Thank you so much for the invitation to take part in this inter-faith conference on the Arabian Peninsula, on land sacred to the prophet Mohammed and all those who follow his teachings. At this time in history, dialogue between those of different faiths is needed as never before. All over the world religious unrest, violence, and wars are destroying families and villages, driving people to leave their communities and seek safety elsewhere, but these waves of migration are creating new problems wherever they occur. No place in the world is untouched by these tragedies.
How can we stop this faith-based violence? A devout Catholic might say it is simply a matter of everyone turning to God, our God, part of the Trinity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and when all people in the world have recognized the blessed fact that Jesus died for our sins, that all you need is to believe in Him with all your heart, then at last we will have peace on Earth, good will to all men and women.
But that is not going to happen–
anymore than all the world is going to turn to Islam or Judaism or Hinduism for their spiritual guidance.
So in the absence of a single religion conquering the world, how are we to stop people from killing each other in the name of religion?
By finding the common ground between all religions. That common ground is there for all to see. It begins with the birth of a child—a holy moment if ever there was one—and continues in the nurturing of that child as we shower it with parental love. As the child grows the common ground shifts to the other holy moments of life: sexual awakening, seeking a loving partner, finding friends, the joys of nature and the arts, the loss of those we love through death. How do we know these are holy moments? It’s in our hearts as we experience them—we can feel them bursting! It’s the Divine coming to rest inside of us as we forge deep connections with others and with the natural world. Call it God, Allah, or the Holy Spirit—it’s what elevates us to our higher selves.
To find this higher plane we need to talk to each other, and that’s what this conference will begin, I hope. And since we will never agree on all things having to do with our various religions, let us seek those sacred things we can agree on first, and see where it leads. The first step should not be to build any more churches or mosques or temples. Instead, let us walk out of this conference, take a moment to acknowledge the beauty of the world around us, and then go hug a baby. The child’s smile will show us the way.