Global Solutions: Call for Peace among the Religions

David Oughton, Professor of Theological Studies at St. Louis University and Board Member of Global Solutions’ St. Louis Chapter, spoke on the responsibility of world religions to take an active role in building a firm foundation for world peace and in promoting the ideals of a global community.

In my final year of high school, I delivered a speech called “The Rusted Rule.” I argued against the opinion that religion was inherently misogynistic, a justifier for war and a prop of regimes. I maintained that the Golden Rule of empathy, albeit rusted by the iniquities of religious extremism, still united world religions in a creed to abolish war and global injustice. I ended with an exhortation to repair the damage caused by all that is wrong with religion and to uphold all that is right with it.

Of course I was delighted to find at the recent Raise Your Global Voice Conference the means to bring to life the vision of peace through interreligious dialogue.

David Oughton, Professor of Theological Studies at St. Louis University and Board Member of Global Solutions’ St. Louis Chapter, spoke on the responsibility of world religions to take an active role in building a firm foundation for world peace and in promoting the ideals of a global community. He argued that the diverse faiths, in addition to articulating mildly different iterations of a common Golden Rule, share six commandments including “thou shalt not kill” and “help the helpless.” These laid the groundwork for the articulation of a Global Ethic, a universal call to action on the basis of collective religious principle, at the Parliament for World Religions in 1993.

Oughton suggested that all the world’s religions join the struggle for peace through interreligious dialogue, a necessity in accordance with Hans Kung’s statement that there can be “no peace among nations without peace among the religions.

The importance of religion in both initiating and resolving global conflict cannot be underestimated.

Fault lines in the different denominations of Islam have driven civil and international violence for years in the Middle East, including the conflict in Syria and the threat of ISIS in Iraq. From the Crusades to the European Wars of Religion to the sectarian violence currently devastating the Central African Republic, religion has been bound to bloodshed.

But there are many examples of religion being a force for peace building. Pope Francis attempted to broker a peace between Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas through an invitation to prayer this past Spring; the House of One to be built in Germany will include a Synagogue, a Church, and a Mosque. In the Nigerian city of Jos, some citizens–Muslim and Christian–patrolled the streets in squads after militia bombings to provide safety to pedestrians and to prevent sectarian violence.

Yes, extremist religion has helped to fuel oppression and the subjugation of human rights from the Spanish Inquisition to restrictions on reproductive rights to the trial of Meriam Ibrahim.

Yet from the Qur’an’s insistence that there is “no compulsion in religion” to Liberation Theology’s championing of the oppressed poor to the March of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel at the side of the Reverend King, religion has and can continue to be a global voice raised in support of human dignities and freedoms.

Both religion and humanity must mend their lapse in ensuring peace and human rights worldwide. A beginning step would be the congregation of another World Parliament of Religions in 2017 to be hosted by the United States. For 20 years America has not hosted a summit where religious leaders and policymakers dedicated to the Global Ethic may engage in interreligious dialogue and strategize new interventions for the common good. The United States, whose Chicago Parliaments were wonderful breeding grounds for progressive religious thought, must seek to provide such an arena for the representatives of all religions to pave the way to global peace and understanding.

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