Marcus Braybrooke sent this report of our meeting in Eastbourne on 17 May 2016
Faiths together for a better world.
Eastbourne May 17 2016
Faiths Together for a Better World was the optimistic theme for a crowded meeting at Eastbourne to mark the 80th anniversary of the founding of the World Congress of Faiths by Sir Francis Younghusband, an explorer and mystic.
None of the speakers had any illusions about the dangerous world situation today, where violence is often fuelled by religious hatred. As Rabbi Jackie Tabick, Joint-President of the World Congress of Faiths said, ‘In this so small world of ours, hatred between religious groups keeps erupting: Buddhist monks attacking Muslims in Myanmar; Christians, Yazidis and unrecognised Muslim groups slaughtered by the members of ISIS; the unfortunately seemingly never ending strife between Israelis and the Palestinians and the growth in Europe of Islamaphobia with the influx of the migrants and refugees from so many war torn countries'.
She also warned of the dangers of rising anti-semitism. ‘As a Jew, I am so concerned with the growth of anti-semitism, which is the hatred of Jews, and anti-Zionism, which aims to destroy the state of Israel, and legitimate criticism of the acts of the government of Israel.’
Rev Dr Marcus Braybrooke, also a Joint-President of the World Congress of Faiths, pointed out that the situation in 1936 was also grim. ‘Anti-Semitism in Nazi Germany was becoming ever more deadly; in March, Hitler marched troops into the Rhineland. In May 1936, Mussolini captured the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa and the authority of the League of Nations, which did nothing, was fatally undermined.’ The Congress, he continued was not and never has been an academic or spiritual gathering for the elite, but an attempt to bring together people of all faiths to work for peace and for a better world. That is still its agenda. Even during the war, leaders of WCF and others, issued a ‘Three Faiths Declaration’, - incorporated by reference in the UN Charter, which described the new world order they hoped for when the war ended . We need something of that vision today - of a world where no one goes hungry, of a world where no one’s life is cut short by bombs or massacres, of a world where the beauty of nature is treasured. A world which puts into practice the Golden Rule, - found in all religion - that we should do to others what we would like them to do to us.
Sheik Dr Ramzy of the Muslim Council emphasised that the Qur’an teaches respect for people of other faiths. God says in the Quran, ‘O human race, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the most noble of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you. Indeed, Almighty God is Knowing and Aware.’ God clearly says in another verse.
‘If God desired to enforced His will, He would have made you all one nation,
but He wishes to test you by what He has given you.’ Sheik Ramzy also pointed out that when the Prophet Muhammad entered Medina he insisted that all the wealth, property and lives of the people who lived there should live together in peace and build a good life and help each other. They were to regard each others’ different traditions and religions as sacred.
Hinduism too, as Vijay Mehta said, sees ‘The world as one family.’ Hinduism teaches that the root causes of violence is lack of inner peace.
Despite the gravity of the situation today, all the speakers had a message of hope. Rabbi Jackie Tabick said, ‘The World Congress seeks to bridge the almost unbridgeable, to make bonds of friendship based on knowledge and understanding, to celebrate the differences between different religions and at the same time, affirm that there are differences of flavour, of culture, that we must affirm and support in each of the faith groups represented at our gatherings. We are not seeking to unite all religions, but to bring together those who are adherents of their own faiths who wish to learn from others in a non judgmental and supportive fashion and so hopefully, end the destructive enmity that has and does so tragically dog the relationships between people of faith'.
Marcus Braybrooke said ‘The good news is that increasingly people of faith at a national and international level are trying to make this vision a reality. At last year’s Parliament of the World Religions in Salt Lake City, the emphasis was on what people of faith can do together to redress the dangers of Climate Change, the Widening Wealth Gap, the spread of Hate Speech, Violence, War and the continuing oppression of women, as well as engaging young people in this task.
Sheik Ramzy said 'I tell you, there would be no need for nuclear bombs, weapons of mass destruction, arms and armies.
We would not need to invest any more to produce killing machines to kill ourselves.
Dear friends, instead the billions and billions of dollars, pounds, euros which are invested every year to kill each other, it could be spent in investing on health for all, education all, for food for all, safety for all and more. With this money we could cure any type of disease, cancer, Malaria, Ebola, Aids etc. We could stop the global warming and repair the Ozone layer. With this type of money, we could clean all the rivers and the seas of toxic poisons. We could spend it to clear the air of pollution. We could rectify the toxic soil that we cultivate. We could look for a good solution to get rid of the billions of tons of waste that we produce as result of our greed. Dear brothers and sisters imagine if we were united in faith in God and in brotherhood, we could make the world not only a better place that all human race to live together in peace, but make it ideal living place for this generation and generations to come.
Dear friends you can clearly see the result of being together in peace.
Now the question is, how we can get together and stay in peace and build?
Are we be able to do this? I say yes, we have seen it done before but on a smaller scale'.
VijayMehta said ‘Interfaith meetings like today and around the world increase understanding and cooperation with other faiths for social justice and the common good of the humanity. On a positive note, religions of the world have been sources of major social, economic, political changes and advancement. The concept of nonviolence, enhanced capacity for empathy, tolerance, forgiveness and compassion has its roots in religions of the world such as respect of other faiths. Religion is an instrument which refines one's mind, for inner development for building a peaceful society. Throughout ages faiths have been the very bases of our understanding. The very origins of nonviolence is brought to us by religion, not to hurt any creature, even the humblest as we are all interconnected.