Interfaith and Peace Education
Part 1: Panel
Maria Reis Habito
We have been listening to many speeches and topics in the last two days, and it seems that one common concern that came up is what Mohammed Kagee called the moral vacuum in our society that all of us face to a certain degree. It is characterized by so much individualism, materialism, consumerism, and so the topic of education has been coming up in that context. What do we need to do to educate people? Where do we start? How can we make a difference?
Just last month I happened to listen to an interview with one of the pilots who flew an airplane in the so-called “shock and awe mission” over Baghdad releasing the bombs. He said in the interview that this was the dream of every third grader come true, namely to fly an airplane and see this kind of explosion. We have to ask ourselves, if that is the dream of every third grader, what has gone wrong? Where do we have to start to educate people for peace? What is the age that we start? Dagpo Rimpoche had suggested that we should start at the pre-school level. Can peace really be learned?
All of our participants on our panel are in some way education specialists or have worked in the field of education. Of course this is a Buddhist Muslim dialogue program, and so what we are interested in is also to find out is whether there are specific contributions that Buddhism or Islam can give to the topic of education. What are the structures that are already present in our countries to address the challenges that we have been hearing about all this time?
And, just to give one example, what we are trying to do with the Museum of World Religions is precisely to address this issue of inter-religious education as a venue towards peace, and there will be other attempts. We may also hear about the University of World Religions, and maybe have a discussion about what a school or an institution should look like that really leads people towards peace. Hopefully we could also discuss what contributes to the transformation of the human being that Chandra Muzaffar has been speaking about.
Michel Cheb Sun
The Land of Europe Association’s main goal is a better integration of Muslims in France, and beyond the borders of France, in Europe. It was created during a UNESCO congress in 1999. The theme of this congress was “For a Peaceful Islam, East Meets West,” following a succession of tragic incidents in Algeria which you probably all remember.
This congress played a very important role in reaffirming the very real and intimate connection between Islam and the notion of peace. That is when “Land of Europe” was created. It is now working at many cultural and social projects, and targets mainly young Muslim French citizens, the vast majority of whom are second or even third generation French citizens. We observe presently a strong desire among them to assume fully and actively French citizenship, to be key players and not only passive witnesses to the society they live in. Being a key player in society means treasuring this pluralistic culture which includes the heritage transmitted – or sometimes, omitted – by their parents, along with the heritage of French society, by which I mean education and friendship with other young people of different backgrounds.
It implies understanding that all religions have equal rights and duties, and that we must create and develop, especially the young generations, a way to live together. Hence “Land of Europe” must introduce youngsters to the spiritual aspect of Islam, and not so much to Islam as a cultural identity, because this last form turns too easily into political Islam.
What I mean is that Islam may be a way for some youngsters who don’t feel fully included as citizens in French society to react against this alienation and affirm themselves. Sadly, this recourse, while very understandable, especially for teenagers, may have undesirable results, maybe not in the form of actions with severe consequences, but in the form of isolation – here we are abording the subjects of education and peace- isolation of the different populations each inside strictly defined community boundaries. While those communities may live peacefully side by side ignoring each other, our goal, which is actually a goal commo of many persons in France, is to develop a way towards common life, and not only parallel lives, because those two ways of life differ radically.
The option of communities living parallel lives precludes the existence of a real inter-religious dialogue. Basic inter-religious dialogue is tremendously important in establishing peaceful relations, where attention is given to what others have to say, but it cannot solve all the problems. If we define others as respectable, worthy to learn from, albeit essentially different persons, we loose the capacity to have a global vision of humankind, of its fundamental oneness beneath individual specificities. We must understand how those two conceptions of perception are different.
You all know that political strife is probably the main reason behind a number of tensions, difficulties, in inter-community relationships presently in France, and that is the reason why reenforcing ethnic or religious identity may prove dangerous. We strive to persuade people, essentially young people, for this problem is more present among them, that Islam, while contributing to their identity, is in no way the very foundation of it. If we allow the search for identity to stray, it may bring along strifes and conflicts, and in any case the fundamental value which is humanity will be lost. Along with it will be lost too the notion of citizenship, the connivance of persons having grown in the same culture, fighting for common values. The conception of humankind as a regrouping of communities allows those communities to maintain different values while living peacefully alongside each other, but what we really want to emphasise are precisely values common to all communities, which we regard as primordial values. The specificities of different communities should surely be respected, but only while taking a backseat to common values. We must first work to discover those values we have in common, and then only explore the differences between communities, learning mutual respect of those differences. Some of us create our own jobs to be able to support our families and ensure they are okay. Those of us who use these methods may look for help when it comes to financial issues, for example, taking out loans as a way to get help with any problems with our finances. – learn about guarantor loans here.
Land of Europe’s main current project is a summer learning session for young people of all social, cultural and religious backgrounds. It is now in its inevitably lengthy preparation phase, and will be held in 2004. What is the goal of this summer session? It is to rediscover our common experience. There is still much work to be done to attain that goal. Yes, there is still much work to be done before all our common memories are united. You know that many French citizens have ancestors who went through difficult, tragic situations. It would be in bad taste to try to distinguish a hierarchy of misery, so I cite randomly three of those groups of citizens: young Jews whose forefathers were victims of Shoah crimes, descendants of colonised North-Africans, and descendants of black slaves. We must realise that we have these memories in common.
While it is important that each ethnic, religious community knows its own history, this is not sufficient. Our goal is to go beyond, to make everyone realize that whatever the origin, individual and communal histories are to be shared with others, that there are common parts in all those histories, because this realization is the only way toward a really peaceful relationship. Ignorance brings pain, pain brings susceptibility and susceptibility may lead to aggressiveness. I don’t mean here to excuse such or such action, but we must try to understand the hidden reason behind the isolationist to frankly asocial conducts sometimes exhibited by young generations in France and other countries. So the goal of this summer session of 2004, “Summer- Travel,” is to work together, with the treasure of our own histories and origins, to rediscover and share our too frequently untold, hence ignored, common history.
Here are some of the themes that will be explored: “The Enlightenment Movement”, “Averroes”, “Muslim Andalusia”, ”Shoah”, “A History of Immigration”, “Colonialism and the Fight for Independence”, “The Slave Trade”, “Laity”, “The French Revolution”, “A History of Antiracist Movements”, “Gandhi”, “Martin Luther King”, “Frantz Fanon”, “A better understanding of Judaism”, “A better understanding of Islam”, and “A better Understanding of Christianity”. So you can see that we want to reach a wide public of different origins and backgrounds, and that we mean to work earnestly toward discovering and sharing our common past and present. This is a real challenge that we are willing to undertake to be able to live together, and not only side by side, conscious as we are of the subtle albeit radical difference between those two ways of life.
Thank you very much.
As an introduction to this afternoon’s theme, “Teaching Peace”, the last theme of our conference, I want to affirm that a good religious education teaches peace. Shaping children and youngster’s religious conscience implies inculcating in them the founding values of a peaceful society, inculcating them how to respect truth, freedom, justice and solidarity. As Pope John XXIII said, those are the four pillars of the house of peace. Hindering religious education because of occasional straying toward violence of pupils in religion class will not help to achieve peace. Advocating an attitude of total disinterest toward religion would be a dangerous move, it would give free range to those schools of thought who are responsible for the social disasters that we have been rightfully denouncing here these last three days. By disasters I mean here the thirst of powerful people to gain ever more power, the disregard of human rights and dignity, and the selfish pursuit of personal interests without concern for justice and the common good.
Muslims, Christians, Buddhists and believers of other faiths, by receiving a better religious education in their own communities, become at the same time better at working to achieve peace in the larger meaning of the term. Young people’s education should not only be about science and technology, but the important contribution of religion in answering philosophical questions unanswered by science should be explained to them: the meaning of human life, human dignity; the basis of individual rights, universal values; and the meaning of being a member of a society, of a family.
Many persons today see religion as an aggravating factor in conflicts. But the “World Conference of Religions for Peace”, the opinion of which I express here, believes totally otherwise, believes that religions can contribute tremendously to the achievement of peace. Sadly, the truth is that some political figures, some individuals and entities who shape public opinion, are playing with people’s religious feelings to attain goals actually contrary to religion. I won’t cite any name here, but you all know what I mean. Those people take advantage of the fact that most of their followers actually know only superficially their religious traditions, and rely principally on prejudices and preconceptions about the adversary`s religion. So we have in our organization a permanent commission for the teaching of peace, and this commission insists that teaching peace goes along with teaching religion.
I want to point out here that this much needed education must have an inter-religious dimension. From primary school on, children must be taught to respect not only their own religion, provided they have one, but others’ religion too. Only then can we be confident that peace may be maintained and even strengthened. School education must include the notions of freedom of religion and belief, tolerance and anti-discrimination, so young people may be educated in a spirit of peace, justice, freedom, mutual respect and understanding, in pursuit of human rights and economical, social development. To achieve that goal, religious pluralism and diversity must be promoted. Meeting between youths of different backgrounds has a very positive effect.
The main way of action of the World Conference of Religions for Peace’s permanent commission for the teaching of peace is the promotion of interfaith dialogue. The commission has learned through a long experience that teaching peace goes along with interfaith dialogue. There are many examples corroborating this truth, for instance the revision of the way religion is represented in present teaching materials. Here I am repeating what Prof. v. Brück mentioned this morning. In Turkey, representatives of all religious communities agreed to meet and work together to eradicate from teaching materials longtime misunderstandings and prejudices that threaten peace. A similar work was completed in Germany, I believe, a very interesting experience of Muslims and Christians revising school textbooks together, and I see this as an important achievement.
