Building Bridges Across Boundaries In observance of World Interfaith Harmony Week
Brief summary of presentation of information made
The following people spoke:
Dr. Mohammed Nurhussein, Chairman, United African Congress; Gordon Tapper, Founder and Chairman, Give Them A Hand Foundation; H.E. Mr. Courtenay Rattray, Permanent Representative, Mission of Jamaica to the UN (represented by deputy); H.E. Mr. Dawit Yirga Woldegerima, Chargé d’affaires, Mission of Ethiopia to the UN (represented by deputy); H.E. Mr. Muhammad Anshor, Chargé d’affaires, Mission of Indonesia to UN; H.E. Dr. Thomas Gass, UN Assistant Secretary-General Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs, DESA (Keynote Speaker); Imam Shamsi Ali, Spiritual Leader, Jamaica Muslim Centre and Founder, Nusantara Foundation; Rabbi Dr. Alvin Kass, Chief Chaplain, New York Police Department; Reverend Dionne P. Boisierre, Chaplain, Church Centre for the United Nations; Dr. Uma Mysorekar, Hindu Temple of New York; Venerable Youwang, Buddhist L:ight International Association (BLIA); Kevin Ka’nahsohon Deer, Ceremonial Ritualist from Mohawk Trail Longhouse, Mohawk Nation (Iroquoise); Milton Alimadi, Publisher and Editor of the Black Star News; Rabbi Jill Hausman, The Actors Temple; Sidique Wai, President, United African Congress & Senior Advisor to the Commissioner of Police (NYPD).
Additionally several ambassadors made informal statements.
The Main Topics of Discussion were as Follows:
- The Current Global Situation was described as one of widespread turmoil. The examples given were of wealth being concentrated in the hands of a few, children being denied access to education and healthcare – and then falling victim to human traffickers, the third year of the Ebola virus, climate change and the extraction of fossil fuels. It was suggested that we stand at a fork in the road with one path leading to peace and development and the other going over the cliff into conflict, extremism and social disintegration.
- The Global Community was seen as facing a variety of global tests. It was suggested that all people are interconnected and that harmony is required in the self, in the family and in wider interpersonal relationships. An analogy was given of the New York Police Department who call a 1013 when they need help and do not care from which race or religion the helper comes from. It was suggested that the world is suffering a 1013 situation which requires similar help from all races and religions. A need to stop “othering” the other was proposed with the alternative being to see the other as ourselves, it was seen as a need for people to be bridges rather than simply building them.
- The Misuse of Religion was characterized as a hijacking of religion for greed, whether that be for political power or economic gain. Three solutions were proposed: Being More Humble (we may think our own teachings are perfect but we should recognize that we are not following them perfectly) Working Together (which is seen as the only way to solve the problems the world is facing) Ceasing to Blame Any Religion as the Source of Problems. It was remarked that anything done to the extreme is in error.
- The Role of Religion in Sustainable Development was seen as fighting against injustice and advocating for the world’s poor, oppressed and dispossessed. Faith was spoken of as a powerful driving force which needed to be harnessed to work towards positive social change. The adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) was called an historic moment which changed the way we viewed each other. It was noted that all countries are responsible for the SDGs and that they will remain a “pipe dream” unless we work together to fulfil them. It was suggested that the SDGs were only achievable if we commit to go beyond mere tolerance. The need to develop alternatives to fossil fuels was noted.
- A Theology of Activism was characterized as religion being seen not as correct belief but rather as righteous living. The Book of James 2:17 was paraphrased “faith without works is dead”. The global community was seen as having a sacred mandate to be on the side of the least and the left out and it was suggested that sometimes we are called to make our proclamations with righteous indignation. It was noted that when trying to help the world we must “leave a little to God” – we cannot solve everything ourselves but we cannot expect God to do it all for us. It was suggested that climate change could be seen as the result of a breakdown of our spiritual relationship with the planet.
What was of particular significance to share with The Salvation Army globally?
In response to the SDGs wider collaboration and partnership is expected.
Religious groups are seen as key partners in achieving the SDGs.
There is increasing space for discussion of faith within the United Nations and its partners.