Statement of the Elijah Interfaith Academy Think Tank on Sharing Wisdom
We, scholars of the Elijah Interfaith Academy Think Tank on the theme “Sharing Wisdom: The Case of Love and Forgiveness”, working from within the scholarly and religious traditions of Judaism, Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Sikhism and Islam, following a week of intensive deliberations, wish to present our findings and experiences to the members of the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders. Our experience has been one of sharing wisdom and reflection and it has made us aware of both the complexity and the profound need for responsible sharing of wisdom between our religious traditions. We offer the questions, issues and recommendations of which we have become aware to the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders with the hope that these may enrich their own discussions and possibly serve as a basis for their own recommendations and conclusions.
- The Need
We are profoundly aware of the many needs, pains and crises in the world and within our own religious traditions.
- We are aware of the violence engendered by practitioners of different religious traditions towards practitioners of other religions. We note with sadness that such violence is often the outcome of misinformation, lack of understanding of the other, demonization and dehumanization of the other.
- We are aware that our image of members of other faith traditions often lacks respect, leading to sacrilege and abuse of religious symbols of other traditions. We note that this too has become a cause of violent behavior.
- We are aware of the breakdown of family structures, societal structures and value systems. We note these breakdowns are often accompanied by a distancing from the wellsprings of the wisdom of our religious traditions.
- We are aware of problematic images of religions in the media and the public eye. We note that often the worst of our religious traditions, in particular the most violent, is featured as representative of our religious traditions in their entirety.
- We are aware of the assault of the marketplace and its globalizing tendencies on our values and lifestyles, leading to a loss of vision, purpose and value in life. We note that many of the problematic forms that our religions have taken, particularly those associated with religious extremism, are related to the power dynamics engendered by these globalizing tendencies.
- We are aware of a variety of crises that affect our own religious traditions, as spelled out in the earlier work of the Elijah Interfaith Academy Think Tank on “The Crisis of the Holy”. We note that none of our traditions is exempt from crisis, and that our crises are interrelated, tying the fates of all religions to global wellbeing.
- The Response – A Turning to Wisdom
We wish to express our recognition that there are no facile solutions to the ills of the world. At the same time, we, the teachers of the wisdom of religious traditions, must do all we can to alleviate present suffering and to contribute to a solution of those problems that we can address.
- We wish to state our recognition that in the world’s present state, all traditions have become interdependent, and must therefore face the challenges of the world in a collaborative manner.
- We wish to affirm our belief that within our traditions are resources of wisdom that can speak to the ills of society and the ills of religion.
- We wish to call upon all our religions to offer their finest teachings as resources to guide humanity to safe harbor, and to identify the teachings they can jointly offer a suffering humanity.
- We wish to further call upon practitioners of all religions to become aware of the life wisdom and spiritual wisdom of all religious traditions, as a means of obtaining a truer understanding of other religions, in the service of peaceful living.
- We invite thinkers and religious leaders to explore the possibility of addressing their own internal crises in light of the experiences and accumulated wisdom of other religious traditions.
- Taking Care – Sharing Wisdom Responsibly
While we recognize the need of the hour points to opening towards the other, rather than to isolation, leading to violence and enmity, we call attention to the following considerations that are the basis of respectful learning and sharing between people, as individuals and as representatives of religious traditions.
- Sharing Wisdom should never lead to the violation of the integrity of religious identity. Sharing wisdom is not a means of influencing others to change or abandon their religious identity, but rather an invitation to deepen it and become more faithful to it.
- Sharing Wisdom should be done in a way that is mindful of power relations and considerations stemming from differences in wealth distribution. It should not become a form of manipulation or coercion, whether personal or cultural.
- Sharing Wisdom has a broad universal mandate, almost a human right, grounded in the dignity of the human being, as understood diversely by our religious traditions. It is closely related to the right of religious freedom. As a spiritual process, it should be broadly open, beyond considerations of gender, caste and other forms of limitation.
- Sharing Wisdom should respect the integrity of religious teachings. It should not lead to the cheapening of teaching, nor to the loss of authenticity. Consequently, care must be taken to be mindful and respectful of broader theological structures, within which wisdom is couched, and to the internal processes, commitments and conditions that are necessary for successful realization of the age old wisdom of religious traditions.
- Sharing Wisdom should be accompanied by careful consideration of what forms of wisdom are most suitable to broad sharing with others and what forms require greater care and protection, in an effort to preserve their value and integrity.
- Our Hope
It is our faith that the ills of the world and the ills of our religions may be addressed through an attitude of openness to sharing and learning from one another. In an increasingly interdependent world we are called to share our wisdom, to offer it to others, and to listen to what they in turn have to offer. It is our sincere hope and prayer that such sharing, carried out in the right spirit, will make our traditions better vehicles to achieve their designated purpose and will make the world a better and more peaceful place in which our religions and humanity can flourish.