In a similar fashion, what was brought up this morning by our Bosnian friend, Mr. Alibasic, the unified denunciation by religious leaders of ethnic cleansing in the false name of religion had a tremendous influence on public opinion in ex-Yugoslavia, because it was a common action. In those and many other countries, this effort is helped by interfaith councils composed of representatives of all the country’s religions working to achieve their main objective: education and opinion shaping.
As a conclusion, I want to say that even teaching peace in full consideration of its religious and inter-religious dimension is not sufficient to cure modern society of the ills we mentioned here. Curing those ills implies implementing international structural reforms, political and economical reforms, globally, on a large scale, and at a deep level. Nevertheless, teaching peace in relation with religion may considerably help people to accept the necessary changes.
Hence, teaching peace is a first priority for interfaith dialogue. Actually, interest in this endeavor is surging everywhere, and this is really a reason for hope. Thank you very much.
Michael v. Brück
It was the famous Indologist and historian of religions, Max Müller, who stated at the end of the 19th century that knowing only one religion would mean one would know no religion, because knowledge depends on comparison, and only on the basis of comparison proper categories for understanding the subject matter of religion could be worked out. Not only social and psychological identity, but also epistemic identity would depend on knowing the other as precondition for determining the own. Only a few years later the church historian and President of the Berlin University, Adolf von Harnack, claimed that just the opposite were true: knowing one religion one would know all religions, because in one religion – and this to him was of course the highest of all religions, namely Christianity – all the impulses, hopes and elaborations of all religions would be contained. Based on a Hegelian scheme of progress, the “highest” would contain in a negated manner the previous forms.
Both claims are based on ideological presuppositions which are so obvious that we do not need to discuss them here. Whatever it may be, the situation today is very different. Most of our societies, states, nations etc. are a mix of different religions and different religious identities. Whether we want it or not: modern life is the confrontation of different value systems based on different religions.
The forming of tradition in cultures is a process of self-identification through discovery of the other. To understand the other is a process of transforming otherness into identity, that is to say the other becomes (at least partially) the own. Hence, understanding is a precondition for an enlargement of identity in as much as new phenomena which are being understood and experienced in understanding become part of one’s own structures of perception. Therefore, understanding is a process of identification, but the inverted formula holds true as well: the formation of identity is a process of understanding.
However, we need to make a distinction between epistemic understanding and the existential aspect of transforming otherness into identity. We can demonstrate this by looking at the twofold semantics implied in the concept of “understanding”: The expression “I understand the solution of an equation” implies a different and most likely minor degree of identification than the expression “I understand you”, which indicates at least a partial identification with the other person. Epistemologically it is sufficient to connect a certain amount of phenomena, facts or events with a given set of perceptions and judgements into a consistent mental framework. As this is achieved I have understood a phenomenon “in its proper context”. Of course, even here the perception of the other depends on the conditions of perception and thinking which I have brought to the scene. But insofar as otherness is allowed and experienced as such and perhaps even tolerated as a difference which contradicts my own ideas, a certain difference between that which I understand mentally and that which I can accept existentially is being upheld. In other words, otherness is not totally integrated.
The process of identification as existential process of understanding is more: it integrates otherness into one’s own patterns of perception, rules and values and therefore makes the other the own. This means that the identity of the subject becomes enlarged. However, understanding has limits not only in a quantitative sense, but also qualitatively, because any process of understanding presupposes a process of alienation from the experiences in order to become something cognized. We need to be aware that any experiencing depends on established horizons which are the product of former processes of understanding – in Sanskrit parlance: there is no anubhava without former processes of anumana. We cannot go into details here, but it suffices to say that understanding requires a certain distance of the cognizer as the subject from his object, whereas experience tends to conflate the experiencer and the experienced, in certain ways it tends to attain identity between subject and object.
To summarize my point: understanding is a process of partial and graded identifications which makes subject and object enter into mutual dependencies. Understanding implies interrealtionality and intersubjectivity between the one and the other. Understanding is dependent on the conditions of perception and reflection which are culturally conditioned by language and other social patterns of behaviour, because cultures and languages determine what a possible “object” of perception and cognition might be. The result of these processes is a continually changing platform of levels of understanding, which integrate contradictions – the other becomes the own.
This is what happens also when religions (religious systems, beliefs etc.) meet. But what, after all, are religions? Systems of faith, philosophical views, sets of personal experiences or organized hopes in view of the irremovable suffering in the world? Are religions ethical rules or political systems which legitimize or rather criticize power and rule? All these traits are aspects of religion, but religion is still something else. This “something else” is what motivates people and peoples in their deepest consciousness in terms of surrender and self-giving, both in positive and negative regard.
Yet, how shall we be able to distinguish “positive” and ‘negative”? Religions answer this question in different ways: Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, the great religions of Asia, tend to organize their views in polarities – good and evil are mutually conditioning, for both are explicatory processes in one and the same reality which itself transcends good and evil. Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the Semitic religions, tend to antagonize good and evil as duality: The good has been revealed by God in his commandments which make a clear distinction between good and evil. Therefore, knowledge of the good is possible and this is what humans ought to practice, for the evil is against God. The cultural identities of the respective cultures are very much shaped by the implications rooted in this basic difference, but today these different world views are on a path of encounter and clash. It is obvious that the Eastern way of thinking creates a lot of fascination in the complex societies of the industrialized world. Therefore, in the future religions in general and Judaism and Christianity in particular will be very much concerned with a discussion of these questions.
Religions create cultural identities – identity which people have and identity which individuals and collective bodies are in search of. The conflict of different identities (including their religious roots) has much to do with almost all present day political conflicts around the globe. This is why the call for tolerance, mutual acceptance and dialogue is so important, for otherwise cross-cultural understanding would be impossible. To implement tolerance, however, is extremely difficult, because identity is related to security and the affirmation of value of one’s own life-style in view of the plurality of ways (languages, cultures, religions, ways of life), a security which seems to be threatened under the impact of a globalizing economy that creates political instabilities all over.
This is why individuals or whole groups of disadvantaged peoples try to take refuge in newly constructed identities of dogmatic systems and “fundamentalist” patterns of behaviour not allowing basic pluralism and tolerance. Here, religion is used as an instrument for psychological and social stability. For centuries religions have clashed with each other, because they are concerned with the overcoming of fear and creating hope, with deepest values and convictions. Religious conflicts, therefore, are conflicts at depth. In the past those clashes have created apocalyptic expectations, in the Near East, in Central Asia, in Europe and elsewhere: the cosmic death as well as visions of New Societies and a New Creation. Both, fear and the excitement of new potentials in creativity are the stuff these expectations have been made of.
The situations of religions and their encounters with each other are different historically and phenomenologically. That is why we shall not oversimplify and structuralize “the” religious situation of the coming age or “the” dialogical situation between Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The situation differs from place to place, from situation to situation. Compared with East Asian religions, the three Semitic monotheistic religions seem to be close to each other historically and phenomenologically. Yet, it is precisely this closeness which makes the different claims for truth, intimacy and superiority so exclusive and difficult to reconcile. Here, we have to analyze more carefully what the other or the strange actually is.
In order to simplify the processes of identification or communication building, usually just one feature of a certain body is considered as absolute: It is the Christian or the Jew or the Moslem who is supposed to have certain specific characteristics? Cultural or religious identity is being mediated in the acceptance of such stereotypes which can only appear and can only be established insofar as the own is being experienced as different from the other.
To generalize this point: identification is the process of delimitation. The other is different in being the other, and as such it becomes the source of our own self-understanding and self-affirmation. You know who you are when you know who you are not or you don’t want to be. Social and religious identification works by looking at the other through the glasses of this self-affirmation, and the whole process can be understood as a process of reciprocal formation of identity.
However, we have to differentiate the term of identity, for we do live simultaneously in different identities. We only need to consider that I – as a person coming from Bavaria – have a certain identity and difference from people coming from other parts of Germany, though we all live in the same “Germany”. Other identities such as confessional or regional identities are subsumed under a more general determination of being German. However, if we look at ourselves under the horizon of the whole of Europe we identify ourselves as Germans, British, French and not any more as Bavarians. And if we identify ourselves in the African context we differentiate between Africans and Europeans. This is to say: depending on the context, we develop a relational otherness with regard to the others. To say it in a more abstract way: Our identity is not a fixed system but a relational process which interacts in its very formation with other relational processes which are called identities as well.
In similar ways we can understand religious identity: confessional identities lose their significance in the horizon of dialogue with other religions, and the struggle between religions loses significance in view of widespread atheism – here it is only important whether you are “religious” or not, as has been the experience in former Communist countries. We can develop a pyramid structure of identities. What our identity is depends on the horizons or the perspectives in which this identity is incorporated. It is the model of Chinese boxes: various identities can contain each other, for smaller boxes are contained in the respective larger ones without collapsing the smaller. Or, speaking the religious idiom, we recognize that we all are children and creatures of one God. Such a statement renders traditional religious identities relative through which different cultures had been held apart. The present emerging understanding and practice of the one humanity has no parallel in the previous history of humankind, even if certain institutions fight these developments because of their interest in static identity and power.
However, we have to consider that the process of forming identity in the history of religions is much more complex because
- in one religion, culture or nation different identities are mixed with each other and
- in different relational aspects of existence different constructs of identity can become dominating.
In other words: The weight of an identity depends on the other over against which stability is to be achieved. Or to put it in more general terms: identity changes according to intercultural relational patterns.
