ISSUES OF FAITH: To coexist, see ‘only the good in all religions’

THE TALMUD TEACHES that the righteous of all nations have a share in the world to come.

One of the things which drew me to Judaism was its respect and acceptance of all faiths as valid ways to find one’s spiritual path.

Judaism has never claimed to have the only way to spiritual peace and connection with God. Jews have no problem looking to religious leaders like Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Rumi and Pope Francis for guidance and wisdom.

We can follow our own traditions and still accept that others have much to teach. As Mohammed Naguib, Egypt’s first president, said: “Religion is a candle inside a multicolored lantern. Everyone looks through a particular color, but the candle is always there.”

In our increasingly divisive society, religious communities can provide a way to bring people together rather than feeding into the anger at “the other.”

Those of all faiths must seek opportunities to reach past political rhetoric and take the lead in focusing on what they have in common rather than their differences.

This cannot happen while calling other faiths “false religions” or dismissing their beliefs. When we insist only our faith has the right way, we encourage the very thing that is tearing our country apart.

As the Dalai Lama teaches, “People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.”

While dogma and ritual can separate us, every faith has at its core compassion, love, kindness and taking care of the most vulnerable and less fortunate. Every religion has a version of the Golden Rule, all seek a way to find a oneness with the divine and a connectedness to the majesty of the universe. All spiritual paths have rules decrying murder, lies, theft and envy, and seek peace in the world.

One of my favorite bumper stickers says “COEXIST,” with the letters made up of the symbols of many different faiths.

I know that, no matter their faith, the person in that car would be someone with whom I would be able to work in bettering our world.

Coexisting does not mean giving up one’s own beliefs or traditions but rather shows respect for another’s humanity and faith.

At times, it feels overwhelming to know where to start in healing our world. The best way is to first become involved in one’s own community and work outward from there.

Fortunately, the Interfaith Community of Clallam County, formed over a year ago, is already actively working toward bringing interfaith cooperation to our area.

We’ve sponsored events like the Interfaith Amigos, a class on interfaith leadership, spiritual book reads, made public statements against violence and injustice, and participated in social justice projects.

There are regular listening circles where people of all faiths gather to discuss important, sometimes difficult topics, listening to each other with honor and respect.

Interfaith communities adhere to the philosophy of religious pluralism, which holds that one’s religion is not the sole and exclusive source of truth, recognizing that some level of truth and value exists in other faiths.

This interfaith movement is growing as people realize the importance of working together to address the problems of violence and strife in our world.

For example, in 2015, over 10,000 people from 80 nations and 50 faiths met in Salt Lake City for a four-day conference, and the next one will be in Toronto in November of 2018.

Everyone finds spiritual peace in their own way, but we must beware of isolating ourselves within our own dogma.

“When faith is completely replaced by creed, worship by discipline … when religion speaks only in the name of authority rather than with the voice of compassion, its message becomes meaningless” (Abraham Joshua Heschel).

Imagine how much good we could bring to our world if we joined hands with those of other faiths, with no feelings of moral superiority or wish to convert, and put into action our common goals of compassion and love.

“Like the bee gathering honey from different flowers, the wise person accepts the essence of the different scriptures, and sees only the good in all religions” (Gandhi).

Kein yehi ratzon … May it be God’s will. Shalom.

_________

Issues of Faith is a rotating column by five religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. Suzanne DeBey is a lay leader of the Port Angeles Jewish community.

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