HAVE you ever compared the speeches of politicians and preachers? Frequently the mood they convey is remarkably similar. Politicians are usually in standby combat mode as they zealously guard their valued followers against rival party attempts to lure them across.
A parallel combative atmosphere surrounds many religions. What’s your take on the recently ended Christmas festivities with all the joyful carolling and babe-in-a-manger homilies? Groups of Sabah Muslims voiced opposition to these public celebrations, as they were deemed to be occasions for preaching the Christian faith. But a week before Christmas, churches in Sabah expressed concern that Muslim religious teachers had been urged to regard the Borneo states as their “medan dakwah” to propagate Islam.
We take it for granted that believers must stand guard against other religions spreading their doctrines. A question for you: are the beliefs of every religion so opposed to each other that we have to be confined within our own silos of faith? The silos of faith are like these high walls of the cement storage towers: they protect you and they also enclose your mind. With our religious loyalties exclusively narrowed, there is no common goal.
Boringly we’re heard enough of the fundamental differences between religions; it’s so 19th century. Let’s hear something about the fundamental similarities uniting religions. The start of next month is World Interfaith Harmony Week celebrated on Feb 1-7. Mooted in 2010 by King Abdullah II and Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan to promote world peace, Interfaith Harmony Week is now into its 10th year with barely any success.
Despite being a richly multicultural and multifaith nation, Malaysia has also made little advance.
This is what the National Unity Consultative Council should do: propose a common goal for all religions in Malaysia. We have Islam, the big five (Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism, Taoism), and another half dozen small ones. A common goal must be inspired by a shared vision. Is there a shared vision? Yes.
All religions believe in an omni-presence which the English call God. Omni-presence means present everywhere. It means God is in you, in the animal, the plant, the rock, the air, the water. Scientists with a spiritual inclination have given omni-presence an added dimension: God is in the atom, the subatomic particles, and the quantum realm. What this implies is that God is the deepest underlying sub-stratum of Nature or the natural environment.
Conservative preachers don’t accept this. God can’t be inside that hard rock as that would make Him a prisoner of the rock. So they interpret omni-presence as meaning that God is all around but not within Nature. If God is all around, it means that Nature is within God. If you can’t accept this either, then you are believing that God and Nature exist apart from each other. You have denied the omni-presence, and you have implicitly set God and Nature in opposition.
It is this notion that God and Nature exist separately from each other that has justified the despoilation of the natural environment, to the point that it is changing the human-friendly climate. Religions are very slow in responding to climate change because most preachers fail to see that omni-presence means God is in Nature and Nature is in God. They are not two separate entities.
By the way, the rock is not a solid mass as every atom in it is 99.9999999999999% hollow. The few subatomic particles in every atom are also not solid as they dissolve into a quantum realm. So how can God and Nature be apart when there is no solidity to separate them?
Governments don’t act in unison to avert climate change because there is no push from the religious side. When politicians see that religions are also not acting in unison, they find no encouragement to form an effective global alliance to save our human-friendly climate.
Climate change presents a challenge to all religions: can we change our sound bite to forge a meta-faith alliance for human survival? From silo faith to meta-faith, from reckless competition to needful cooperation. Make this your goal.
The writer, a former journalist, champions inter-faith harmony. Comments: email@example.com