What has been said so far can be applied to the religious situation. For various reasons let me use an example outside our scope here at that conference: Suppose you have an identity as a Buddhist. What does it mean? On a certain level of identification – especially when you face a Jew or a Muslim or a Christian – you are a Buddhist with all the characteristic marks that compose “Buddhism”. But in your daily life you are a Pure Land, Zen or Shingon Buddhist, or a Tibetan Buddhist of a certain school. Living uprooted in the city you might lose this identity, but many people still long for it or find surrogates. As a Buddhist you do not speak Pàli or Sanskrit, but your local language, and this is what makes up your identity. Similarly for a Christian: in your local situation you are not just a “Christian”, but a Protestant or a Catholic or whatever. Your religion is not abstract but very much localized, and this shapes your primary religious identity. Most people go to worship and hear sermons not to be instructed on the globally abstract Christian tenets, but they are shaped by narratives that represent a local identity. Even migrants try to build up a new regional identity in sticking to a socio-religious group that guarantees the continuity of the regionalized religious identity. The United States are a good example. It follows that to counterbalance processes of religious identity as absolute (as in the fundamental, nationalist movements) we need to emphasize the local-regional identity and the global identity of one humankind at the same time.
But the problem of identity is also a source of fear. We already touched on the fear that is generated with regard to the problem of being uprooted from one’s tradition and value system. The other source of fear is the possible loss of national identity. Europe – and Germany in particular – is an excellent case for study: There are so many migrants arriving in Europe that irrational fear is generated in all strata of society. It is not the case that most of these people would hold a basic anti-foreigner or anti-other-religions-view. They feel just threatened by too many immigrants who are perceived as “others”.
In order to build up understanding on the common human path we need to eradicate a nationalism that is born out of fear of the other (other people, other religions etc.). This is possible only when thousands (or, better, millions) of possible migrants find decent living conditions at home, which requires a change in the international economic and financial order. This problem, therefore, is intrinsically connected with our search for inter-religious peace! The Jewish-Christian-Muslim point of justice is not just charity or sharing from what we have too much – it is a most important aspect of our human and inter-religious relations.
Identity, therefore, is not static. As demonstrated above, we live in different identities depending on the context. And these identities change. A common human or inter-religious identity is not a substitute for other local identities, but an additional dimension that informs and changes other identities – it does not remove the local identities.
The point is that in the present partnership of religions on all levels of human expression, a common identity emerges which has not yet existed in our respective traditions. Therefore there is no model we could draw on. Yet, today, gradually, a new paradigm is emerging whether we want it or not: People who share emotionally and intellectually as well as socially in different religions are new models of mutually inclusive identities.
1. The existential choice
The plurality of lived religions in our respective local situations calls for the need of a conscious choice. Even if one does not ponder over changing one’s religion in general, the need to compare, select, make choices in concrete questions is there. This is what Peter L. Berger has called the heretical imperative. To make a choice I need to compare. Comparison, however, requires knowledge, as unbiased as possible. This knowledge cannot be taken for granted, but it is the result of proper education. In order to reflect the situation in our societies and also to enable people to cope with the multidimensional value systems which are emerging as a result of the unavoidable interreligious encounter, societies need to opt for a consciously wanted interreligious education. Otherwise there is no basis for understanding, and without understanding, there is no peace.
First, the theological issue which I construct from a Christian point of view is that in order to appreciate the other religion as theologically meaningful we need to acknowledge that God speaks to us also through the other religion. This can be interpreted in different ways, but it excludes an exclusive position that holds that salvation comes exclusively through Christ as we know him historically mediated through the church (es). Such a position is not consistent, because it excludes most of humankind ante and post Christum natum – which obviously contradicts the tenet of the love of God. Furthermore, Abraham`s faith is valid even in Paul’s judgement, after all.
If God shows in Christ his universal saving will, this answer cannot be particularized historically. So we have to opt for an inclusive position (there is salvation outside, but it is mediated through Christ in unknown ways) or a pluralistic position (God has given many answers and speaks different salvation-languages). I do not want to argue the advantages and disadvantages of the various positions here. It is enough to state there is salvation outside the historically given church; though not all of what different religions say and have said is necessarily true. I suggest that Buddhism and Islam look at this matter on the basis of their specific constructions of reality and truth. I should be possible to work out a similar theological or epistemological model that allows for acceptance of truth in other religions. For the Buddhist both the concepts of pratityasamutpàda and upàya might be useful here. I am not competent to make a suggestion for the Islamic tradition.
The second issue is methodological: how do I get to know the other without the bias of my tradition and my language? Is it possible to take a third position in order to judge both, mine and the other’s position? There is certainly no third position for I always think and speak in a specific language. But I can look at my thinking, tradition, language and religion critically, i.e. I can use the tools of my tradition in order to reflect and distance myself from the presuppositions of my tradition. In other words: I can realize rationally that my tradition and language is limited and not universal!
The point of comparison is not a pre-fixed tenet informed by my traditional way of thinking and prejudice, but the dialogical discourse in the actual encounter of people of different traditions itself. If the other partner enters into the encounter on the same basis, creative development and mutual enlightenment is possible for both.
In other words, our inter-religious concern needs more visionary and poetic impulses! The poet might be informed by an academic study of historical patterns and paradigms – and this would be the ideal case, because it helps to distinguish visionary quality from escapist fantasy.
The point of inter-religious encounter is not to demonstrate who is right and who is wrong, or much less to assert that everybody says the same thing. The point is to encourage each other to true practice which requires everybody to go beyond ego, beyond the well known religious claims of absoluteness, of static identities etc., for those claims confuse transcendent goals with historical relativity.
This is why, in history, in many cases it was the “mystic” who is able to reach out to people of other faiths and identities. For the mystic knows that the mystery of his experience cannot be defined in concepts, his awareness is that I do not have truth but – in rare situations – truth has me. Certainly, conceptual clarification is important for hermeneutical awareness, and without this awareness we could not understand the other in its otherness, which again would deprive us of the real experience of learning and change. But beyond clarification is the communion in a mystery beyond ego, also beyond the ego of religious traditions.
2. The hermeneutical problem
The basic problem is the following dilemma: how do we really understand the other without imposing our own structure of language, meaning and psychology on it so that it remains the other that needs to be understood. Yet, if it is understood, it is by no means any more totally the other, for understanding, as I argued in the beginning, is an act of integration.
Therefore I suggest that the hermeneutical basis for inter-religious communication is not in the past, it is not the search for an original historical pattern or a diplomatic compromise concerning specific tenets of a tradition or whatever, but it is the present. Precisely in this moment where I speak and a follower of an other tradition who speaks his own different mother-tongue listens, or where he speaks and I hear (speaking in the sense of an all-comprehensive communication, not just by words), the field of communication is created, and the proper hermeneutics is being worked out by trial and error in the very process of communication itself, not before. In inter-religious communication and communion we do not rehearse the past and present it to the outsider, but we together create a new situation that is informed and conditioned by different pasts. We do not find out “as it really has been” and relate these alleged bruta facta to each other, but we are much more imaginative in creating a present. The rules for the process are being formed in the process itself. The motivations of each partner for entering the process might be different, but via communication there emerges communion, fragile and not ultimate, but again and again undertaken as part of the cosmic play of mutuality and interrelationship which we can observe on all levels of the evolution of reality.
3. Call for an inter-religious peace education
What I have been saying so far could be put into more philosophical (and precise) or even mythic language. But the problem is that we easily and readily identify with “our” philosophic/traditional parlance, are proud of our heritage and regard interreligious communication as an opportunity for self-staging. Interreligious endeavour, however, requires more than anything else humility in face of the ever greater mystery; honesty in facing my (and my tradition’s) real state of affairs in past and present; and a kind of awe over against that which I do not (yet) and can not understand.
All that is required is honesty, simplicity and an integrated approach to shape ways for an inter-religious concern that are genuine (measured according to the basic insights of our respective traditions) and helpful (measured according to the present-day real liberative impulse in a holistic sense). What is required is that we recognize our different identities which are always “soft”, flexible, and in the making, relational. I have called this the process of building identity in partnership. This, again, is possible only on the basis of a strong and unconditional faith in God, the Ultimate Awakening, Buddha nature or the Ultimate Good which supports us even if we fail, or better, precisely in our failures and errors.
Having said this I want to come up with some practical suggestions, which are the result of reflection on inter-religious education which I have been involved with both in India and Germany.
4. Experiences and Suggestions for Interreligious Peace Education
In Germany we have been discussing with our Muslim friends a model of a graded educational process in terms of religious education at schools for several years now. Accordingly, we distinguish between three aspects of religious education which could or should materialize in three stages of the educational process:
A: the Model
First, there would be a general introduction into the major religions on the basis of an as much as possible unbiased presentation of the history and tenets of these respective traditions on the basis of the methodological approach which is taken by academic Religious Studies (Religionswissenschaft).
Second, since religion is not only knowledge of books but has also an emotional and value oriented dimension there should also be an introduction into the life of a specific religious community to which the respective children traditionally do belong. This stage would be an “identification” education.
Third, the different perspectives and experiences of religion in community as taken seriously in the second stage should meet each other in an engaged way for dialogue. Dialogue is more than comparison. It is the meeting of different experiences and views. It is not neutral but an ever ongoing attempt to find truth and apply it in the specific psychological, social and political processes.
B: Hindrances of Interreligious Peace Education
We have identified three basic hindrances which are barriers already to the collective will for inter-religious peace education, but also for a positive result once the educational process has been taken seriously.
First: the economic and political injustice and depravation of groups which find a resisting identity necessary to fight for justice.
Second: mere ignorance.
