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Finding the pathway to humanity

A few weeks ago, an international peace conference was held in Cairo at Al Azhar University, the most prestigious centre of learning in the Sunni Muslim world.

Speaking at the invitation of its grand imam, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, to an audience of some 300 religious leaders, professors and scholars from Egypt and several other countries in the region, Pope Francis reminded them that “religion is not meant only to unmask evil, it has an intrinsic vocation to promote peace, today perhaps more than ever before.”

The Pope called on Christian and Muslim religious leaders in Egypt and throughout the Middle East to join in building “a new civilization of peace” by declaring together “a firm and clear ‘no’ to every form of violence, vengeance and hatred carried out in the name of religion and in the name of God” and to “affirm the incompatibility of violence and faith, belief and hatred.”

“What is needed are peacemakers, not fomenters of conflict; firefighters not arsonists; preachers of reconciliation and not instigators of destruction.”

The grand iman spoke first, calling for an alliance of all organizations that work for peace. He condemned the small minority who misinterpret Islam to kill and terrorise innocent people and accused “some parties,” whom he did not name, “of financing these persons and groups” and denounced the arms trade “as the principal cause of our problems today.”

The Pope began his address by thanking “my brother” the grand imam for the invitation to speak.

Interestingly, considering his upcoming meeting with Donald Trump, the Pope remarked “it is disconcerting to note that, as the concrete realities of people’s lives are ignored in favour of obscure machinations, demagogic forms of populism are on the rise.”

These forms of populism, he said, “certainly do not help to consolidate peace and stability. No incitement to violence will guarantee peace, and every unilateral action that does not promote constructive and shared processes is, in reality, a gift to the proponents of radicalism and violence.”

He insisted that declarations are not enough “to prevent conflicts and build peace. It is essential that we spare no effort in eliminating situations of poverty and exploitation, where extremism more easily takes root, and in blocking the flow of money and weapons destined to those who provoke violence.” Moreover, he said, “it is necessary to stop the proliferation of arms that, if they are produced and traded, will sooner or later be used.”

He described violence as “the denial of every authentic religiosity” and declared that “as religious leaders we are called to unmask the violence that dresses itself with presumed sacredness… as religious leaders we are called to denounce the violations against human dignity and against human rights, to bring to light the attempts to justify every form of hatred in the name of religion and to condemn them as an idolatrous falsification of God,” who “is the God of peace.”

Emphasizing the importance of dialogue, such as that being conducted together by the Holy See and Al Azhar, he declared that “in the field of dialogue, especially interreligious dialogue, we are called to walk together, in the conviction that the future of all depends also on the encounter between religions and culture.”

He told the conference that in dialogue it is necessary “to educate to respectful openness and to sincere dialogue with the other, recognizing the fundamental rights and freedoms, especially that of religion, constitutes the best way to build the future together, to be constructors of a civilization.”

At this critical moment in history, Francis said, “the only alternative to a civilization of encounter is the incivility of confrontation” and “to truly contrast the barbarities of the one who breathes on hate and incites to violence, one must accompany and bring to maturity generations that respond to the incendiary logic of evil with the patient growth of good.”

He emphasized the importance of educating the young “because there will not be peace without an adequate education of future generations.”

He concluded by saying that religious and political leaders as well as “those who are responsible for information” are called “by God, by history and by the future to start, each in their own field, processes of peace.”

The two religious leaders embraced to a standing ovation from the audience.

This inspirational gathering was quickly juxtaposed against the Trump cabaret replete with hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of new arms to pour into the Middle East that he obscenely referred to as “a lot of beautiful military equipment”.

He then gave a lecture where he seemed to be declaring his friendship with the Sunni Muslims of the world and his enmity towards the Shia Muslims.

Trump blamed Iran – rather than Isis – for “fuelling sectarian violence”, pitied the Iranian people for their “despair” a day after they had freely elected a liberal reformer as their president, and demanded the further isolation of the largest Shiite country in the Middle East. The regime responsible for “so much instability” is Iran. The Shiite Hezbollah were condemned. So were the Shiite Yemenis. Trump’s Sunni Saudi hosts glowed with warmth at such wisdom.

“Our friends will never question our support, and our enemies will never doubt our determination,” he grandiosely declared.

The politicians and business people of the world have lost the plot. They have created the inequality and greed that provides fertile ground for unrest and environmental devastation. They see caring for society as a drain on their profits and power.

