented to the overcoming of conflicts and the solution of problems
Religion's Role in International Politics
Observers Say Faith Has a Part to Play
ROME, JAN. 8, 2005 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II's message for the recent World Day of Peace contained a somber overview of the state of affairs today. "We cannot help but note the disturbing spread of various social and political manifestations of evil: from social disorders to anarchy and war, from injustice to acts of violence and killing," the Pope wrote in No. 3 of the message.
As a response, the Holy Father called for a renewal of the "common patrimony of moral values bestowed by God himself." The Pope recalled his 1995 U.N. speech in which he referred to a "grammar" of universal moral law that unites all humans despite their cultural differences. In this year's Day of Peace message John Paul II called for an "ever greater commitment and responsibility" to this grammar.
The role of moral values in today's world was also dealt with in a recently published collection of texts by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, titled "Justice and Peace: An Ever Present Challenge." Commenting on the role of the Church's social doctrine, the council's secretary, Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, stressed a twofold way in which Christians can make their presence felt in society: personal witness, and planning for an authentic humanism.
Bishop Crepaldi explained that the Church's hope is that the teaching of social doctrine will "help to produce authentic believers and inspire them to be credible witnesses, capable of changing the mechanisms of modern society by their way of thinking and acting."
He also insisted on renewing those structures that paralyze or distort social development and justice. "The Gospel logic of love must be embodied in the human and rational logic of the economy, of politics and of society."
An important part of striving to implant this "logic of love" is the effort to ensure economic justice and to help the poor. The role of morality in the struggle against poverty was examined in a recent book, "Mind, Heart and Soul in the Fight Against Poverty." The work, edited and published by the World Bank, is based on the efforts of a team composed of people within and outside of the U.N. agency.
The book observes that faith-based organizations "are important players in many spheres of development," but it contends that their role has not been given sufficient attention in the past. In part this is because the primary concern of "faith leaders and institutions" is spiritual well-being, while development institutions focus on material concerns. Moreover, many public institutions function on the underlying assumption of a separation between church and state.
This divide has been reduced in recent years, due to a common concern over issues related to globalization and the problem of overcoming persistent poverty. An important event in bringing together the two sides was the role played by faith groups in the campaign for international debt relief prior to the Jubilee Year of 2000. Nevertheless, the book acknowledges that there exist "sharp differences" between faith and development institutions over certain issues.
Referring to the title of the book, the opening chapter explains that apart from bringing the resources of the mind to bear in the fight against poverty, there is also need for the heart, source of the passion and commitment that drives both faith and development institutions. The soul, a dimension not often considered by secular institutions, can be of use because of the religious teachings and traditions that offer a new perspective. The World Bank also noted that many of the values in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are contained in religious teachings.
While faith groups have many values in common when it comes to putting ideas into practice, there are also multiple points of view on how to deal with the problem, the book explains. The experience of faith groups also varies widely from country to country, particularly with regard to their relations with government authorities.
Part of the book looks at efforts by faith organizations to deal with the HIV/AIDS problem in Africa. The World Bank acknowledged that most religious-based groups are opposed to condom use, but also recognized that the groups played a vital role through their care of the sick and the promotion of abstinence and faithfulness.
The study concludes that achieving the development goals set for coming years is a complex and arduous process. "Enormous progress on these goals is possible, but we must mobilize faith-based energy and moral authority on the world stage if we hope to make them a reality," the book states.
A much-debated theme in recent times is the relationship between faith and foreign policy. This subject was covered in another recent book, "Liberty and Power: A Dialogue on Religion and U.S. Foreign Policy in an Unjust World." The introduction notes that opposition to religion's role in international affairs stems from a twofold fear: that introducing faith will only obfuscate the debate; and that religion has been, and still is, used sometimes as an excuse for violence.
But in his contribution to the volume, Father J. Bryan Hehir, former president of Catholic Charities USA and currently a professor at Harvard University, argues that there is a growing consensus that excluding religion from the political order only "yields a distorted conception of contemporary world politics." The public and social significance of religion, he continues, must be given its due attention and weight.
