The tragic spectre of more violence and deaths this week from religious riots highlight the dark side of fundamentalism.
It is also a timely reminder of the importance of interfaith dialogue and the value of initiatives like the Gisborne Interfaith Network. The local interfaith monthly meeting last night discussed ‘The Purpose of Life’ from the perspective of each tradition represented.
Such dialogue is not intended to be a debate, rather it opens a space to respectfully enquire and share the experience, worldviews and ways of approaching issues all humans face. Learning how to coexist with people outside of our friends and family is a big part of growing up in the modern world.
For all their history as the cause of conflict, faith traditions of the world have had shining examples of peacemakers in places as diverse as Northern Ireland, South Africa, the Middle East, Asia, the United States, South America and the Soviet Union. Humble people have been loyal to their faith and had the courage to speak out and step up to build bridges that move beyond hatred, intolerance and violence.
What is a Christian response to the current wave of religious violence? No easy answers, but I suspect it would include being an instrument of God’s peace; where there is hatred, sow love; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light. Remember: “Perfect love casts out ALL fear”.
At 8am on Saturday 6th October, the annual interfaith service at Gisborne’s Cook National Memorial will focus on the ‘Creation of a Nation’. As a nation, we have produced some of the finest mediators in the world, let us pray that tolerance, peace and understanding can spread from Gisborne to all places currently afflicted by fundamentalism, bigotry and violence.