Religion plays a significant role in ensuring peace

Religion plays a significant role in ensuring peace by teaching its adherents to respect differences.

Apr 12, 2019

By Vincent D’Silva
Religion plays a significant role in ensuring peace by teaching its adherents to respect differences.

This was the message conveyed by interfaith groups which expounded on the origin of their religions and the traditions/celebrations of each belief at the Jordan Lecture Theatre, Newcastle University, March 29.

During the forum themed Illuminating different beliefs & practices, representatives from the three faiths, Islam, Christianity and Hinduism addressed, corrected and made clear the common misconceptions.

The Interfaith Symposium was moderated by Dr Jaysuman Pussppanathan, a Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) lecturer. The speakers were Ms Ryali Ratna Manjari, a Clinical Psychologist lecturer at Newcastle University, Fr. Edward Rayappan, Head, Diocesan Ministry of Ecumenical and Interreligious Dialogue and Shaykh Imran Angullia Al-Hafidz, an Islamic & Religious Scholar.

The speakers expounded on learning about other religious beliefs and faith practices which is an important part of intercultural understanding today. They stressed that there needs to be understanding, appreciation and respect for each individual’s unique faith traditions, to develop commonalities and to build friendship between future faith leaders.

The event was jointly organised by NUMed (Newcastle University) Islamic Society and Yayasan Dakwah Islamiah Malaysia (YADIM) with more than 130 people attending, comprising academicians, students, NGOs and the public.

Christianity is about Jesus
Giving an introduction to Christianity, Fr Rayappan said Christianity is about the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. We, as followers of Christ, learn how and why Jesus lived and died for us.

He said, “Jesus represents the perfection of humanity.”

Jesus is the human face of God, who was active and alive in humanity.

In order for us to be fully human and fully alive we look to Jesus as the Way, Truth and Life.
For us Christians, Jesus is our role model.

A comprehensive understanding of the Catholic faith is vital for us to be strong in our faith. God has given us the ability to seek knowledge about Him. Whatever we share about the life of Jesus Christ should be derived from Holy Scriptures and Sacred Tradition.

“Let everyone of us pray to our Almighty God to give us the wisdom to work together, build a better nation and society,” he said.

Let us first begin by being fully human and alive with the love of God and neighbour.

Islam is to bring peace
Speaking on Islam, Shaykh Imran said the word ‘Islam’ means ‘to bring peace’ and a Muslim is a person who spreads peace.

He said Allah has created different tribes, religions and cultures so that we can get to know each other. In order to get to know each other, we must learn about each other.

He said, “The Qur’an tells us to create ties with the People of the Book, the Jews and the Christians, and to focus on all that which we have common,” adding that we are not allowed to humiliate people of other religions.

In the matter of slandering people from other faiths, Allah has said in chapter Al-An’Am, verse 108: “And do not curse people who worship Allah (not according to your way) as that will result in others cursing you back in enmity without knowing.”

Today, he said, it has become easy to debate with people of other ethnicities and religions on social media. However, the Islamic scholar said people tend to get carried away while debating, especially since they are hidden behind the computer screens.

“Debating with people of other religions may be exciting, but it is against Islam to do so in a way that only spreads hate,” he said

Shaykh Imran has participated in many interfaith events as a way to get to know and understand the people of other religions better, and to clear up some of the misconceptions about Islam.

He said throughout this journey, he has made new friends and learnt how much we have in common.

He noted that whatever we do at an interfaith meeting, we meet under the slogan: “Sharing, not comparing.”

He said, “When we share, we get to know each other. By sharing, we get the opportunity to explore our differences and to celebrate our similarities.”

Hindus believe in monotheism
In her talk, Manjari said Hindus believe in monotheism – the belief that there is only one God.

She said the most common question people generally pose is if there is only one God, why are there so many Gods and God forms in Hinduism?

She explained that India has a wonderful religious tradition. It has something for everyone, to suit everyone’s needs.

“Many people do not understand this excellent idea and make derisory comments on Hindus having too many Gods,” she said.

She pointed out that this tradition has evolved to suit the needs of different people, just as we have shirts of varying types and sizes to fit different people.

Explaining further, she said a man who works in the kitchen can be called a cook, the same man working in the garden becomes a gardener. He also plays the role of a father, husband or son, and when he is at his workplace, he plays the role of an officer.

She stressed that it is the same one man playing different roles at different places and time.

“It is easy to understand and explain this principle as Hindus believe that there is only God in everyone and in everything,” adding that the whole world is God’s creation and Hindus love and respect God’s creation.

She said that Hindus greet each other with ‘namaste.’ They join the two palms in front of the chest with the head bowed whilst saying the word ‘namaste’.

She mentioned that the greeting is for all – people younger than us, of our own age, those older than friends, even strangers and us.

She also said that religion is a way to lead our life to reach our destination. The belief is that those who are born Hindus are to be good Hindus.

“Prayer is a form of communication with God. It does not merely mean asking for gifts, benefits or blessing for oneself or family alone.”

In reply to a question from the audience, do we differentiate between a Hindu follower and a non-Hindu follower?, she said the person does not have to be a Hindu by birth but if he follows the five basic principles or values, does no harm or hurt (no violence) in thought, word or deed, and prays selflessly for God’s entire creation, he is a Hindu.

She said that a good Hindu also does not judge anyone. “A good Hindu focuses on his journey back to his destination (God) and also believes in helping anyone who needs help in the same direction selflessly.”

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