Father Hehir explains that the religious tradition has much to offer to the current debates over such matters as when military intervention is justified and how to deal with humanitarian problems. Be it the human rights perspective contained in recent encyclicals, or the centuries-old ideas contained in the just war ethic, religion has a worthy point of view, he says.
By contrast, Michael Walzer, a professor at Princeton University and author of many writings on just war and political theory, prefers to talk about morality in foreign policy. He affirmed that a foreign policy based on faith would be a bad idea because faith often leads to dogma and certainty, which can in turn override morality.
A moral foreign policy, continued Walzer, should be based on four propositions:
-- protect the lives of citizens.
-- not to inflict harm on the citizens of other states.
-- help the citizens of other states, when possible, to avoid or escape "the crimes and disasters of collective life."
-- help the citizens of other states, when they want to be helped, to build decent and non-repressive political systems.
In her contribution, Louise Richardson of Harvard University looked at the role religion plays in terrorist groups. She warned that it is crucial to avoid classifying religious terrorists as "an undifferentiated mass of religious fanatics." Understanding and combating these groups requires a detailed understanding of who they are and what their motivations are.
To fight terrorism, Richardson argued in favor of following ethical principles and concentrating on mobilizing people of all religious traditions in an effort to deny terrorists any effective base of support among the population.
The theme of this year's message for the World Day of Peace is taken from the letter of St. Paul to the Romans: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (12:21). A useful reminder of the positive role moral values can play in international affairs.
Shades of Islamic Fundamentalism
Interview With Religion Expert Massimo Introvigne
TURIN, Italy, NOV. 8, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Fundamentalism is by no means a monolithic phenomenon, says a leading expert on religions.
Massimo Introvigne, founder and director of the Center of Studies on New Religions, addresses the complex phenomenon of fundamentalism in the book "Fondamentalismi. I Diversi Volti dell'Intransigenza Religiosa" (Fundamentalisms: The Different Faces of Religious Intransigence), published in Italian by Piemme.
In this interview with ZENIT, Introvigne explains the different typologies of fundamentalism. Introvigne has given courses to the FBI and security experts in the Middle East. Among other works, he is the author of "New Age, Next Age," and "God Has Returned."
Q: Does an uncertain and vulnerable world kindle religious fundamentalism?
Introvigne: It all depends on the definition of fundamentalist, which is not unanimous. In my book I distinguish religious attitudes in five classifications: ultraprogressive, progressive, conservative, fundamentalist and ultrafundamentalist. The criteria to distinguish them are different and some are quite technical.
Q: Can you give me an example?
Introvigne: The attitude vis-à-vis the separation of religion and culture which began with the Enlightenment and, therefore, of the separation of religion and politics.
The progressivist accepts the separation as inevitable, and the ultraprogressivist accepts it with enthusiasm.
The fundamentalist rejects the separation in the line of principle, but is disposed to any compromise. The ultrafundamentalist is not disposed to any compromise and separates himself radically from society, trying to change it through violence.
The conservative position -- in which, quantitatively, the majority of the population in the world that declares itself religious is classified -- does not accept either the radical separation of the Enlightenment or the fundamental fusion of religion and culture.
It prefers a distinction without separation, an autonomy of culture and politics that does not prevent religion from presenting its position in this field.
For political reasons, whether it is a question of Islam or Europe, certain media label conservatives, fundamentalists and ultrafundamentalists as fundamentalists, but their positions are very different.
In the Muslim world, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a conservative, the Al Jazeera preacher Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi is a fundamentalist, and Osama bin Laden is an ultrafundamentalist. In the Christian realm, both Bush as well as Rocco Buttiglione are conservatives, but the political polemic labels them fundamentalists.
Q: What does the religious fundamentalist desire? Certainties, a return to the past, to die and be reborn?