Third: certain social and political structures which cannot be changed easily without wider repercussions for the whole social network. For instance in Germany the problem is that politicians are reluctant to work out and finance a proper religious education for Muslims as it is granted to Catholics, Protestants and Jews. Why? Because organisationally, Muslims do not have a central authority in the government that could speak to as representative of all (or most of all) Muslims in the country.
I want to make three suggestions in this regard:
First: Awareness training: Awareness has two aspects. It enables us to direct undivided attention to a given object, and it makes us aware of prejudices, presuppositions, patterns of thinking and behaving which are memories of the past but not appropriate in a new situation. Besides, awareness is important to be able take into account the complexity of a situation, i.e. awareness makes us overcome the simplistic reductionism which often is a psychological escape to cope with new situations. Therefore, awareness training is crucial for survival in a complex world. This holds especially true for dealing with the complexity of religious situations in one tradition, and even more so with regard to several traditions in a multi-religious situation. Awareness can be trained, and the most sophisticated tradition of awareness training has been developed in Buddhism. Here it is not possible to discuss the details of awareness training, but I want to say only that it has to do with training of consciousness in the proper sense of meditation practice and also with aesthetics, i.e. appropriate awareness in all we do and practice. In other words, what matters is not only what we do but how we do it. This needs to be focussed at in kindergarten, schools and places of higher education as well.
Second: The three stages of religious education as outlined above would be implemented in respective pedagogical concepts. Whether it would be useful to follow the stages in time sequence or interlink them from the very beginning is a matter of discernment according to local conditions. However, it seems that particularly in religious education the three aspects of information, personalization and dialogue, i.e. learning by engaging with others, can help to deepen the understanding of each tradition and at the same time foster appreciation of other traditions as well. In as much as the other can become the source of my own self-understanding the other will not be regarded as enemy but as possible partner, who is partner not in spite of but precisely due to his being different. This insight is most important to an education for inter-religious peace.
Third: Modern academic discourse is strongly built on a hermeneutics of difference, i.e. the academic endeavour consists in discovering structures which allow for a classification and historical context of phenomena in their difference. However, the old phenomenological attempt to see similarities and the unity of humankind in different cultural expressions needs to be stressed again without falling back into the trap of a non-historical phenomenology. The discovery of unity in different expressions is not a new project but occurs in all major cultures as an identification project of self-definition. The Western stress of difference is itself an ideology based on the dualistic mentality which again is linked to a certain ego-perspective. Without denying the value of this approach it needs to be balanced by a non-dualistic understanding which occurs in many cultures: reality is one in so far that the duality of subject and object needs to be seen as mental construction. This oneness needs to be rediscovered by a deeper awareness of first, the (mystical) oneness of reality; and second, a project of creating this oneness out of social and political concern. Therefore, unity in plurality has a mystical and an ethical dimension. The interdependence of the two needs to be made an important methodological devise for inter-religious peace-education.
In short: Buddhist principles are helpful in questioning the epistemology of our educational programs and useful to acknowledge undue projections wherever they might occur. The Muslim experience is centrally an experience of social corporality, i.e. we have to take into account here that religion and society must not be separated, thought they are definitely to be distinguished.
Dharma Master Hsin Tao
I believe that our discussions and exchanges of experience in the past two days have been helpful in focusing on the question of how to develop a comprehensive peace education. It is clear that this involves spiritual education. Spiritual education forms the heart and mind. If we only take into consideration the outer physical aspect of things, but not the underlying unity of the inner spiritual life, then we will not attain peace.
People are becoming increasingly aware that the Buddhist principle of interdependence of all life forms offers a more practical and more accurate theory than that of the survival of the fittest. The significance of this principle should therefore be made known widely and passed on to future generations in order to avoid the continuous loss of human values resulting in more and larger catastrophes. The Global Ethic needs to be reconsidered in the light of globalization; and guidelines for human values have to be based on spiritual education.
Misunderstandings caused by ethnic divisions and cultural differences frequently lead to contradictions and confrontations between interest groups. Therefore, even though the whole world talks of peace, it is in reality full of conflict and danger. Even though it is with good-intentioned plans that we seek holistic development and extensive cooperation, we nevertheless end up in the entrapment of a vicious circle of self-interest and competition. Ever since establishment of the United Nations, the greatest contribution to world peace has often been one of communication.
I myself completely endorse “the role of religions in promoting a culture of peace” as set forth in the 1994 UNESCO Manifesto, which suggests that religions are responsible for the improvement of the world. As spiritual refuge for humankind, religions must offer values that soothe both body and mind, and that offer guidance to society. If religions can help us to revive spiritual values and transcend differences through communication, if we can establish an education of body, mind and spirit, then there might be hope for the continuation of our planet home and for peace.
My experience of interfaith dialogue has made me sensitive to the importance of peace education. People in all religions devote themselves to peace, based on faith and love. If we can create an integrated educational program that combines the inspiring power of religions with the professional know-how of other fields, we will come together for the creation of peace. For example, in order find practical solutions for economic and political problems, we should form a consensus about promoting regional initiatives, which then will combine to create a positive circle of interaction and holistic harmony.
Four initiatives for peace education:
1. Interfaith dialogues
Using the practical experiences gained during the establishment of the Museum of World Religions, which opened in 2001, we strive to promote the concept of “Respect for all Faiths – Tolerance for all Cultures – Love for all Life.” The MWR has brought together the love embodied in different religions into one common space in order to uplift people`s spirit by bringing to them the experience of the spirit of kindness and love.
On this foundation, we established in 2002 “Global Family for Love and Peace,” an NGO that promotes interfaith dialogue and mutual understanding and cooperation as a basis for the realization of peace education. The series of Buddhist-Muslim dialogues that we started in March of that same year has been a positive response to current challenges, and has proved to be of great inspiration to many.
2. The education of war orphans
All children should grow up expecting a good future, but this is in particular true for those little ones whose innocent minds bear the scars of war. If they are not guided properly, the violence will breed further violence, and war will never end. When I was still small, I experienced the final throws of the Second World War taking place in Asia’s Golden Triangle region. Sharing that pain encouraged me to strive for and bear witness to the importance of spiritual awakening. Religious communities should bear responsibility for the spiritual care and educational needs of war orphans.
3. The University of World Religions
Just like the sun melts the winter snows, warm enthusiasm and positive ideas are the greatest quality of young people. They play an important role in creating our future world. Plans are underfoot for establishing the University of World Religions. I hope this university will become a platform of love and peace which will inspire future leaders towards good governance of the global family, based on a concern for human beings, spiritual values and our Mother Earth. This is my innermost aspiration for this century of peace education.
4. Spiritual values as the base for peace education
The advancement of peace should be based on a rediscovery of spirituality, on spiritual harmony, practical actions, social engagement and opportunities for universal growth.
Spirituality is the common source of all religions and the very essence of life. Spirituality is an intuitive experience; it is universal, mystical and beyond expression. Every religion has its own way of inspiring and guiding us towards it. I myself practice the “Way of listening”, which is focusing the attention on the breath, relaxing body and mind, and then listening to the stillness within. This method is a doorway to unlocking the potential of body, mind and spirit. This tranquil and harmonious energy awakens the life force and creates a new reconciliation between humankind and the world. It establishes the path of return to the truth. We can use this peace of body, mind, spirit to create a peaceful environment and true world peace.
There are three aspects of the relationship between spiritual practice and social engagement:
First, the relationship between human beings: the Golden Rule of Life (“Do not do to others what you don’t want to be done to you”) is represented in Buddhism by the five precepts: not killing, not stealing, not practicing sexual misconduct, not lying, and avoiding intoxication. The second part, namely “Do to others what you want done to you,” is represented by the Bodhisattva vows in Buddhism, which requires from us that, with every thought and act, we do not harm life, but benefit all beings. This leads to the development of a positive social engagement, to helping the poor and needy, to respecting each other and to embracing each other’s cultures.
Second, the relationship between human beings and the material world: spiritual life is simple, natural, and an antidote to disasters brought about by human greed. We should therefore return to this simple and natural spiritual life, change our habitual tendencies of indulgence, and transform our materialistic values into spiritual ones in order to save the earth from disaster.
Third, the relationship between human beings and nature: We humans must no longer adopt the posture of a conqueror and carve up the spoils of natural resources, but instead treat nature as the mother of all life. The most important premise is not to harm the shared life-systems. It is only then that we can continue to coexist.
The main cause of the current global crisis is human greed. In the Buddhist teaching of cause and effect, every cause has an effect, and every effect is brought about by a cause. In order to correct the ‘effect’, namely the crisis, we must start with its ‘cause’, namely greed. Greed is corrected or redirected through spiritual revival. This spiritual revival must start at the individual level: through spiritual cultivation, a simple way of life, and social engagement. From this we can widen the social engagement into a movement of developing peace education programs that transcend geographical regions. If we can recreate the “genes” of our global family, world peace and the continuation of the planet become attainable goals.
If we want adress the main issue of this conference, we must confront a core concept in a number of religions. Notably in Islam, we need to address the notion of messianism, madhism. There is a madhi issue at stake here. I dare say that, because each time I visit a Muslim country, I am nearly shocked by the prevalence of this concept. Muslims, refering to apparently fairly clear sentences of the prophet, believe that we are nearing the end, at best of a cycle, at worst of the world as we know it. Many symptoms of the last decades mentioned in our meeting, such as the acceleration, the feeling of loss of time, the loss of religious and spiritual culture, the environmental pollution and destruction – all those symptoms have been mentioned in other places too. They are described in great detail in the Islamist texts, and also mentioned in in the prophetic traditions and Hindu sources.
