Saturday, June 20, 2015

Working Towards Equality, Freedom, and Dignity for All

In my post, “Creating a Safer World for Our Children,” 4/5/15, I noted that "it is conceivable that an organization of the major religions united to end the us v them mentality could be formed … an outgrowth, for example, of the Global Freedom Network … which would make a real difference." And so I sent the following open letter to the founding members of the Global Freedom Network, the signers of its Declaration to End Modern Slavery:

  Roman Catholic: His Holiness, Pope Francis
  Anglican:  Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby
  Hindu:  Her Holiness Mata Amritanandamayi
  Buddhist:  Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh
          The Most Ven. Datuk K. Sri Dhammaratana
  Jewish: Rabbi Dr. Abraham Skorka
      Chief Rabbi David Rosen
  Orthodox:  His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Martholomew
  Muslim:  Mohamed Ahmed El-Tayeb
         Grand Ayatollah Sheikh Basheer Hussain al Najafi

I applaud your recent declaration to end modern slavery by 2020 throughout the world and for all time.   While this is certainly an important undertaking, it unfortunately only scratches the surface of man’s inhumanity to man.  The world is rife with examples far more subtle than modern slavery that “fail to respect the fundamental conviction that all people are equal and have the same freedom and dignity.”

I am therefore writing you, and your co-signers, with a request that you all join together again and go further  … clearly stating to the world that the suffering that man has endured at the hands of his fellow man, whether in war, civil conflict, everyday life, or within the family must end because it too is caused by actions that fail to respect the equality of all, the right of all to live with freedom and dignity.  For the sake of the children of the world and future generations, this lack of respect for one another must end.  

We are all children of a single God.  Regardless what our religion (or non-religion), nationality, race, sex, ethnicity, or age, we are all one.  We may each have our own traditions, our own path to God or understanding the mysteries of the universe, but we are all nevertheless one.  We are all created by the same life force.  We are parents and children, but we are still one.  Whatever has come between us and drives us apart is learned and is not natural or according to God’s law.

While the suffering caused by war, civil conflict, and modern slavery is recognized by many as inhumanity, the suffering experienced by many within the family and as a part of everyday life is generally not considered inhumanity because it is not horrific.  Yet inhumanity it is … behavior that causes physical or mental harm or pain is cruel and thus by definition inhumane.

Within the family that should be a sanctuary of love and support, a refuge from the challenges faced in the world, it is instead far too common to find conflict, unkindness, disrespect, and cruelty between spouses, parents and children, and siblings.  How can children grow up to be whole, loving, secure people in such an environment?

Likewise the experience of discrimination and bias that many people face in everyday life is painful and cruel, the insidious remnant of age-old conflicts or animosities, including religious ones.  As with conflict within the family, these experiences often scar people psychologically for life.  And they rent the fabric of a nation and the family of man.

Any acts of inhumanity are not acceptable in a civilized society because people are thereby harmed.   

And so I ask that you join together again and vow to use your energies and your offices to teach the people of the world that we are indeed all one, and that every person should follow the maxim that is to be found in each of your religion’s heritage … to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Any action that fosters a perception of us v them must end.  Whether between members of a family, or groups, or nations, treating each other with respect and as equals is God’s way.

With sincere respect and humility,  I am,

Hanh Niêm, Ronald L. Hirsch

Enc:  “Creating a Safer World for Our Children”

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