Introvigne: Here, too, the difference between conservatives, fundamentalists and ultrafundamentalists is fundamental. I would say that none of the three wish to return to the past.
In Islam, in particular, fundamentalism is a modern form that seeks to restore the Islamic law with the political instruments of the 20th century. It is distinguished from traditionalist forms that use traditional instruments and concentrate on morality more than politics.
Q: Is the economy related to fundamentalism?
Introvigne: I am inspired by the sociological school that refers to the "religious market" or "religious economy." We use instruments and models of economics to study religion.
But this is a methodological attitude, which doesn't mean at all to reduce religion or fundamentalism to a phenomenon that has predominantly economic motivations.
Q: Is the West partly responsible for the rise of Muslim fundamentalism?
Introvigne: Yes, because for a long time it has favored nationalist and secular regimes -- let us think of the military dictatorships in the Maghreb or of Saddam Hussein himself -- which have suppressed with the same zeal conservatives, fundamentalists and ultrafundamentalists. If they are all repressed, the only ones who are able to function underground are the ultrafundamentalists.
The repression that should uproot fundamentalism in fact favors its most extreme forms.
In general the West suffers from a sort of Voltaire syndrome -- in a spasmodic manner, particularly in France -- which leads it to identify progressive and ultraprogressive Muslims who either don't exist or are generals prepared to govern only at gunpoint, or are intellectuals who serve to participate in congresses in Europe, but who don't count at all in their countries, nor among the immigrant communities.
The alternative to fundamentalism is not progressive but conservative Islam.
Q: Do you foresee the growth of Muslim fundamentalism in the immediate future?
Introvigne: I would say no. If religious communities open up, and democracy allows for normal functioning, conservative Islam will be imposed over fundamentalism, as shown in the cases of Turkey, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Q: What do you think of secular fundamentalism? Is this a new phenomenon?
Introvigne: Anti-clericalism is an old phenomenon. Anyway, the secular fundamentalisms we see in France -- as is the case of the laws against the so-called sects or against religious symbols -- or in the European Union, as occurred with the Buttiglione case -- are a reaction to the fact that religion, which according to the secularists should disappear, returns at times in new and unexpected forms.
"To Disarm Terror -- A Role for Believers"
Cardinal Kasper's Address at Milan Meeting
MILAN, Italy, SEPT. 11, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of the address Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, delivered Tuesday on the topic "To Disarm Terror: A Role for Believers." He spoke in the context of the Men and Religions meeting, organized by the Community of Sant'Egidio and the Milan Archdiocese.
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After the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Berlin Wall, there was hope for a period of peace and of peaceful and democratic development in the world. Now we know that that hope was altogether illusory. The new scourge of humanity and the new challenge posed to the whole of civilization is terrorism -- together with hunger and poverty in the world. Undoubtedly, this represents a challenge for all civilized states that will credibly characterize the whole century that has just begun.
The causes of this terrible phenomenon are complex. Needless to say, social problems also play a role. However, terrorism can never be justified based on the existing structures of injustice and the gravely unjust distribution of goods; these, in themselves, play an important role in the terrorists' attempts at justification, and are of help to terrorist groups, especially small ones, or serve at least to be tolerated by some sectors of the population.
Moreover, the debate often brings to light another problem, namely, the link between terrorism and religion. Above all, suspicions of intolerance fall on the three monotheist religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and therefore, of at least having a propensity to violence because of their exclusive faith -- in fact or so understood -- in one only God.
Being self-critical and sincere, we cannot simply deny all the examples of history that could support this thesis. In the Book that Christians call the Old Testament and Jews the Tanach, there are many texts that speak of holy wars and annihilation of the adversary. As regards the history of the Church, reference is often made to questions linked to the Crusades, the bloody persecution of heretics, and the wars of religion. Finally, Islam is reproached for defending itself with the sword and glorifying the holy war against the infidels. So the three monotheist religions have cause for a critical revision of their own history and for a "purification of the historical memory."