I bring this up, because this psychology of the Muslim world must absolutely be taken in account in Interfaith dialogue, Buddhist-Muslim or other. Until recently, this apocalyptic vision was whispered about only in certain circles, for instance, Sufi circles. It is now discussed more and more openly, in Mecca, Medina; and of course, the September 11 events were interpreted in this light. This is a challenge, even if one does not believe at all in those prophecies, because events in Iraq seem to be predicted with uncanny accuracy. You may believe these prophecies or not, but they certainly could influence a part of the global Islamic community, which feels that Muslims are unfairly treated. Of course a number of Muslim people are obviously unfairly treated, but this is the lot of a fair number of non-Muslims too. Nevertheless, recent and current world scale events related to the Muslim world amplify messianism there.
Moreover, a similar Anglo-Saxon Christian messianism seems to have emerged lately, and there is a real danger of confrontation. I will discuss this point later. So, in the Muslim and other traditions too, there seems to be a vision of our world as presently degenerating. Is there still a way to escape this multiheaded monster, globalisation, especially economic globalisation? Is there an escape or must we give up and admit we have reached the end? This is a negative, unhealthy way of thinking, but at the same time, paradoxically, there may be hope hidden inside. You know that paradox has always been present in spirituality.
At the same time, we may say that we are living wonderful times. This sentence may sound shallow, but it is true too, because appearances and falsenesses are crumbling, hypocritical attitudes and thoughts are being challenged in families, societies, governments, and even at a supra-governmental level. And all these changes seem to occur so fast. Maybe time is an illusion, maybe we are in a cycle, but anyway, everything seems to go faster and faster. So everything is crumbling down, and I know that some scholars in our Islamic tradition, Sufis, said that they would have liked to live in our present time, because this is the time where reality, truth – which is the same word in Arabic – will shine. Hiding screens are falling down, and this overwhelmingly materialistic, consumeristic society; this unhealthy civilisation bears germs of hope.
I will briefly cite the example of France, because I know the situation in this country better. Many scholars and Sufis have hope in Europe and particularly in France, even though France is the country of laicity, of obstruction, of separation between state and church, between religion and spirituality. So here again we find the paradox. I guess that economical, political, military globalisation bears some germs of good too, because, as was said in the Qur`an, there is such a thing as “divine tricking”. God makes use of all the phenomenons of this world, and is endlessly transforming them through humankind or other vectors, everywhere, even here at our meeting as well. So God is transmuting all negative things through its divine trick. “Trick” may sound somewhat negative, but there is no way to translate properly the Arabic world used in the Qur`an; Arabic is here lexically richer.
Man is the designed representative of God on earth, despite what he is, despite his weaknesses, his deficiencies, and his ingratitudes. It is written clearly in the Qur`an. In this seemingly unwise choice there is divine wisdom, and I believe that we must totally trust God, even if we think that God is responsible for the present predicaments. So we must trust God, but of course trust him actively.
For those who don’t know Islam very well, and to point out a difference between Islam and Buddhism, I want to add something about the role that Islam can play in our present world. Islam emphasizes the notion of the believers as a community where justice must reign, while Buddhism, at least the form of Buddhism we learned about this morning, seems to mainly emphasize contemplation. It is a fact that, following the model of the prophet Muhammed, even the most spiritualy oriented Muslim is as active as he is contemplative. He is active in his community and in the world. This attitude is in accordance with the messianic, eschatological conception that many Muslims share. It is a fact that the Muslim world suffers, or sees itself as suffering the most on this earth, just like the Jews had been suffering for so long. Muslims believe that they are the sufferers, but of course they are not alone. Tibetans too for example, are suffering too, and, by the way, there have been interesting meetings between Muslims and Tibetans. What I want to point out here is that the ideal of justice in the Muslim world may lead some to believe that Islam is somewhat like the sword of divine transcendency, a belief which, I recognise, is shutting out others and not likely to be accepted by the Western world.
Divine transcendency is a central notion in Islam, while essence exists too, hence the divine manifestation that is the Qu`ran. While the image of the sword of divine transcendency may seem agressive, it expresses perfectly the notion that we are nearing the end of a cycle, and that Islam, the last widespread religion to appear in this time cycle, has a special role to play. Events occuring inside the Islamic world are much publicized, Muslim countries are much talked about, many wars are being waged in Muslim lands, and I think actually that there is a will behind that, that Islam is presently one of the agents of God on this earth.
Of course God is active at many levels, but I think that some have a precise historic mission. I dare not say if this mission is good or bad, we are in the mystical realm here, but that raises another question I am not able to answer: what place is there for war? Is there such thing as a just war? I think we must stay in the metaphysical realm to address this question. War is a human fact, it is inherent to man. It needs to be theorized, it needs to be restrained, may be it should not be linked to the sacred because that would be dangerous. But whether you like it or not, war is an element of human experience. We must be honest and realistic. I remind you that there is a Hindu holy scripture, the Bhagavad Gita, which opens in a context of war. This could bring us to the theme of the jihad, but it is too large a subject to be discussed now.
I will now turn to a more concrete problem, which is work. Work, whatever the translation in different languages and the exact meaning of it, is a notion present in every religion, every spirituality. We must work together on a spiritual level, by praying. I believe that what happened before the Iraq war, this worldwide mobilisation for peace, is a groundbreaking event. Hopefuly but sadly too, I believe that it will not be the last of its sort. I believe that in the present time, we are beyond the mere notions of good and evil. You must live it now to realise what it means, and condemn the words of people like George Bush, Saddam Hussein and Bin Laden. So on a spiritual level, we must promote praying in the world and extend this practice.
We must also work on a more materialistic level, because we are incarnated beings. This too is an effect of divine wisdom, we are here on earth to work with matter. A more materialistic work is to emphasize and publicize inter-religious, inter-spiritual synergies such as our meeting here or other similar examples, on a very pluralistic mode, not only between two religions, Islam and Judaism or Islam and Buddhism, but because we must fight the depraved notion that there is a binary affrontment of civilisations. Everybody knows that the expression “Clash of Civilisations” is used primarily with the meaning of Islam-Christianism opposition, and for many Muslims and Christians, this clash dates from the time of the crusades. I lived three years in Syria, which, in medieval times, was visited by the crusaders, and these events are still remembered. Now it is Israel that is being seen as the new crusader. This clash is too much talked about, and we must go beyond it with the help of other spiritual traditions. In that respect, Buddhism and Hinduism too, are welcome in the religious debate, to enlarge its scope and avoid the notion that some silently try to impose on us, namely the belief that we are stuck in a dualist confrontation between Islam and Christianity, or Islam and Judaism.
Actually, in the course of history, relations between Islam and Judaism have always been very good. I study Sufism, and have had many occasions to marvel at the deep level of interaction between Jewish and Muslim mystical traditions. And yet, now we are stuck in the recent political strife between Israel and Palestine, where there is so much manipulation. Inner city youngsters are upset by the injustice, and the conflict becomes endless. So Buddhism could have an important role to play in breaking the stalemate. We need some fresh air.
I want to mention a geographic consideration here: in the Qur`an, Islam is mentioned as the “middle community”. This expression, like many terms in the Qur`an, has been given many different interpretations, but it is a fact that Islam appeared in the Near and Middle East, between the West, cradle of modern life, and the Far East, cradle of Buddhism and Hinduism. Hence the land of Islam was for centuries a meeting and inspiring ground for those spiritual traditions. And today, destiny has us here in the West for a dialogue between Islam and Buddhism. That is really an interesting development.
Now, I will try to be more concrete. If we want to take action on the subject discussed by Mr. von Brück, we must indeed understand that associative, inter-religious actions have their limits. We must find more efficient ways. It is true that we, the ‘‘spiritual people’’, tend to be too soft. While it is true that we must keep our inner peace, our universal vision of total peace, we must still act, and we have to act with what we have around us, what God gave us. Here too is a manifestation of the divine will, or, if you prefer, cosmic will. Some Sheiks said: ‘‘There is war in Iraq, of course this is awful, but it is God’s will.’’ Many people would answer: ‘‘Muslims are such fatalists!’’ and so forth.
It is a fact that this idea of God’s will sometimes degenerates into oriental fatalism, but it is no less true that divine wisdom is endlessly acting in our world. When we are safe internally and externally, we need no longer be afraid. Not being afraid implies not being ignorant. You fear what you ignore.This is an universal truth. Ignorance is the mother of all vices. What I am saying here is nothing new, but it needs constant reaffirmation. We have heard during the meeting concrete propositions, the next step now is to have everyone strive to create at his or her level, whether it is local or international, foundations for inter-religious synergy. We could then exert a pressure on states to create the political will.
I think that we are able to teach mysticism and spirituality even to youngsters. Some decades ago, spiritual traditions, rites and dogmas were established inside the realm of one specific religion. We live now in a time when it is possible to teach even the youngest how to live a really spiritual and mystical life. This is the time and it will not last forever. Thank you.
Part 2: Questions and Comments
I spent the last year studying comparative religion and culture through Long Island University’s “Friend Road” program in Taiwan, Thailand, Italy, Greece, and Turkey. Over the past three days, the major theme among the speakers has been on spiritual revival, global ethics and achieving peace through religion. I am from the United States, where a major part of the population is atheist, and does not prescribe to any of the major religions. For many Americans, religion is not at the forefront of their lives, and many people joke that consumerism is the number one religion in America. I believe that atheists and people who do not prescribe to any of the major religions also comprise a significant proportion of the world’s population. As we have all said, change needs to happen everywhere, but change definitely needs to happen in America. And so my question to the entire panel is, how do we go about including these people who do not consider themselves to be religious in dialogue, in peace education and efforts to be more globally responsible Citizens? Thank you.