There are things about organised religions that trouble me but if they can change their focus from a pathway to heaven to helping us find the pathway to humanity, if they have the courage to recall our leaders to decency, then they deserve our support.


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  1. diannaart

    Trump is not the most self-reflective narcissist to strut the world stage (if ‘self-reflective narcissist’ is not an oxymoron). Had to laugh, because my other emotions had gone AWOL, when I heard about the arms deal Trump has made with Saudi Arabian King Salman. More arms in the Middle East…

    Trump is such a funny man, bwaahhaahahaha…

  2. Kaye Lee

    Trump is a fool and the world leaders, instead of calling him out, are furiously working out how to play him to their advantage. They laugh with him as they screw him….and the rest of us with him. Our government is just as bad if not worse because much of what they do is veiled in secrecy.

  3. Miriam English

    Well said Kaye.

    “They see caring for society as a drain on their profits and power.” Yes. That encapsulates the way politicians have come to see us. Many seem to think that democracy would be great if they could just get rid of the majority of the population.

    Nowhere is this more clear than in right-wing politics, where in the USA Republicans are diddling the voting registers to delete black people (because they tend to vote Democrat). Remember the LNP’s disgusting attempts to make voting more difficult for the young and the poor?

    Ironic that Trump sneers at Iran’s example of genuinely democratic elections, when he is the beneficiary of probably the most corrupted and undemocratic election in USA history.

  4. Susanne

    Agree with Kaye, Trump is being used to get some questionable deals through.
    Sadly, msm’s daily distraction around Trump’s persona is taking the focus off actual policies.
    Own goal fools.
    Attempts to destroy Trump have back-fired to such a degree that msm is now a synonym for ‘fake news’. Watching msm struggle with the concept of credibility is too funny. Love or hate Trump he’s held a mirror up to the bullies in the msm and they’re antsy and petulant.
    Now if they could both gracefully wander off into the sunset.

  5. diannaart

    Caring for others has been and maybe always was, a low level in the pecking order of ‘humanity’.

    Hard to imagine, but Trump was once completely dependent on others for food, protection, health, clothing – in fact, to state bleeding obvious, we all start out completely helpless and dependent upon others… and we wind up that way at the end. Yet, caring for and investing in the well being of all people has been debased as some type of parasitism, when this is our reason for being, the most important thing we can ever aspire to is ensuring people, other animals and our environment are healthy.

    One day Trump will need palliative care and I hope his carers spit in his gravy.

  6. Florence nee Fedup

    Trump clever showman. Give the audience what they want to hear. Sided with Sunni against Iran.

  7. corvus boreus

    Trump reserves the cliche ‘fake news’ for those members of the ‘MSM’ who actually (and often factually) report his failings.
    He is more than happy to shmooze with those presstitutes who support his agenda and sing his praises, such as FOX ‘news’ (consistently the worst liars in the US media).
    If you are happy with public ‘information’ being limited to total saturation by a Murdoch media monopoly, with the only alternative being to run the wild gamut of internet ‘reporting’, then by all means exalt in the marginalising of the more credible sections of traditional journalism to the direct benefit of the worst peddlers of falsehoods.
    I will not be joining in your celebrations.

  8. jim

    Ahh America the great peace keeper a country that has never been invaded except for Pearl Harbor has so far invaded 55 other countries both by bombing with mustard gas, napalm bombing cluster bomb’s and “economic sanctions” thereby bringing untold suffering on the masses of those countries gee we should be thankful it was a superpower and not some despot doing the attacking lets help America do more invading it’s going great so far. yeepee.

  9. Susanne

    corvus, I agree there are more than a few journalists who merit the phrase “credible sections of traditional journalism” and I’m happy that group exists. In general however, msm is short on talent and big on spin. All on behalf of the elite.
    I don’t know how a community can transform into an intelligent democracy but I think part of the solution involves the remaking of msm. Waiting for msm to self-destruct is the other option. Perhaps msm might even grow into what I see as their primary role – providing a public forum where they assist in gathering experts to debate ideas in an intelligent fashion (minus msm hysterics getting in the way). At the moment it is basically the opposite – msm deludes the public on behalf of the corporate elites into accepting 2nd rate policies: NBN, gas reservation, tax policy settings, renewable energy, foreign ownership, tax haven protection, etc. Apparently the sky will fall if the public doesn’t accept the neo-con agenda of the day.
    My hope is with the youth today who have easy access to more independent news sources.

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