The three monotheist religions are also obliged to face present, known and disagreeable phenomena, such as the conflict in Northern Ireland, Israel's security policy [and] terrorist groups of Muslim leanings. But also in non-monotheist religions there are intolerant groups that are prepared to use violence, for example, in Hinduism.
Those who take a profound interest in this phenomenon know that social, economic and political motives are mixed with religious motives, and that religion often serves as an ideological cover and, consequently, is instrumentalized. But are religions opposed with sufficient clarity to this instrumentalization?
These are phenomena that cannot be denied, and it makes no sense to blame others. It is the way children fight, when they dispute over who started a quarrel and who first provoked the other.
Overcoming this infantile way of confronting one another, the question becomes fundamental. The question is: Are the phenomena described an _expression of a disorder of religion and a reprehensible abuse of the latter, or is this aspect of intolerance and of inclination to violence, which ends in the physical annihilation or violent submission of the disloyal adversary, part of the very essence of religion, especially of the monotheist religion?
An answer is possible on three levels.
The first level: All the religions mentioned can refer to central passages of their sacred texts which absolutely prohibit all types of violence and, specifically, terrorism. The Golden Rule which states that one must not do to another what one does not want done to oneself is found in different forms in all religions. The Koran also contains phrases that speak explicitly of tolerance. The Decalogue's prohibition of killing with the sole exception of direct self-defense is of great importance.
Christianity adds the commandment of love even of one's enemy and invites one to forgive. The three monotheist religions also prohibit suicide and because of this categorically exclude suicide attacks. Therefore, whoever carries out such suicide attacks should not -- according to the principles of the Koran -- be venerated as a martyr, but should be condemned as a murderer and criminal.
Second level: For the Judeo-Christian tradition, the prohibition to kill and to commit suicide is based on the very concept of God. This tradition is revolutionary because it puts before the special election of the People of God in Genesis 1-11, the general human history and that of each person who regardless of his or her ethnic, cultural, religious background or gender states that each has been created in the image of God; therefore, God places his hand on all people, because the blood of another must not be spilled.
The Bible knows only one God, but this one God is not a national idol, but universal Lord of all humanity; and the foregoing is the reason of the dignity of every man. Therefore, terrorism, as a negation of the dignity of man is at the same time an offense to God. The justification of terrorism in the name of God is the gravest abuse of the name of God and its greatest profanation. And it is very positive therefore that during the Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi all the religions present were in agreement on this declaration.
Third level: It is not enough to be in agreement only in theory; the practice should correspond to the theory. Today terrorism has become a threat for the whole of humanity; in fact, terrorists can strike anywhere. We cannot defend the dignity of man and peace only with pious words; we must also defend them with deeds. So the question is posed: What can we do against terrorism? I cannot give a complete program, but I can contribute some indications.
1. The struggle against international terrorism needs military and police interventions. If necessary, democracies must be prepared to defend freedom with force, even if this means the sacrifice of many human lives. In the struggle against terrorism, nevertheless, one cannot use that which one condemns and combats in terrorism.
That is why in the struggle against terrorism fundamental human rights cannot be annulled and the instrument of torture used, which are contrary to man's dignity. One cannot engage in a preventive war which revokes the rules of the just war which are valid only as "ultima ratio"; selective killings cannot be committed without a preceding just trial. The barbarity of terrorism cannot make us reverse in respect to the conquests of civilized humanity and cause us to drown in barbarism.
2. It is necessary to change energetically the conditions that favor the spread of terrorism and that might be considered as a legitimation; namely, social, economic and political injustice must be eliminated and there must be commitment to a more just world order, especially in the critical areas of the world.
3. Religions must wake up, and activate their own spiritual resources of resistance to terrorist violence. Such a clear and public distancing of oneself from terrorism is what many expect precisely from Islam. The profound nihilist characteristic of terrorism can only be overcome through the affirmation of the fundamental attitude of all religions, namely, profound respect.