Michael v. Brück
First of all, thank you for your remark, which is quite a surprise, because we always think that the United States is a country where there is kind of a spiritual revival taking place in a sense which is very difficult to digest for others. Most of these people are a very conservative Southern Baptist type of religion. But nevertheless, I think that the issue you address is very interesting, because what I notice in my country and in many parts of the world, even India, is that the younger generation, already our children and more so the children of our children will probably have a break with tradition. There are a lot of sociological studies and so forth, there is a tremendous gap, and we saw it in Thailand last year where I spent a sabbatical. And we have seen in other countries, for example, the one that I came from which was East Germany; how a whole generation grew up without proper religious socialization.
How to address this problem? All of us might have different experiences. My experience in Germany as well as in India was that every human being, especially young people, have an aspiration and have a hope for their lives. They want their lives to be meaningful and they want to experience joy. And what that means cannot be discovered only by looking into texts, by being preached to. But it can be discovered as a matter of experience, as an internal formation of mental happiness and health that gradually but certainly leads to the question of what is the ultimate meaning or goal of my life here. And that is a religious quest. You went to different parts of the world to experience that human life is not a singular but an interdependent life, not only with other human beings in the community, but with all living and non living beings on Earth. We go to schools to possibly experience this. I see a tremendous interest in what we were talking about here, especially with the non believers, because they do not have so many mental hang-ups with preconceived ideas of what God has to be. Very often, they are more open, and from my experience, also talking about my own children, I think this is a great sign of hope.
I was particularly interressed by Prof. v. Brück’s presentation, how he emphasises experience, the importance of not teaching peace only by the way of a theoretical education, of extending interfaith education beyond mere historical teaching. The feeling, the mentality of another culture must be experienced. Could it be possible to develop common exercises for an inter-tradition teaching, for experience? It seems feasable at ground level, for instance in respiration exercises, attention, relaxation, quietness, openness, communication, and feeling exercises too. We could form a commission, a group whose work it would be to design exercises that are not too specific, and of universal value. What is your opinion? Did you already start working in that direction?
Michael v. Brück
May I give you two examples or incidents, two little stories:
Just last December I went to Iran with a delegation of our university. We arrived in Isfahan, which is one of the most beautiful cities on earth with all these mosques and beautiful central squares. Just before midnight we went to that wonderful place of the moonlit mosque. It was full moon, and there was a small group of young men between 18 and 25, six or seven of them who started to sing hymns. All my university colleagues who had come with me were from different departments, from the natural sciences and business. They were very secular people, very doubtful about religion and everything having to do with it. But we immediately encountered the deep peace and abundance of beauty in this setting, and so we joined the young men in their singing. German professors like us singing with young Muslim people at midnight under the full moon – that was just what you were asking about.
The other little story is one that Father Lasalle, a well known German Jesuit priest who went to Japan and became a Zen master himself, told us during a Zen retreat. He was working with Count Dürkheim, another German philosopher and psychotherapist who introduced Zen and Japanese culture into Germany. This story was told to him by Dürkheim:
Once a woman came to him and said: “I cannot pray any more, can you help me”? Dürkheim just asked her: “Can you kneel?” So she went back and started the practice of kneeling.
The kinds of concentrated physical posture that we have in all of our traditions are very beautifully worked out in Islam, very clear in Buddhist traditions and also in Christianity. I think we all have the same bodies, and if we go through our bodies, through the physical posture which can become very clear, transparent or even lucid, and go through the training of our breathing, our mind gradually stabilizes on that basis. And you can be sure that if you gain the trust of people, be they religious people or business people – we have the meditation schools for business people in Germany – once people go through the physical experience of concentration it gradually opens them up to a deeper spirituality. And this what we all have in common. All of our traditions have tremendous experience of beauty, poetry, songs, physical expressions as well as breathing. And this is a wonderful way of joining. Then we work on our differences in concepts and actions. Thank you
Dharma Master Hsin Tao
Nowadays, parents and children often find it difficult to make time for each other and get together, and therefore we arrange meditation sessions for the entire family; parents and children. We encourage them to meditate together. The meditation in itself is not too difficult. It is simply to relax. The posture of the meditation helps you to relax body and mind. The management levels of corporations, people who experience a lot of stress in their work, would especially need this kind of mediation as well. And it would be wonderful if the school system could promote meditation as part of peace education, since meditation is an easy acceptable form of peace education. Once our minds become peaceful, it is easier for us to recognize those thoughts and behaviors that are not peaceful. There was a question about how to encourage young people to study Buddhism. There should be something that attracts them to it. I think that Zen-meditation is something they would be quite interested in. Since young people like all kinds diversified activities, they would also like Zen aspects in culture, music, arts. So if all of this could be integrated in their education, they would learn a lot.
Audience (Monsignore Fallo)
We have heard a lot about the relationship between man and the world. But my question is how do other religious traditions, how do Islam and Buddhism, teach man to enter into a relationship with God? How do they educate about God? We have to remove all idols to reach God, because God is true peace.
Michael v. Brück
The problem is that with the term and concept of God, we already have a conceptualization which divides. Where does our concept come from? It comes from our upbringing and childhood. You see, all major traditions, Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Buddhists would answer in such a way I guess: God is not something we can reach and think or approach or introduce ourselves to, but God is something we open ourselves up to. As I said before, not that we have the truth; and what is very interesting is that in Arabic, truth and reality is the same. It is the same in Sanskrit, sat and satya, and in German Wirklichkeit, meaning that which effects.
So it is God, truth and reality which has us, not us having reality and truth. Our job is to open up ourselves, and as you rightly say, the first thing is to remove the idols. And this is really the point. Idols are not the things we have on the table made from gold and wood, but idols are the concepts in our minds, because they are so divisive, which we are usually not aware of. I think that all traditions are called by their prophets and teachers to beware of idols in the mental realm. And this is the first step to real peace education.
My question was simply: how do Buddhism and Islam educate man towards God, how do they teach man to pray to God?
Michael v. Brück
Now, from the Buddhist, the Muslim and other points of view, one can only say that there are different levels. Of course if you have Buddhists in Sri Lanka or Thailand or elsewhere, there is a concept of something like God. But as you grow in your spiritual maturity, you realize that what you actually pray to, the mental or physical image you may have, is not something outside there, but it is the all pervading reality which first of all is in yourself. That is why Buddhists do not like to talk about God. In the folk religion there is a lot of talk about spirits and that kind of thing. Buddhists do not avoid talking about God because they are atheists in that sense, but because they are extremely sensitive. The teaching of the Dharma from the very beginning has been that any god we could pray to is our concept. That is why they try to avoid the whole thing, try to empty themselves of all thoughts and ideas, as to be able to be encountered by the ultimate reality, whatever that is.
Dharma Master Hsin Tao
How can we help people understand what God is? What do we mean when we say Buddha or Allah? I think these words are concepts, pointers, they help us to get to know, to approach and study and the reality behind it, to completely fill it out. Is it not like that? We need these concepts to begin to overcome our initial ignorance about this reality, so that we can then study these concepts. What do we mean when we speak about the peace of God or the Buddha? What do we mean by peace? I think that this is a matter of definition. We say God is peace, Buddha is peace. But it is not so that we create this definition and the reality behind it. The reality that we define is there first.
I would like to take up the issue from the Muslim perspective. In Islam, the relationship between God and the human being has several levels. Maybe it has only one level for certain Muslims, but it should have several ones. The first level is a personal, we could almost say affectionate relationship with God. This is a personalized God, and a personalized relationship. In this case, God is an immanent God, because the human being needs that kind of relationship which I would call affectionate. But then there is another level. In prophetic theology, God is called “empty” or “full”, but that means the same thing, namely, God as the one we cannot know. God is beyond all forms, and therefore can only be known by what is called “taste”, by the spiritual experience. We need to communicate about the expereiential and meditative methods of this experience, which are sometimes very close in the different traditions: for example between the Sufi method of prayer and the orthodox Jesus prayer or certain Buddhist rituals there exists a certain communion, and what they have in common is that God is invisible. God is unique, but pure essence. At this level, the Sufis even do not want to call God “God”, but often call him “The Real,” “The True” or just “He.”
Michael v. Brück
What you are saying right now is also exactly true in Christianity as well.
Dharma Master Hsin Tao
I think that our definitions rely on what is most holy, namely our consciousness. We can enter into relationship with God because we have consciousness. We have a relationship with Buddha or Allah because we have consciousness. Having consciousness is the original self. The self is an issue of consciousness.
I think what Monsignore Fallo wanted to say is that all peace education has to go through a religious education. If we give a strong religious education, no matter in which religion, then we get closer to peace education and peace.
Yes, but only religious education by itself is not sufficient anymore, because the religious framework comes with a past that is a bit heavy. What we need is an education that develops the spiritual “taste”. Of course I can teach the children the official dogma of Islam, but the spiritual is awakened through methods of contemplation and invocation. Otherwise we block the children in the theoretical framework: this religion says this, that religion says that. And this becomes divisive. What counts is really the realm of inner experience. And that is feasible with children, because they are very receptive.
One problem with religious spirituality is that issues are discussed in a too ethereal way. I think that to teach peace we must go back to the holy time of the body as a living and inhabitated temple. I am a dancer, I danced on the theme of peace for years. I went to wartime Sarajevo to bring some happiness. For me, dance is the movement of incarnation expressing the feeling of being present here and now. If we can help children feel the living treasure they bear inside, and understand that they have the responsibility to express this inner life through so many ways except war, we help them grow a spiritual treasure and teach peace at the same time. I like to think that I had the opportunity to make thousands of children feel that. Children may then receive any form of religious teaching, it does not matter as long as they feel this incarnation of light.
