Seeking social peace together
Coming together in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration to achieve social peace, and promoting a God-centric life, were messages that stood out at a peace symposium in Bermuda, which featured representatives of the Islamic and Christian faiths.
The interfaith dialogue event was open to the public and presented different perspectives on ways to achieve social peace. The two-hour symposium was organised by the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, in collaboration with the Anglican Church and Citizens Uprooting Racism in Bermuda (CURB), and featured three speakers at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute.
The discussion came at the end of a day of events at the venue, which included a Holy Qur’an exhibition and a presentation on persecution and discrimination against religious minorities.
The first of the three speakers at the symposium was Dr Kim Dismont-Robinson, Folklore Officer with the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs. She looked at what Bermuda once had, and what it had lost along the way, as she worked towards her suggestions for bringing about greater social peace. She spoke of bygone times in Bermuda when communities held house building parties to construct a dwelling for a neighbour and would see the favour returned in kind. And she recalled the days when it was commonplace to leave house and car doors unlocked without fear of theft or violence.
Dr Dismont-Robinson did not shy away from admitting there had been less likeable traits evident in Bermuda’s 400-year history, noting that “spirited bereft conditions” stretched back in time. However, she said the goodness within the Island’s people had come to the fore after the devastating earthquake in Haiti in 2010. “National empathy was shown by Bermudians towards Haiti,” she said, adding that she believed some of that empathy could be attributable to Bermudians recognising a graciousness of spirit within the Haitians themselves as they helped one another cope with the terrible conditions that confronted them.
Envisaging ways that Bermuda could nurture greater social peace, Dr Dismont-Robinson pointed to three specific areas. One was through harmony at home, particularly between parents and their children. “The building blocks of peace must be found in the home,” she said, noting that abuse can come in physical form and also verbally, such as when a parent speaks too harshly to a child.
She also cited an appreciation of culture, art and aesthetics as uplifters of the soul, and illustrated this point by speaking about teenage gang members in South America who had been introduced to music, including classical composers such as Mozart, and as a result had their lives and outlook changed for the better as a result of engaging in the arts and music. And finally she highlighted the importance of service and showing love towards others and a readiness to help them. “Now is our chance to reach out to who we really are,” she concluded.
A Christian perspective on social peace was presented by Reverend Anthony Pettit, of St Paul’s Anglican Church, in Paget.
“There are no easy or sweet answers,” he said. “What is wrong must be challenged to begin a process of reconciliation.”
During his prevention Rev Pettit also referred to post-apartheid South Africa’s ‘Peace and Reconciliation Commission’, and noted that “social peace without truth will not survive”.
He said achieving social peace would require a breaking down of social barriers and added that evil should be overcome with good, not with more evil.
Imam Azhar Haneef, of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, drew a correlation between faiths and groups coming together to aspire to a common goal, and the story of the rebuilding of the Kaaba in Mecca when the warring clans could not agree who should have the honour of placing the ‘Black Stone’ cornerstone into place.
Mr Haneef told the audience how the Prophet Muhammad had resolved the situation by having the stone placed on a piece of cloth and getting an elder from each of the clans to then take a hold of the cloth and carry it, jointly, to the Kaaba. In that way the honour was equally shared.
Rather than jostling for the glory and honour of being the one to make social peace happen, Mr Haneef said all groups should work together and share that honour.
“That is why I am happy to see us come together here in a true spirit to lift up this cloth together. All of us are struggling with the same issue, all of us should come together to find the solution,” he added.
He said the Prophet Muhammad had stated that from a God-centric life all others things will flow, and had warned that undesirable elements and discord manifested when people moved away from God.
Mr Haneef said peace was a universal concept for all people and it was a common thread and desire in all religions and traditions. “Everyone of us should feel this is a faith that transcends all of us and our persuasions, be they Christian, Muslim, Jew or another religion or sect. This is the spirit that we can share within us all. We hear that message that God speaks to all people.”
He believed social peace would be achieved through people of all spheres of life working together towards that goal.
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