Many Religions but only One World: A New Beginning

We live in a precarious, fragile world that increasingly requires our heart felt attention and commitment for change. A change that will rescue us from the grip of unsustainable, economic development and a change that will free us from the certainty of climatic disasters. Up to now we have almost blindly marched forward into material prosperity believing that it would bring us the rewards of happiness and a fulfilled life. But the reality has turned out to be quite different. Record levels of suicide, increased mental health issues, an unceasing tide of violence, the rise of obesity, drug and alcohol abuse on an unprecedented scale indicate a population that is uneasy with itself. Displaced and lost from our ‘ true path ‘ we have allowed too many politicians to convince us that a few government ‘ initiatives, ‘ a few ‘ pilot projects ‘ will get to the heart of these matters. The one small size fits all ‘solution’ to complex and deep-seated problems is a short-sighted, politically expedient move that fail to address the full implications of the problems we face. Politicians are failing us and it’s time to recognize this. It’s time to acknowledge that sincerity, dignity and integrity are qualities sorely missing in many of our elected officials. It’s time to express our concern over their preoccupation with media presentation, spin and the courting of electoral opportunities rather than actually making fundamental, deep-seated changes to secure a better future for us all. A change in direction is desperately required but the political machinery is just not geared up to deliver this change. The main focus seems to be concentrated on the safeguarding of narrow interests ( often presented as the public interest ) and this could account for the diminishing voting pattern over recent years which could dip to under fifty per cent at the next election. People are needing new directions that will secure a more sustainable future for this and the coming generation and in order to follow through on these we need to take a global perspective. Climate change and world poverty are just two issues that need to be addressed in a collective way. We simply cannot go on thinking solely in terms of narrow ‘ national interests ‘ that have to be maintained at all costs. This form of tribalism has now become outdated and needs to be replaced by a broader world view. We all share the same planet and its natural resources must now start to be distributed on a much more equitable, sustainable basis if we are to avoid the blight of poverty that plagues much of the poorer regions of the world. Co-operation must replace competition, sharing must replace stockpiling if we are to come together as one human family.

INTER FAITH CHALLENGES

“All major religious traditions carry basically the same message – that is love, compassion and forgiveness.”

Dalai Lama

All the world religions, at their core, share common values and to these we must return. Too often we are made aware of religious divisions and doctrinal differences that can cause problematic concerns – spiritual fragmentation. But we must all look beyond this to the shared and uniting ideals that lie underneath the disagreements. Religious leaders ( unlike many politicians ) still command respect and reverence in our ever changing world and it is now, more than ever, that we need to hear their collective voice speaking of unity. We need to hear and consider well their messages of hope and faith in a common humanity. To divert from this and continue to seek out self-serving, economic prosperity will, eventually, destroy this beautiful planet of ours. This is our opportunity, our mission, our vision to unite behind humanitarian ideals to make our world a better place to live for everyone. In the Book of Proverbs it states that: “ A people without a vision perish. “ and undoubtedly we will unless we pay attention to the message…..
Within our mainstream media culture too many news items are often discussed in terms of financial and economic importance with the ethical and moral side often relegated – confined to the ‘ back seat ‘ with minimal exposure. Yet it is here that religious leaders of all faiths could be given the respect and dignity of their office and allowed to share their views. Even when serious, debate surfaces in national life religious leaders are often marginalized, pushed to the sidelines in the hope that no one will pay attention. The idea that politicians are the true representatives of our society, our voices, has gained such a stronghold that it is barely challenged these days. But they are only part of a wider collective concern that embraces all valued members of our community. Politicians cannot continue to independently and unilaterally operate in spheres of power that exclude so many alternative, significant contributors who understand that collaboration and not confrontation is the road to unification.

ONE INTERCONNECTED HUMAN FAMILY

We simply cannot keep on pursuing increased economic growth at the cost of spiritual wellbeing. We live within a global human family that is interconnected in fundamental and profound ways so we must respect and honour this. We must make certain that all members of this family are treated fairly and justly in the spirit of unification. The growth of the modern, national state has brought about a myopic view that only serves narrow interests at the cost of many. What is a national state anyway but just an artificially contrived series of borders and boundaries that designate a piece of land? This political acceptance and demarcation of ‘ segregated tribalism ‘ then creates a ‘ them ‘ and ‘ us ‘ perspective on the world and once this exercise is complete we become territorial and define ourselves too narrowly and restrictively within its remit. We become exclusive and not inclusive which allows too many people to suffer the pain of poverty and treatable disease. Many sceptics will challenge this position, believing that corporate and national economic interests must reign supreme in a world of international marketing, trading and finance. But it is these very forces which are destroying so many craft intensive, localized communities that have looked after the real needs of people for centuries.
Yet I’m not pessimistic. Instinctively I believe we can all aspire to noble and honourable ideals. I believe we can startle ourselves with inspiring visions of a better world. I believe we can all recognize there is a spiritual imperative in place that speaks of compassion and love. I believe we can create a fairer world that cares for everyone. But we do live in rapidly changing and challenging times so we need to fix our priorities. We need to ask ourselves, at the deepest level: Do we continue on the course of unsustainable development that serves a minority of the human race or do we change our ways and implement humanitarian policies of inclusion that embrace the entire human family? If we take the latter course we need to start listening.

LISTENING

“ To learn through listening, practice it naively and actively. Naively means that you listen openly, ready to learn something, as opposed to listening defensively, ready to rebut. Listening actively means you acknowledge what you heard and act accordingly. “

Betsy Sanders

Politicians need to start listening. We all need to start listening – listening to respected religious leaders who speak of compassion and unity. Listening to the poor and disadvantaged whose voices are constantly ignored. Listening to the planet which is crying out for healing. Each of us must engage at a deeper level of listening ( like we have never undertaken before ) so that we may open up to the reality of our existence – a sacred yet fragile life that encompasses every human soul. We live on a magnificent, self-sustaining, self-nourishing, beautiful planet and we must protect its integrity by cultivating shared common goals that will enable us all to live caringly and cooperatively with it. At this stage of the world’s development to do otherwise would be a betrayal, a lost opportunity that we could all regret in the long term and we must never allow this to happen.


“ Dangerous consequences will follow when politicians and rulers forget moral principles. Whether we believe in God or karma, ethics is the foundation of every religion.”

Dalai Lama