This means both the self-critical review of one's own history as the preaching not of hatred but of tolerance, and respect for others' convictions as well as the consequent condemnation of all forms of violence. Religions must tear off the religious mask from the face of the terrorists to unmask them and show them for what they really are, namely, nihilists who reject all the values and ideals of humanity.
The clash of civilizations can be avoided only through the dialogue of cultures and religions. Dialogue puts respect for the common heritage of all religions and profound respect for the sacred first. However, dialogue in no way means syncretism and abdication of one's own identity; rather, dialogue can be undertaken only by interlocutors each of whom has his own identity, an identity that they know [and] esteem and by which they commit themselves through the arms of the spirit.
Such unity of dialogue of religions, which condemns physical conflict but is not afraid of spiritual confrontation, is the only way for peace in the world.
On Religions and World Peace
Pakistani Bishop Sees a Common Anthropology
MILAN, Italy, SEPT. 11, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of an analysis of religions and world peace offered by Bishop Anthony Lobo of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, in Pakistan. He delivered it Tuesday at the Men and Religions meeting in Milan.
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Mr. Chairman and distinguished guests, I would like to expose this topic in these phases:
1. A common anthropology (humanism) underlying all
2. The roots of violence and wars
3. Religions as the healer of violence
The theme of this international meeting is "Religions and Cultures: The Courage for a New Humanism." I think that what is called "new humanism" is rather an anthropology common to all religions. Though I will use the Bible to explain this, I am sure that the anthropology I describe, based on the Bible, will be echoed by scholars of other religions.
What is this common anthropology? In the book of Genesis, the origin of creation is described as one of compassion, gentleness, peace and harmony. A later Hebrew word to describe this is "hesed," which indicates a harmonious relationship between God and human beings, between human beings themselves, between human beings and nature (including animals) and within the human person's own being.
Violence, including war, is a parody of creation because it replaced the fourfold harmonious relationship with a fourfold alienation: human beings alienated from God, from one another, from nature -- including animals -- and alienated from one's own self.
Religions can engage in dialogue, despite their differences, because they have a common anthropology. Though I spell this out using Christian Scriptures, I believe other religious scholars will find echoes in their own scriptures of the main characteristics of the common anthropology, the basis of a new humanism, for the healing of violence in our world of wars.
1. Common anthropology
Common anthropology begins with the creation of human beings. They were made in the image and likeness of God. The one God of Christianity is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The life of God consists in the Father giving all to the Son: all his life, love, wisdom, power. The Son returns all to the Father. This mutual self-giving (self-emptying) is called the Holy Spirit (John 17:10).
Being made in God's image, the human person is, at the core and center of being, made for self-giving, which is love. Because God is essentially love (1 John 4:8) man was made for love. God made human beings male and female and blessed them and commanded them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the animals. This subduing the earth and dominion over the animals was characterized by kindness, gentleness, harmony and peace, in one French word: "douceur."
Since human beings were created before any of the religions we know existed, we can speak of an original anthropology, predating all religions. Hence I call it common anthropology. What are the characteristics of this common anthropology?
The first is truth. By this, I understand the correspondence of the human person with God. Made in God's image and likeness, the human person is true. As human beings lose their resemblance to the Divine Exemplar, they become less true.
The second characteristic of this common anthropology is equality. "Male and female he made them. He made them in his own image and likeness." Man and women are equal in dignity and their offspring, too, made in God's image and likeness, will be equal in dignity, rooted in their resemblance to their Creator.
The third characteristic is that human persons by nature are relational. Man and woman relate to one another, to God, and to others in creation. Each person has a wisdom open to the other. Each person is by essence, dialogical.
The fourth characteristic is gentleness (or love, harmony, kindness, peace) in French: "douceur." A negative word for this is "nonviolence." Man's mission to "subdue" the earth was a stewardship of caring, not a license to exploit and dominate.
2. Violence as a parody of creation
But, when Adam and Eve sinned, the whole situation changed so much that it resulted in a parody of creation. Instead of God's blessing, there was a curse on the ground. Instead of fruitfulness, the earth would bring fourth thorns and thistles.
