A Buddhist monk meditates during a moment of silence near the finish line of the Boston Marathon bombings on the one-week anniversary of the bombings on April 22.
Photograph by: Kevork Djansezian , Getty Images, files
EDMONTON – Violence in the name of religion — where does it come from? Not from the teachings of the religions themselves.
In the wake of the tragic events in Boston, the Edmonton Interfaith Centre for Education and Action wants to affirm the inherent value of all human beings, and to condemn the perpetration of violence in the name of religion. As directors and staff of the centre, we state emphatically that no religion promotes violence of any kind. The terrorist acts and threats of the past weeks are not condoned by any religions.
Those who indulge in terrorism are acting according to their own misguided personal ideologies and misinterpretations, and for their own agendas.
Edmonton Interfaith Centre membership includes more than a dozen different faith traditions, and many denominations within those faiths, including Baha’is, Christians, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Zoroastrians, Jains, Unitarians, Buddhists, Swedenborgians and followers of Eckankar.
The centre, established in 1995, is dedicated to building understanding and respect for the diverse religious traditions that make up the fabric of life in Edmonton.
Religious or cultural profiling is not helpful. No one would think of blaming the designers and manufacturers of a particular type of car when the actions of a distracted or drunk driver of that vehicle caused the deaths of innocent people.
Nor should any religious tradition be judged because of those who misuse religion as an excuse to act in violence.
Religions teach us that violence is not the answer — to anything. We share words like salaam, shalom, shanti, pax — all of which mean peace. This unites us all as diverse parts of a single humanity, each of us created in the image, or containing an aspect of the divine.
Traditions like the Golden Rule — “Love your neighbour as yourself” — express our reciprocal responsibility for each other, as taught in all of our traditions. It is a perversion of our traditions and all that they contain when they are used as excuses for violence.
Reflecting on the Boston tragedy, and the threats indicated by the arrests of suspected terrorists in Toronto and Montreal, what can we, as a diverse and caring community, do?
How can we overcome stereotypes and suspicion? How can we counteract the fear that is raised by these events and accentuated in media coverage?
We suggest the following:
1. Learn more: explore your own faith tradition more thoroughly to see what is (and is not) an authentic expression of that spiritual path.
2. Get to know our neighbours, participate with them in the projects (such as the Interfaith Habitat for Humanity Build) that celebrate the human spirit and our compassion and caring for others.
3. Work with our young people to ensure that their natural spiritual hunger is met with authentic and meaningful moral purpose and sense of values.
4. Pray: In community and at a personal level. Pray for wholeness and peace, for the victims of intentional violence wherever it occurs, and for the courage to live as our best selves in whichever tradition we are found.
Meanwhile, those of us at the Interfaith Centre will continue to plan future events to build interfaith understandings, to explore topics such as the radicalization of alienated youth and responses to terrorism, and to acknowledge the rich diversity of faith, caring and compassion that is to be found in Edmonton and area.
As an organization, we remain committed to understanding and celebrating our unique faith perspectives, and to share our best practices with communities around the world. We will continue to plant seeds of hope and positive pro-activity through education and events of a multi-faith nature.
For more information, go to edminterfaith.ca or call 780-413-6159.
Interfaith Centre board and staff: Jagjeet Bhardwaj, Rev. Audrey Brooks, Avau Fast, Rev. David Fekete, Karen Gall, Len Gierach, Dr. Julien Hammond, Rev. Dr. Rob Hankinson, Rabbi Carmit Harari, Shervin Hemmati, Pat Holt, Dr. David Hubert, Dr. Zohra Husaini, Shiraz Kanji, Nasim Kherani, Rabbi David Kunin, Rev. Dr. Don Mayne, Jas Panesar, Netta Phillet, Kathie Reith, Guruma Bodhi Sakyadhita and Rev. Rick Van Manen