Combating the divisiveness and disharmony in the World
World Interfaith Harmony Week started Sunday 5th February. This initiative, originally started by the UN, calls for Religious leaders to engage in a dialogue based on two common fundamental religious Commandments; Love of God, and Love of the Neighbour, without nevertheless compromising any of their own religious tenets. These two commandments are at the heart of the three monotheistic religions and therefore the UN argued would provide the most solid theological ground possible.
This week is about combating the divisiveness and disharmony in the World. One of the main caused of division and disharmony is ignorance. Unfortunately faith has often played a big part in disharmony. Faith provides people with identity, it defines people’s beliefs, attitudes and ultimately their actions. Identity is an essential part of life, but coupled with ignorance, identity can also be used as a part of division and disharmony.
In Rwanda, Tutsis and Hutus had lived side by side for hundreds of years before they were divided by the Belgium identity cards in the 1920s. Over time the Tutsis were ostracised, were named “inyenzi”, cockroaches. This division by identity led to hundreds of thousands of normal young men, to be incited in hatred to kill mercilessly 1 million people, to rid the Tutsi “cockroaches” from their country. This is not the only example, we only have to look at the Holocaust or other genocides, racism and discrimination in the world, to see how identity and ignorance combined can cause devastating disharmony.
When there is the potential in the world for millions of people – men, women, and children to be killed mercilessly, we have to fight back and push for more harmony. The core of disharmony is lack of understanding –ignorance; and ignorance breeds fear. When we don’t understand someone else, when we don’t even recognise the worth in that person and just see them as an identity – there will never be harmony.
Disharmony and injustice go hand in hand. Therefore dialogue is very important, it is the means by which we can find common ground and not hold on to identity by which to hate, but overcome that. Without dialogue ignorance would continue to exist, maybe grow and the potential for such atrocities to happen again would remain.
One of the recurring disharmonies is the economic inequality in the world. 1.4 billion people live in poverty and 70% of those are women. On Sunday when World Interfaith Harmony Week starts we will be beginning our first session of INFACT, an interfaith campaigns group. To do this, and be successful harmony is key, not only as the end result but also as the starting point.
We are focusing on campaigning about the disharmony between the developing and developed world and the disharmony between men and women. In a similar way that religious identity divides, being identified as a woman can mean a life of poverty, lack of health, education and basic needs.
We want to campaign to bring to the forefront the plight of women. But to do this we also must work side by side and establish harmony between one another within the group. Religious identity does not just have the potential to divide, it can bring rich diversity of experience, ideas and views. Identity only becomes stronger and more defined when we interact and learn from people of different backgrounds. Together we can be stronger in the fight against disharmony and injustice.