Instead of being characterized by "douceur," "non-douceur," or violence, made its appearance. This does not mean that "douceur" completely disappeared. It was God's gift to the human being in creation and therefore our mission given with his blessing. Only now, after sin, all "douceur" is marked by violence and has to make its way along the road of violence, never outside it.
The first result of the fall of human beings came about when Truth was abandoned. Not content with resembling God, the human being wanted to be equal with God, the creature sought to compete with the Creator. Hence the human person became "false," and this would color all human thoughts, words and actions.
The second result of the fall of the human person was inequality: "Your yearning will be for your husband, and he will dominate you" (Genesis 3:16). This principle of inequality now entered the life of human beings and would extend its consequences in human relations.
The third consequence of the fall of human beings was alienation. The fourfold relational nature of human beings was replaced by fourfold alienation from self, from God, from other human beings and from nature.
Finally the chief characteristic of the human person gentleness (or "douceur") now changed to violence. There is a straight line from falsifying human nature to treating human beings unequally and from there to causing alienation from one's true nature and from alienation from others which finally necessitates attacking those others or defending oneself from attacks by resorting to violence.
3. Religion as the healer of violence
Cynics would snigger at this title. They can give many examples of wars caused by religions and even of "holy wars" (jihad), yet my topic is dialogue of religions in a world of wars. I believe this is not only possible but most necessary today.
My belief is based on experiences which prove it possible for religion to heal violence, specially in its systematic and structural form. I am not presenting you utopias but facts from recent history. These prove that on both the micro as well as macro level religion can indeed heal violence. So the dialogue of religions can heal the roots of violence and wars in our world today.
My macro example is Mahatma Gandhi. I stressed that the fall of man did not destroy the "douceur" of the human race. It weakened it, but it remains God's gift to us and our mission to proceed with it along the road marked by violence. Let us see how Mahatma Gandhi did it.
Deep down in the psyche of people of South Asia there are two characteristics stressed by two religions: nonviolence ("ahimsa") by Buddhism and fasting by Jainism. So what I called characteristics of common anthropology (based on our resemblance to the divine exemplar) were stressed by these two religions (nonviolence by Buddhism and self-sacrifice by Jainism).
Mahatma Gandhi took these deep-felt traits of the South Asian psyche and used them for political ends: to free India from colonial rule. Needless to say, all the peoples of India (which today include Pakistan and Bangladesh) despite being of different religions (Hindus and Muslims) were touched to the very depths of their beings and followed Gandhi on the road to freedom.
Gandhi used another trait of common anthropology which I call Truth. By his Satyagarha (holding fast to truth) movement, he led tens of thousands of Hindus and Muslims in peaceful protests, which resulted in victory for unarmed people, whose only weapon was the Truth that all human persons are equal and no race should colonize or rule another.
And if we think that Gandhi's success was only limited to India and had no consequence for the rest of the world, then we must remember that what he did in India was replicated all over the world, first in the dismantling of the British Empire in other parts of Asia and Africa, and then that of the Dutch, French and Portuguese empires all over the world.
Martin Luther King Jr. used Gandhi's methods to fight for civil rights and to end segregation of Afro-Americans in the U.S.A. Nelson Mandela used these methods to dismantle apartheid in South Africa. Not bad for a man called "the naked fakir of India" by Winston Churchill. His methods dismantled the structural violence of colonialism, segregation and apartheid on three continents.
Let me close this macro example with a quote from Mahatma Gandhi himself. It is said that it is difficult to end the war in Palestine because both sides are practicing the Mosaic law of retaliation: "an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth."
Gandhi once said: "If everybody practices the law of an eye for an eye, then soon the whole world will go blind." If there are wars all over the world today, it means that by and large, people have become blind. The aim of this seminar in general and my talk in particular is to try to restore sight to the blind.
