January 15, 2013
By TIO Staff
The Interfaith Observer
The Elijah Interfaith Institute is a multinational organization dedicated to fostering peace among the world’s diverse faith communities through interfaith dialogue, education, research, and dissemination. Its unique programming generates interfaith dialogue at the highest levels, bringing together world religious leaders and renowned scholars the world over through research projects, public conferences, and community-based initiatives. Its abiding commitment to harmony in the holy land finds many expressions, including Hope Booklet published in support of hundreds of peacebuilding activities around the world last month.
The preface to Hope Booklet is a joint statement by the Elijah Board of World Religious Leaders about the principle of hope found in religious traditions.
Hope – the Principle Religions Share
What can the great religions agree upon? Is there a common message that they can give to humanity? The following reflections and prayers, representing six major religious traditions, share one key theme as a common denominator of all religions – Hope.
Hope is required because the potential for despair and lack of meaning is an intrinsic feature of life. We require teaching, vision, and a good dose of optimism to orient our lives toward higher purpose, to guide us through the challenges and difficulties of life, and to protect us from the many evils that humans are capable of enacting.
Our traditions share an optimistic view of life. Life has purpose. The human person can live in a way that is noble, elevating, and that allows him or her to rise above the despair that the daily encounter with the outward appearance of ‘reality’ can generate. One can find meaning and hope through deeper understanding and a teaching of proper living.
Our religions have different ways of accounting for why we must retain hope. For some, it is grounded in narrative – the narrative of a messianic end in which good and God will triumph (Judaism, Christianity). For some it is grounded in the very reality of God and His guidance and care (Islam, Sikhism). Still for others, it is grounded in the proper understanding of reality and our ability to live our life in light of such understanding (Hinduism, Buddhism).
While the specific visions of hope change from one tradition to another, the principle of hope is constant.
What is equally constant is the recognition that we must take charge of our lives and live them according to the highest ideals in order for hope to be maintained. The key to hope is thus in our hands. Even as we rely on providence and God’s plans for the present and the future, our ultimate happiness stands in direct proportion to the lives we lead and the values we practice.
The attached brief reflections on hope and the accompanying prayers suggest profound commonalities, even between religions that have very different understandings of reality. We point to the following as lessons that are common to our traditions which are prerequisites for hope:
A. We must remember we are not alone. For most traditions this is a recollection of God. But it is also a recollection of our fellow human beings and of all creation. The insight that we are all interconnected, part of a larger being or vision or plan, is a fundamental insight that our religions share. That is a source of hope.
B. Greed and selfishness are the great vices, detaching us from the vision of wholeness. Their fruit is isolation and despair. We suffer from these today as great illnesses of our society.
C. Hatred and intolerance will increase our isolation, causing us to lose sight of the All.
D. The great positive commandment is to love or have compassion. Practicing it is a source of joy, meaning, and hope.
Today’s humanity needs hope as much and even more so than previous eras. Rapid changes in lifestyle lead to destabilization and require us to discover new balances and to retrieve sources of meaning. In the spirit of an interconnected world, religions need to offer their deepest wisdom for the well being of all of humanity. Specific moments of concern about the stability and continued existence of our planet are moments to recall that while all life is transitory, its transitory nature must be appreciated from a higher context that endows it with purpose and meaning. We must all live our changing and transient lives with a hope that redefines our life, providing it with meaning, direction, and a healthy orientation for the good of All.
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This YouTube video comes from The Elijah Institute and shares scripture calling for hope from a variety of traditions.