Only a quarter century ago there was a startling moment when peoples of the world thought the time might have arrived for an end to international conflict and war. The symbolic action of breaking down a wall that had, for decades, separated two hostile superpowers capable of destroying the whole earth expressed the possibility that a new era of peace could be achieved not only globally and between nations, but also be so contagious that hate and violence would subside between persons and peoples.
That moment of hope, however, quickly passed. Individuals, communities, nations, and cultures–and, yes, religions–resumed their patterns and practices of hate, in speech and action, they reverted to customs of dehumanization, they resorted again to violence and conflict and ramped up acts of terror, they returned to war and violence as a way of resolving differences and achieving domination over others.
In 2015 there are just under fifty armed conflicts occurring around the globe, innumerable hate crimes in both developed and developing nations, the use of terrorism to achieve short and long-term objectives, new technologies to inflict damage and death, violence in both urban and rural communities, record numbers of instances of domestic and gender and sexual violence across national boundaries, and hate speech against members of ethnic, cultural, and religious communities.
A defensible case can be made that violent conflict is less prevalent now than other times in human history. What seems unarguable is that whatever the era, hate and violence, terrorism and war are woven into humanity’s garments and that religion, as essential dimension of humanness, is a significant part of the warp and woof of those bloodstained garments.
Still, there is another essential dimension of humanity that is significantly shaped by religious values: the side of the human species and its religions that expresses compassion and care not only for one’s own but for those who are the other, the alien, the stranger; that seeks reconciliation and works for justice and peace among those who would otherwise be foes, that fosters cooperation and altruism across traditional boundaries; that counsels the search for mutual understanding and provides instruction in the disciplines of non-violence. These, too, are deeply embedded in sacred texts and teachings, the traditions and literature, the institutions and practices of faith communities.
Like humanity itself, the religions of humans are complex and can therefore be seen as ambiguous. In that complexity and ambiguity, however, there have been exemplary people of particular faiths who have resisted the temptation either to embrace hate, violence, and war or to be muddled in their commitments and silent and immobile in the face of hostility and conflict. Instead, these exemplary persons of faith and conscience have chosen to align themselves with those elements of their religious tradition that affirm all-embracing love, compassion, and care, that affirm the priority of reconciliation, mutuality, and peacemaking, that affirm the disciplines of non-violence to achieve justice and vital, creative, and inclusive communities of human flourishing across the globe.
This finds expression also in the modern interfaith movement, particularly in the declarations of Toward a Global Ethnic from the 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions, and in the actions of religious groups joining together in regional, national, and global efforts to end particular conflicts and wars. These concerted endeavors have been even more effective when they have engaged guiding institutions of societies and nations.
We call on participants in this 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions to recommit themselves to those exemplary elements of their own tradition that stand against hate and the rhetoric of hate, against violence and terrorism, against conflict and war.
We further call on participants to encourage and support the practices of justice-seeking and peacemaking, the disciplines of non-violent protest against injustice and war, and the active engagement in both religious and civic organizations and movements that will be transformative in the cause of justice and peace.
More than that, we call on participants in this 2015 Parliament of the World’s Religions to recognize and act upon the promise and power of the interfaith, inter-religious, and inter-cultural movements of our own era, especially when these movements address, engage, and activate the guiding institutions of societies and nations to be partners in ending hate and violence, terrorism and war, and when they advance reconciliation and peace. By active involvement in these movements, we give witness to the local and global reality of a new kind of human solidarity and provide a vitally needed agency, both locally and globally, for reclaiming the life-giving heart of our shared humanity.
SIGN THE 2015 PARLIAMENT OF THE WORLD'S RELIGIONS DECLARATION ON HATE AND HATE SPEECH, VIOLENCE, AND WAR HERE
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