Then I want to say a last word. As a peace messenger for the UN I have this message from the UN “The bulwark of peace must be built in people’s minds”. Man is the image of God incarnated, but in the body of a warrior dwells violence and barbarity, while the gift of creation, life and peace dwells in a pacified body. Every technique which nurtures inner life and inner peace is good: meditation, admiration, contemplation of landscapes, anything goes.
Audience (Therese Andrevon)
I whish to add a remark about the issue of peace teaching. We must give an important place to beauty in the curriculum. We are teaching our children, and we know that today our children see only things like concrete and television. Maybe education to beauty and to the marvels of it would help teaching peace. Then I want to raise another question, maybe actually too big a question to be answered here, the question of reparation. I would like to know what are Islam and Buddhism’s perspectives on reparation. Is not peace teaching linked to reparation? I know that this notion sometimes is seen as passé, but a guilty conscience needs relief, we saw this phenemenon at work in guilty populations, in populations who felt guilty because of the sins or violent acts of their forebears; we saw their need of taking actions of atonement, a form of post-war reconstruction when peace has come. And this notion of reparation has a spiritual aspect too, it is an act of peace which contributes to construct our world. Is this notion present in Buddhism and Islam, and what do you think about its possible contribution to peace education?
Michael v. Brück
I think that is a very touchy question, and we had some of the most emotional dialogues between Jews and Buddhists at several levels during our Buddhist Christian exchange programs in America which touched upon this question. Of course we can’t go into details here, but I want to make only one distinction which might be helpful for further reflection.
One the one hand there is only individual responsibility, and the individual is responsible for herself and himself, not only for the actions, but also for the thoughts and the way we cultivate or not cultivate our thoughts. But on the other hand, we are highly interdependent beings, so what we think and how we act and interact affects not only ourselves – that it does is the whole experience of karma – but also others. It affects not only people in our generation, but in the next one to come. And we are affected obviously by the actions of the people before, and by our parents and grand parents.
For instance, as a German, I am fully aware of the interconnectedness with the generations before. Even though I was born after the Second World War in 1949, I still feel the repercussions of what was there before. The responsibility that I see is to work at the source and root levels so that these crimes and atrocities, that the total dehumanization which we have experienced in Germany and other parts of the world, cannot take place again. And I think that many people in Germany, at least in my generation, have this feeling. And this is one reason that there is quite a lot of interest in real spiritual practice against violence, not only against violence committed in the streets, but violence committed in the heart and mind. I think there is a linkage between the two. So in a way I think we have to distinguish these two levels, but then a very broad and insightful spiritual reflection has to bring them together again, and this should motivate us, not hold us back, but motivate us to cultivate what we have been talking about here all the time.
Alon Goshen Gottstein (summary)
The first point is that this afternoon’s conversation mirrors very well this morning’s conversation and earlier conversations in as much as the differences between where Islam and Buddhism go, in how they are constructed and consequently in their educational methods. And therefore we discover that education ultimately has to have both the part that is emphasized by one tradition and the part that is emphasized by the other tradition because, ultimately, they both recognize both elements. One element is very active and very social, namely education for the other and knowledge of the other. And the other part, which we heard about especially from Master Hsin Tao but from others as well, is the internal education, the educational transformation. And so, no one can really contest that what we have to seek is a balance, an equilibrium in these factors, and I admire the precedent that you are attempting in Munich in order to accomplish this. In the broadest possible sense, I would simply like to offer this as the simplest theory: we need to do both. But let me be more specific. I think some serious issues have arisen in our conversations, and I want to spell them out for further thought.
Do we assume a basic common humanity that we somehow have to cultivate, and then only secondarily make space for our differences? Or, do we educate within our traditions and develop the resources that each of our traditions in its particularity has for making space for the other? There is a very big philosophical difference here. And it was something that was mentioned, and different speakers without addressing the issue in full focus assumed different things. Therefore I feel it is my obligation to bring this to light.
The easy model is the model that was suggested by our first speaker, who spoke about the fact that we first educate to what is sort of common – our common humanity, and then move on to what is more specific. To a certain extent that operates in the test cases of the Munich school system, in as much as we all learn some kind of basic objective neutrality, from where we move onto our specifics. But that of course works in societies that are very diverse, that are loosening their ties with their traditions. Those societies could cultivate that.
But the real challenge for religions is not only to find a core humanity, but within their own traditional environment to create those resources. Therefore it is important to recognize that we have different challenges for peace education that confront mixed societies which have already come under the influence of secularizing powers, and educational challenges that confront traditional societies that have to seek the same goals, but have to go about it in different ways to achieve them. Most of this conversation has taken place in areas where there is control of education in the lay community, for example, in Germany and France. Other people in different parts of the world think differently and with a different mentality, and therefore need different educational models to be cultivated, and those have to be developed from within, and not necessarily on such a neutral common humanistic ground, which is one point that we have to be aware of.
One way of approaching and bringing together these two senses of both the outward social and the inner education goes back to the opening. Some of you saw last night a movie that I presented, in which Professor Harvey Cox of the Harvard Divinity School said: “Ask yourselves: ‘Who am I?’ Ask yourselves again ‘WHO am I?’ ‘But really, who am I?’ And then ask yourself how much did religion figure in your answer, or did religion not figure in your answer?”
Identity is very important to recognize as a factor in education, because I don’t think we can educate for peace if we ignore the issue of educating for identity in its broadest possible sense. There are multiple senses of identity. In fact, one of the issues that has emerged in the past several days has been that of globalization effaces particular identities. This kind of effacing creates a backlash. Peace education therefore cannot take place simply based on universal principals, but those principals have to be adapted to the particular cultures.
Let me evoke again the opening statement by president Wahid, in which he spoke about how religion and culture fuse, and how you can never only look at the most abstract things, because even if you look at them spiritually, you are missing significant parts of the identities of specific communities. Therefore, in looking for identity, we have to take into account education to the particulars of the identity. Identity is also important for bridging the gap between the social and the meditative sphere, because one dimension of identity is arrived at by asking ‘who am I, what is my social affiliation, what is my history, my memory, what are my roots’? But a deeper sense of identity also emerges in meditation, when I contemplate ‘who am I truly in myself’? Therefore the metaphysical roots of identity are also something that has to be taken into account. I would say that the kind of exercises that Michael has described about the helpfulness of meditation can paradoxically work better in a secular society than in a traditional religious environment.
And that presents a great challenge. I could never get away with the constituencies that I work with, traditional Muslims, traditional Jewish, traditional Christians, in pulling off what you are able to pull off. Once people loosen their ties with tradition, they can be much more experimental, they can benefit from all kinds of things, and it becomes more of a supermarket environment. I am not saying that anyone is doing anything wrong, but I am saying that we have to develop theories and methods of education that are suitable to rich and varied constituencies and cultural needs. And within those different cultural needs, we need to find the balance between the social dimension and the internal meditative dimensions.
I would like to simply conclude with three points that I would like to take home from this discussion to serve as inspiration to my own work. My own work involves interfaith education that ultimately serves the broader goals of peace, and with constituencies that are more comfortable doing some of the memory identity work rather than the meditation identity work. I think that there are several important elements in this.
One element is the importance of beauty. In one of our conversations, the use of music came up. The use of beauty as a means of eradicating media generated images that we receive, the beauty of traditions, and the quality of aesthetic development as a fundamental element of education.
For a second element, I think that I would like to see much further work done on the assumption that mysticism provides us with a common ground, and that the mystical experience therefore is the basis for an educational system that breaks down our differences. We say this very often, but I don’t know if it has been proven. I think that the issues tend to be more complex and need to be worked out. But nevertheless, if we can incorporate the study of the precedents of mysticism as a part of our educational experience, then we can be both faithful to our historical identities, and build a bridge. Therefore, by integrating the study of mysticism, even if it is not the full practice of mysticism, but the study of mysticism, we then have a way of making that part of our education.
And now I come to the final point, which I think is the most important insight I personally take home. We have spent now several days recognizing that there are problems in the world, that there are causes to these problems, and that there are strategies that we have to undertake to engage these problems. Now, the strategies so far suggested in education here have to do with how we teach our own histories, how we teach meditation, how we make ourselves more fulfilled spiritual beings, and they are all essential. But what I take away is the idea of developing a program to study the different ethics of our traditions, what we identify as the key problems that we have been discussing in the past few days. If it is greed that has emerged in our conversations, if it is power and egotism, then couldn’t we study what Buddhism and Islam and the other traditions may have to teach on that, discovering a common educational ground on the teaching of those issues that we have actually identified over the past few days as the core problems facing the world through their secondary and tertiary ramifications, through the corporate world, through the governmental world, through the abuse of power.?
This is the religious classical wisdom, and what our world lacks more than anything is wisdom. And therefore, in part of teaching peace education, I think, if all religions can locate, through a common educational program, core values, we don’t have to agree on how we construct them, but we can agree that we recognize them, then we have one additional element to put into this education for peace program.
Part 3: Closing Statements
These three enriching days are coming to an end. This is traditionnaly the time to thank participants, but if you remember, I chose to thank everyone at the opening of the meeting. There has been other meetings responding to UNESCO’s interest for this theme. You are certainly aware that to advance toward the achievement of its ideals, our organisation cooperates as much as possible with NGOs, associations, men and women of good will. Mr Koïchiro Matsuura, the general director, expressed himself his interest in the launching of a Buddhist-Muslim dialogue. He was motivated by the international situation, but also by the fact that this sort of dialogue is rare, and my partners and me are glad that we were able to hold such an event here, in the house of cultures, of civilisations, of spiritual traditions.
