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On Saturday, November 19th, 2022, the 14th National Interfaith Conference was held in Galway, Ireland. Here is the talk given by Sunny Jacob SJ, (Educate Magis), representing the Catholic Church on ‘How can the belief in God influence humanity & bring about universal peace?’.

 

‘How can the belief in God influence humanity & bring about universal peace?’

 

Respected Deputy Mayor Cllr Mike Cubbard, Dr. Shahzad Malik, Dr. Rizwan Ahmad, Mr. Adrian, Eamon O’ Cui’v, Fianna, Reverend Alistair Doyle, Imam Ibrahim Noonan, Dr. M Anwar Malik, organisers, and all who are here for this important meeting.

In one of the sessions, I asked the group of young men and women; Do we live in a peaceful world? And their answer to that, immediately, was “No, it’s not a peaceful world.” My next question was, why isn’t it peaceful? We all know about the threat of war and the worries around that, but what is it that causes the lack of peace in our world? Is it about money? Or is it about oil? Or is it about terrorists and safety? What is it that takes peace out of our world so easily?

The answer was fear. There’s a great deal of fear going around. We’re used to it, maybe too easily, after 9/11. Fear of what might happen in our own homeland. Even before that – fear of people different from us, fear of people of other cultures, fear of other nations. Fear, fear, fear. That’s at the root of it all.

What does a world bent on peace look like? First of all, it’s a world where we recognize our blessings. Secondly, it would be a world where we recognize our common humanity with all the other sons and daughters and children of God, and we’d ask the question, How can we share with one another, and care for one another?

Medieval history is witness to ghastly accounts of religious wars that lasted for three centuries. Wars today are not confined only to army personnel who personally and directly are engaged in military campaigns. The injurious effects of wars now extend to entire civilian populations as well.

Man has treated war as if it were something external to his inner psychological nature. In fact, man’s psyche plays an important role in the wars which are fought externally but begin in the human mind. Aldous Huxley, in his celebrated book “Ends and Means”, prophesied, “If we want to get rid of hatred, violence, and war, we must get rid first of all of its psychological causes.” Jiddhu Krishnamurti, a great thinker, and sage of our time, said that war is merely an outward expression of the inward state, an enlargement of our daily actions. There are psychological factors which are inherent causes of war such as fear, hatred, envy, insecurity, collective ego, competitive spirit, craze for supremacy over others, primitive tribal and racial arrogance, and religious fanaticism. Spiritual therapy is the only way to root out the seeds of war from the minds of people.

Spirituality and Religiosity must be committed to leading the world to peace. We need to find effective multi-religious responses to conflicts and wars. We believe ambitious goals and complex problems can best be tackled when different faith communities work together.

The Document in 2019, Pope Francis and The Grand Imam of Al-Azhar together affirmed that ‘Faith leads a believer to see in the other a brother or sister to be supported and loved. Through faith in God, who has created the universe, creatures and all human beings (equal on account of his mercy), believers are called to express this human fraternity by safeguarding creation and the entire universe and supporting all persons, especially the poorest and those most in need.’

What helps towards building a lasting peace? In his 1 January 2022 message, Pope Francis identifies three ways to nurture peace: education, employment, and dialogue between religions.

Coming to Religion and Peace building, transforming violent conflicts requires first replacing cultural violence with cultural peace by tapping into religious, cultural, and national symbols, values, myths, and images that promote reconciliation, coexistence, and peace.

Peacebuilding is a complex and dynamic process of changing relationships, perceptions, attitudes, behaviours, interests, and underlying structures that encourage and perpetuate violent conflicts. Building trust requires clarifying misunderstandings, removing negative perceptions and stereotypes, and transforming enemy images. No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness…Peace is essential for development, but true peace is made possible only through forgiveness.

Today, more than ever before, life must be characterized by a sense of Universal responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life. We can never obtain peace in the world if we neglect the inner world and don’t make peace with ourselves. World peace must develop out of inner peace.” ~ Dalai Lama

We, leaders of religious institutions, bodies and faiths (Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism, Islam and others must work for peace in the world….that is the urgent need of the world today. While we differ on many aspects of our respective contexts, we are nevertheless able to come together as people of faith, and to pray together for those experiencing unimaginable suffering.

No peacebuilding effort is without challenges. Addressing conflicts where religious precepts, texts, or doctrines are used to justify violence requires us to rethink our approaches to peace building and conflict resolution. It requires us to develop intervention strategies that emphasize religious sources of tolerance, compassion, and cooperation, and empower religious leaders as agents of peace.

It reminds me of the story, I’m sure you’ve all heard it, about the man who is given a choice between Heaven and Hell, and he says, “Well, I want to look each place over. I’ve heard a lot, but I don’t want to make a mistake about something like this.” First, he’s invited to go to Hell, and he sees a wonderful banquet room and wonderful food and everyone around a wonderful table, and he says, “This isn’t bad,” until he notices the utensils. The forks and the spoons are four feet long, and everyone sits looking at the food, starving to death. And that’s Hell. So, then they give him the view of Heaven. He walks in – same banquet room! Same food! Same courses – delightful! And he looks down at the utensils – they’re four feet long. But the people in heaven have learned to feed one another – have learned to care and share. And I think a world bent on peace would be a world where we would all learn to care and to share, and care for one another takes away fear. In fact, the Bible says perfect love casts out fear, which is at the root of the terror and war in our world.

Let us all work for Peace! That is our mission today!! Thank you!

Speakers of the 14th Interfaith Conference, Galway

Fr. Sunny Jacob addressing the Conference