I conclude with two micro level examples. A letter came to my notice from someone inside Afghanistan. It was pathetic. It asked: "For 30 years all I see in my country is war, killings, hatred and revenge. Are there no people who believe in peace, who respect life, who practice love and forgiveness?"
This letter arrived in Pakistan and a reply was sent to the writer giving the names of some Afghan refugees who went back to their country after years of contact with a group of persons (Christians and Muslims) who, despite religious differences, practiced and shared their experiences of those very things which the letter from Afghanistan cried out for: peace, life, love and forgiveness. Now that he is in touch with those people, he is very happy.
The last example is of a group of seven Muslims who regularly engage in dialogue with deeply committed Christians. I attended a meeting where they shared their experiences. Four were Afghan refugees. One said: "My wife asked me one day: What is wrong with you? You treat me very kindly of late." The reason for this was that he met regularly with Christians who practiced the spirituality of unity, love and forgiveness.
Another Afghan refugee who also attended this meeting said: "My wife said: Every week you attend some meeting. I would also like to attend these meetings with you." Yet these Afghan refugees began their sharing by saying: "We are Muslims and we believe in the Koran. But we practice the spirituality of unity, love and peace."
Finally, a third Muslim from Pakistan shared that he was always busy and did not get much time to stay at home, but he also practiced the spirituality of unity because he belonged to the group of Christians and Muslims who did the same.
One day he arrived home but soon after he had to leave for business in another city. On the way, while driving his car, his mobile (cell) phone rang. It was his wife, scolding for half an hour, for [his] not spending much time at home. When he reached his destination at night she rang again but this time to apologize for scolding him.
I end by saying that I firmly believe that if such dialogue of religions continues and spreads, both on the macro and micro levels, then all systemic and structural injustices will be eliminated, and wars in our world will cease.
Religion's Role in Human Rights
Upsurge in Activism Transforms Movements
WASHINGTON, D.C., FEB. 26, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Human-rights observers are focusing more attention on the plight of religious believers. Allied with this is an increasing activism on the part of faith-based groups to help their followers.
This phenomenon was analyzed in the recent book "Freeing God's Children: The Unlikely Alliance for Global Human Rights," by Allen Hertzke (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers). The professor of political science at the University of Oklahoma concentrates on the efforts of U.S.-based groups that focus on persecuted believers in all parts of the world.
These faith-based groups use a sophisticated array of tactics in the pursuit of their cause. Pressure is applied through legislative measures, petitions, protests, international campaigns, and stock divestment in companies that are seen to support repressive regimes.
Hertzke dates the start of this trend to the mid-1990s and links it to Christian evangelical groups that are allied with other organizations. Interest in defending religious liberty has also created alliances between groups that would not normally share common ground, uniting, for example, evangelicals, liberal Jews, Catholics, Tibetan Buddhists and even some feminists.
In the past, secular human rights groups, along with the press and the foreign policy establishment, tended to give low priority to religious persecution, Hertzke contends. This void left an opening for faith groups, and belies the arguments of those who see a growing secularization of society, he maintains.
The geographical shift of Christianity, with increasing numbers of believers in developing countries, has also played a part focusing more on religious persecution. The typical Anglican, he observes, is no longer a tea-drinking English vicar, but a young African mother. And in many developing countries there are still few guarantees of religious liberty. Allied with this is the trend to globalization, which makes it easier for Western activists to organize worldwide campaigns to defend their persecuted brethren.
Hertzke also traces some of the success of faith-based groups to the strength of religion in the United States. Over half of Americans are church members, a figure that far surpasses participation in any other form of associations, he notes. And church members are more likely to be activists and engaged in civic life, as well as receiving training in organizational skills through their faith-based activities.
One tactic used by faith groups is lobbying for laws that give government backing in pressuring countries to respect religious freedom. Hertzke gives a number of examples of such legislative action:
-- Gary Haugen, a human rights lawyer who served as a U.N. genocide investigator in Rwanda, is an evangelical Christian and founded the organization International Justice Mission. Documentation by this group, and others, prompted Congress to pass the Trafficking Victims Protection Act in 2000.
