NEW YORK—The distressing link between religion and violence can be broken by promoting a greater understanding of the peace and justice teachings of the world’s faiths, according to Ibrahim Abdil-Muid Ramey, director of the Peace and Disarmament Program at the Fellowship of Reconciliation.
“Peace comes from understanding, and our understanding is that there is no compulsory religion,” said Ramey, who was among the panelists at an Oct. 21 forum on “Faith and Social Responsibility in a Pluralist Society,” in the 12th-floor lounge on the Lincoln Center campus. “Contrary to some of the people in the world-like Osama [bin Laden]-who believe that people are compelled to be Muslim,” the majority of Muslims, like many members of other faiths, practice tolerance with regard to people who have different beliefs than their own, he added.
Panelists representing different faiths acknowledged that religious identity is often used as an excuse for conflict, but described ways that the world’s religious traditions could be used to foster peace.
“Within the Muslim tradition, there are numerous examples of the idea of peace and nonviolent resistance,” Ramey said. “The requirement for Muslims as laid out in the Quran is to be just, to be merciful and to be respectful of the natural environment and to build and live just lives.”
The Torah also includes many lessons on how to find and spread peace, according to Michael Gottsegan, Ph.D., a senior fellow at the National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership.
“Having been persecuted, repressed, enslaved, threatened with physical violence—that is what it means to be a Jew,” Gottsegan said. “As a people liberated, our way of realizing the experience of that requires us to become a liberator of others.”
Christianity is founded on the idea that Jesus worked in his lifetime to overcome violence and support peace, according to Rev. Earl Kooperkamp, rector of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Manhattanville. He said that Christian teachings lead toward peace and reconciliation, and he pointed to prayer as a source of inspiration.
“Peace begins with contemplation, and by that I mean prayer,” Kooperkamp said. “It’s about finding that perspective from which peace is possible. Action is important, but the contemplation out of which the action springs is just as important.”
Kooperkamp said the ultimate goal is spreading a concept that should be accepted by all religions and is already enforced on any elementary school playground—be fair and respect others.
“It’s that basic sense that children have of what’s not fair,” said Kooperkamp. “The point is to make something fair so that even a 4- or 5-year-old can understand it. When things do become fair, then there is a possibility for peace and getting along with one’s neighbor. ”
The forum was sponsored by the Fordham University Graduate School of Education, the Temple of Understanding, and the Peace Education Center at Teachers College, Columbia University.