Thursday, December 04, 2008

Mumbai Was a Reminder


Like most world-citizens, I witnessed the unfolding carnage and chaos in Mumbai last week with horror and outrage. The sights and sounds of terrorism that have become all too familiar parts of the news we consume, intruded grimly on an otherwise festive day of love, family and giving thanks. There was something surreal about carving a turkey as bombs and bullets continued to rend asunder my fellow human beings in India. Mumbai also served as a reminder to me of a warning given by the Universal House of Justice in its Message to the World's Religious Leaders:

"With every day that passes, danger grows that the rising fires of religious prejudice will ignite a worldwide conflagration the consequences of which are unthinkable. Such a danger civil government, unaided, cannot overcome. Nor should we delude ourselves that appeals for mutual tolerance can alone hope to extinguish animosities that claim to possess Divine sanction. The crisis calls on religious leadership for a break with the past as decisive as those that opened the way for society to address equally corrosive prejudices of race, gender and nation. Whatever justification exists for exercising influence in matters of conscience lies in serving the well-being of humankind. At this greatest turning point in the history of civilization, the demands of such service could not be more clear. "The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable", Bahá'u'lláh urges, "unless and until its unity is firmly established."
(The Universal House of Justice, 2002 April, To the World's Religious Leaders, p. 6)

As nuclear-armed and mutually antagonistic states teeter over the precipice, the unthinkable consequences mentioned in this warning leap sharply into view. Likewise the imperative for religious leadership to make a decisive break with the past was on full display during this latest religiously motivated crisis. Discourse regarding violence committed in the name of God must become centered on the truth that, "God is one and that, beyond all diversity of cultural expression and human interpretation, religion is likewise one."