-- Charles Jacobs created the American Anti-Slavery Group, which highlighted slavery in such countries as Sudan and Mauritania. Pressure by rights groups led to the Sudan Peace Act in 2002.
-- Information from a German doctor, Norbert Vollersten, on rights abuses in North Korea was given prominence by U.S. based Christian groups, leading to the introduction of legislation in Congress in 2003.
Other recent legislative actions include the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 that established both the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and the International Religious Freedom Office in the State Department.
Hertzke admits that combining foreign policy with initiatives to ensure greater religious freedom is sometimes criticized for being unilateral, self-righteous or inconsistent. Yet, he says, "this thrust in American foreign policy uniquely reflects the nation's distinct historical legacy, which treats free religious societies as a crucial foundation for pluralist democracy."
Some reject the idea of the United States as a kind of moral paradigm, or fear that it is trying to impose its own cultural model. But Hertzke points out that some degree of leadership is inevitable given the pre-eminent economic and military power of America. He also rejects the charge that linking religious freedom to foreign policy is merely pursuing the views of religious conservatives. In fact, initiatives in this field have been backed by a wide variety of groups, including Anglicans, Buddhists, Bahais and Jews.
The professor further argues that there is a need for church groups to be involved in foreign policy, as a necessary counterweight to corporate influence. "Today, mobilization through churches constitutes the only serious challenge to the periodic hijacking of foreign policy by global business interests perfectly content to ignore the sometimes abysmal human rights record of the trading partners."
Hertzke acknowledges the "unique and formidable resources" that the Catholic Church brings to the field of defending human rights. He notes that John Paul II has used his pontificate to champion human rights, and specifically, the need for religious freedom. This interest is a constant feature of his life. As a bishop in Poland, Karol Wojtyla helped lead Church resistance to communism, and he was one of the authors of Second Vatican Council declaration on religious freedom, "Dignitatis Humanae."
One of the most prominent American Catholics involved in the fight for religious freedom is Nina Shea, director of the Center for Religious Freedom at Freedom House, in Washington, D.C. Shea, reports Hertzke, affirms that more Christians are suffering today for their faith than at any time in history.
A major concern of Shea during the 1990s was the persecution of Christians in China. Other countries such as Vietnam and Sudan have also occupied her attention in recent years. Shea has also been an example of how alliances have been forged between the churches. The Center for Religious Freedom followed the situation of Protestants, Buddhists and others, as well as Catholics. Her book, "In the Lion's Den," sold more than 50,000 copies by the end of the 1990s. It came out through a Southern Baptist publishing house and was widely promoted through interviews on evangelical radio stations.
Hertzke also highlights the growing participation of Jews in pressuring for religious freedom, and in defending Christians. Cooperation between Jewish and Christian groups goes back to the 1970s, when the two were united in defending Jews from persecution in the Soviet Union.
In recent years Jews have been prominent in helping Christians. Charles Jacobs, for example, founded the Boston-based American Anti-Slavery Group, which has been active in defending Christians in Sudan. Abe Rosenthal, former editor and columnist for the New York Times, has spoken out in defense of Christians suffering under communism and Islamic regimes. And Michael Horowitz, of the Washington-based Hudson Institute, has written and lobbied in the defense of Christians and other believers.
Other chapters detail the complicated processes involved in lobbying for legislation by Congress and relate the campaigns on such issues as Sudan. Hertzke notes that in order to understand current U.S. action on human rights issues it is first necessary to have an idea of religion's importance in American life.
He says that the years of research that went into the book have taught him that religious belief and altruism count for a lot more than is allowed for by political science scholarship, which concentrates so much on impersonal forces. The greater religious input into the political and diplomatic spheres has also been positive, remedying a tendency to overlook the importance of churches and believers, Hertzke maintains. And religion's influence on human rights looks to be a continuing factor in coming years.