Of course we must aknowledge the very important contribution made by the outside partners, first the Museum of World Religions, under Master Hsin Tao and his community, and the NGO Global Family for Love and Peace. Our preparatory meetings, sometimes conducted virtually, brought us closer together, and we were able to work as a very efficient team.
Our UNESCO team is small but united, motivated, very creative. So many years of work towards the promotion of inter-cultural activities and dialogues have given us the strong conviction that, despite our limited means, our projects actually change, even if a little, the dark reality of the present world. So I wish to thank our team, the technicians, and the interpreters of course, who gave a meaning to our words.
I loved the image used in the first days, “the road and the roadside”. Sometimes there is fast progress in the course of a dialogue, but sometimes too we get stalled, so we need the roadside. We in the UNESCO find the road concept particularly relevant, because nearly all our inter-cultural projects include a road concept. The silk road for instance, as we all know, is the road of meeting and interaction between Islam and Buddhism. In our program we organised five expeditions. One of them was “The road of Buddhism”. So this is not the first time that Buddhism is at the center of our program.
May I remind you that the inter-religious program was initiated in 1995 under the name « Road of Faiths », following the initiative of Morocco along with other member states. The word « road » invokes the notion of meeting, crossing, the dynamics of exchange and mutual foundations, and therefore « road » may be an apt synonym for religion, better than the rigid definitions in a dictionary.
During these days, we had a very interesting discussion about the difference between religion and spirituality. Some were of the opinion that religions are too institutional, and that the reason why people, especially young people, are deserting religion to seek meaning in spirituality has to do with the fact that the realm of spirituality is wider and its meaning more abstract. My undertanding of the meaning of faith seems to be different from the majority of people. We frequently mentioned difficult international situations, events which concern, upset, shock us. What are my personal feelings after reading or seeing reports about all those conflicts in the newspapers or on TV? I must confess that I wonder if my actions, this program I head, are of any use. Maybe you share the same feelings. Nevertheless, I try every day to reinforce my conviction that it is better to believe in man as he is, for the better or the worse; and to promote dialogue, meaning trying to reach even to those who hold opinions and values contrary to mine.
UNESCO has organised meetings, intercultural and interreligious dialogues here and in many other places in the world, with the participation of experts, men and women of exceptional qualities, a number of whom are present here. But actually all participants were already seeing eye to eye on a number of issues. I think that we must be more ambitious, and try to include in our dialogue those who are on the sides, those who are unconvinced, those who use violence to impose their ideas upon others. We must seriously discuss how to make the necesary changes in our perception of the other, in our behaviour and attitudes towards the stranger. As we said in the opening of the meeting, the ethic of dialogue is a core concept for UNESCO’s action. This ethic goes beyond mere tolerance, which is letting others cross our pathway without trying to meet or acknowledge them. It is somewhat difficult to determine the right practical way of initiating and conducting the dialogue.
Nevertheless, participants in our meeting have given us some hints. Understanding how our religious, ethical, and humanistic values are close is very important indeed, and this idea is expressed in each of UNESCO’s declarations about interfaith dialogue. It is essential to spread the message all around the world that religions and spiritual traditions refuse to be manipulated, to be used; that they refuse to see barbaric, violent acts commited in their name. The religions’ message, as many of you have pointed out, is based on the Golden Rule, which is present in all the earliest holy scriptures, such as, for example, the Gilgamesh epos. We find the Golden Rule in all holy scriptures, but also in some spiritual oral traditions.
How should we implement dialogue? In the last few days, we have frequently mentioned globalization with negative undertones, but globalization allows religious and spiritual traditions to work together for the common good in many realms: reducing poverty, helping development, education etc… In the realm of religion, there is more and more global cooperation between NGOs and religious groups. I think we should encourage this new development. We saw many instances of this cooperation, and generally the main actors are local religious communities finding a solution to their problems together. Top level resolutions, including those of international organisations, like UNESCO, are often inefficient, because they do not take into account the local realities and mentalities.
Nevertheless, as many of you already realized, UNESCO is useful as a protective umbrella, as a neutral forum where men and women of good will can express opinions which they might not be able to express in their own countries for political reasons. Relationships are established, and many participants have talked about the importance of these relationships, which, in the future, might hopefully develop into a network. Establishing contacts and synergies to work concretely together is precisely the goal of our program, and that of UNESCO as well. A network of UNESCO research and teaching centers in the domain of inter-cultural and interfaith dialogue is in the process of being established right now. We have here with us one of the coordinators, a representative from the Jerusalem center. I am sure that this network will help tremendously in the fight against what some of you aptly called ‘mutual understanding illiteracy’ in the domain of religion and spirituality.
This is certainly a factor of ignorance, and ignorance is a breeding ground for communitarian isolation. This illiteracy hinders communication, blocks access to the knowledge of our common history, knowledge without which we cannot envision the future. Education, which concerns everyone, is a core concept in our interfaith dialogue program. The knowledge of religions, spiritual traditions, and their historical background, is a key to the understanding of one’s own civilization and heritage as well as that of others. Moreover, this knowledge allows us to fully understand that each civilization is pluralistic, that it is the product of a long history of mutual exchanges and influences. If we take a close look at history, we clearly see the mutual influence cultures and religions exert one upon the other. We see it clearly in Southeast Asia, our study case. Our participants have helped us to understand that Islam there is different from Islam in the Middle East, and that Buddhism in this region was influenced by Islam. This is why we must unite to preserve our common heritage, and should not allow any specific faith to destroy it. It is a common treasure, it is our memory. Looting or destroying it is looting and destroying our common and deepest memories.
During the meeting, the concept of values was discussed as well. This concept comes up again and again in many international forums, including that of UNESCO. Are values universal or emanations of a specific culture? Is there a hierarchy of values? The issue of values was discussed here in relation to a special trait of Europe, or maybe actually of France, namely laicity. Laicity should not be an ideology, but a way to create a space where all beliefs may coexist and interact in an enriching way.
One of our speakers proposed the theory that each of us holds a part of the mysterious truth of human nature. We need all those truths reflecting the cultural, spiritual and human diversity of our world in order to understand the meaning of life. The speaker used the word mosaic, thereby perfectly describing our complex, diverse and ever evolving humankind. I even believe that we are fundamentally inter-cultural beings, because of our family backgrounds, personal experiences or simply because we live in the modern world’s mixed societies. The multiple aspect of a person`s identity is more and more obvious because of globalization, but we should not forget that globalization, this now run of the mill term, points to an already ancient phenomenon. We can see globalization in each civilization in history, for example in the world of Greece and Rome meeting the Sassanide empire meeting the land of Buddhism… So the process of globalization has been at work in history for a long time. What has changed is the speed of it, nowadays that it is an instant phenomenon.
Someone here aptly pointed out that we lack the distance necessary to appreciate fully what we are living. That might be the reason why those new trends put us in a state of anxiety. Nevertheless, I would like to conclude with words of hope, because, as was rightly mentioned by a speaker, hope has rarely be mentioned here. The anxiety that we are experiencing is hopefully going to help us overcome the crisis and create a common future together. Women have an important role to play in this – the relative absence of women has been mentioned too. While women may not appear in the limelight, they surely are present, very present, and I dare affirm that, together with young people, they are pushing for change and creating hope. Thank you very much.
Dharma Master Hsin Tao
May the sufferings of all beings be alleviated. May all ignorance and pain be diminished! May all our wishes be fulfilled! May all beings attain happiness! May the Three Treasures bless us!
The major purpose of our Buddhist and Muslim dialogue is the hope that we can open a gate of peace. When we first started with the planning of the Museum of World Religions we were not too familiar with the different religions. However, we kept visiting and staying in touch with people from many different faiths and offered them our sincere friendship. One of the very first friends that we visited was Catholic Father Albert Poulet-Matthis, the Vatican delegate for interfaith relations in Taiwan. With his experience in international interfaith exchange, he taught us many things and introduced us to many friends. So we gradually learned how to be good students of interfaith exchange. I feel that it is not by mere coincidence that I am here with you today, that we can share the preciousness and peace of this very moment.
This reminds me of the 1999 gathering organized by Council for the Parliament of World Religions in Cape Town, South Africa, which was attended by so many people from different religions. Most of them I did not know at all. So I humbly greeted everyone, introduced myself, gave them my name card and the prospect of the Museum. I kept explaining and introducing the idea of the Museum to everyone. At the end, I felt that we had come to know and accept each other. The relationship between the faiths that had been established in this way has lasted through the completion of the Museum.
Interfaith-experience has taught me to open my arms in order to embrace others. The series of “Buddhist-Muslim Dialogues” that is coming to a culmination here today was initiated by me as response to the media generated misinformation about religions and their relationships, about Islam and Buddhism. So, as Buddhists and Muslims, we wanted to get together, talk to each other and let people all over the world know that our religions are compassionate and loving at heart, neither violent nor non-peace loving. The dialogues have brought us the consensus we will not allow each other to be limited by religious affiliations, but that we will instead work more closely together to initiate a movement to take care of the earth. The earth is just like our mother, and the religions can be thought of as our father. So, what can the religions together contribute towards the care of the earth?
I would say that religions contribute to harmony and peace. I cannot believe that God, Buddha or Allah would not be fond of our working side by side. The protection of the environment and harmony of the earth are dependent on our religious people working together, on their forming the strength, courage and care to make it happen. Otherwise, there will only be lip service. Finally, I think the most important thing is to fully and selflessly engage ourselves together in peace education. Peace education is everyone’s responsibility. I think it would be wonderful if we could gather here together again next year to have another dialogue. I appreciate very much your participation, your listening and your good intention. Thank you.