The confronting events in Christchurch and Sri Lanka speak to the urgent need to rediscover and legitimise this ‘ethical imperative’ of a just world. Sadly, these two events are but part of a large litany of failures to instill genuinely communal values and praxis into our vision for the world. It is time for religious and political leaders to be outspoken and inspirational in the pursuit of a just and ecologically sustainable world.
With Federal elections upon us, not surprisingly, we can find many visionary statements rejecting such division, and looking to a better future.
It might feel as if the past decade of climate policy wars has led us into uncharted political waters. But the truth is that we’ve been sailing around in circles for much longer than that.
The situation in the late 1990s bore an uncanny resemblance to today: a Liberal-led government, a prime minister who clearly favours economic imperatives over environmental ones, emerging internal splits between hardline Liberal MPs and those keen to see stronger climate action, and a Labor party trying to figure out how ambitious it can be without being labelled as loony tree-huggers …
But, in another sense, of course, our situation is far worse than this. Not only has a culture war broken out, but also the past five years have been the four hottest in the world, the Great Barrier Reef is suffering, and the Bureau of Meteorology’s purpleis increasingly being given a workout.
We’ve spent two decades digging a deep hole for ourselves. It’s still not clear when or how we can climb out.
Pope Francis has made it a high priority to engage in dialogue with Islam, as he is acutely aware that the scourge of war and displacement of peoples will not stop until these great religious traditions can consolidate effective norms of peace, justice, toleration, and cooperation.
The Pope noted that he came to Abu Dhabi “as a believer, thirsting for peace … to be instruments of peace”. In the name of God, he said, we “need to enter together as one family into an ark which can sail the stormy seas of the world: the ark of fraternity”.
He said, “Each belief system is called to overcome the divide between friends and enemies, in order to take up the perspective of heaven … Each person is equally precious in the eyes of God, who does not look upon the human family with a preferential gaze that excludes, but with a benevolent gaze that includes”.
To recognise the same rights in everyone was “to glorify the name of God”, and consequently “every form of violence must be condemned without hesitation because we gravely profane God’s name when we use it to justify hatred and violence against a brother or sister … No violence can be justified in the name of religion”.
Pope Francis & Grand Imam sign historic document on Human Fraternity, firmly denouncing violence in the name of God
Shocked by renewed attacks on Muslims by a radicalised Australian in New Zealand, of all places, and on Christians and other Sri Lankans in Colombo, it is clear that the virus of ISIS is spreading, despite the defeat of the so-called Caliphate in Iraq and Syria.
Islamist and racist violence will never be eliminated simply by force or warfare. Perhaps only the religions involved can effectively delegitimise religiously inspired terrorism.
Though largely overlooked in much of our secular media, key Christian and Muslim leaders have been at work to reinforce commitment to peace and universal fraternity as fundamental to their religious beliefs.
On 4 February, Pope Francis and the Grand Imam of the Egyptian Al-Azhar mosque, Ahamad al-Tayyib, one of the leading contemporary scholars of Sunni Islam, signed an historic document, Human Fraternity for World Peace & Living Together.
The fault line in modern religion doesn’t go to a clash between civilisations, or even to a clash between religions, so much as to a struggle within religions and within cultures, between theologies, ethics, political ideologies, ethnicities, exclusivism, and inclusivism.
It is a struggle between liberals and conservatives, fundamentalists and moderates, reason and revelation. It is a battle within theologies between a God who is thought to be knowable through nature, man, and history, and a God who is thought to be only knowable through the revelations contained in the inerrant pages of the Torah, the New Testament, or the Quran.
It is a struggle within all religions between those who believe there are ‘many paths to Heaven’, endorse freedom of religion, encourage tolerance, and support mutual respect against those who believe there is only ‘one way to Paradise’, and desire to impose this on everyone else, whatever it takes.
There’s a lot of bad news in the UN Global Environment Outlook, but a sustainable future is still possible
The Sixth Global Environment Outlook(GEO-6), the most comprehensive environmental assessment produced by the UN in five years, brought us both good and bad news.
The environment has continued to deteriorate since the first GEO-6 report in 1997, with potentially irreversible impacts if not effectively addressed. But pathways to significant change do exist, and a sustainable future is still possible.