“Show me how you live. Show me how you love. Show me how you live with others.” Dr. Paul Mojzes, professor of Religious Studies at Rosemont College in Pennsylvania challenged the audience at the first Interfaith Panel, “A Global Ethical Framework as the Foundation for National Transformation,” hosted at the 2014 Global Peace Convention in Asuncion, Paraguay on November 20, 2014. Although the distinguished panelists hold very different religious beliefs, these faith leaders from around the world agreed that spiritual value is found in each person’s actions, not doctrines.
James Patton, Executive Vice President of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy (ICRD) and moderator for the panel, began the session by emphasizing the leaders’ very presence as a testimony to the tremendous change that can come about through inter-religious cooperation. With conflict arising from major technological, political, economic, and cultural shifts taking place around the world, it is of paramount importance, he said, that societies work together to form shared agreements based on universal principles.
Often cited by the media as an instigator of conflict and violence, religion has been faulted throughout history as a
catalyst for corruption and selfish ambitions. Mr. Patton was quick to respond to such ideas, agreeing that while people have abused religious doctrines to justify violent acts, such acts are the work of a small minority.
He challenged those who see religion in a negative light, calling on them to “empower the people who understand their religion.” These are the people who are making a positive, lasting impact in their communities. The vast majority of religious people, Mr. Patton said, incorporate religion into their daily lives to nurture basic principles and values that benefit themselves and the people around them.
Panelists observed that faith traditions from around the world uphold universal principles that value liberty, prosperity, and integrity. As moral authorities for their respective communities, spiritual and religious leaders provide an ethical framework to promote these values and principles on a global scale.
Values in a pluralistic society
With an increasing number of pluralistic societies, differences in traditions, culture, even ethics, arise. “We live in these multi-pluralistic societies, so which moral norms apply?” Dr. Mojzes reflected, while emphasizing the importance of inter-religious cooperation to work toward a consensus on global ethics.
During a short question and answer session, one young audience member asked the panel for their thoughts on conflicts that arises through different religious dogmas sharply contrasting or conflicting with the religion of others. Panelists again emphasized action over words; principles before doctrines. Dr. Robert Schuller, Chairman of the Coalition for American Renewal and noted American Christian leader, described these principles as “guiding lights,” such as kindness, gentleness, and self-control.
“If we allow those things to grow within us, we go beyond what the law asks of us,” Dr. Schuller said. “The law becomes insignificant, crossing the barriers of any religion.”
The basic principles and values we share across religious boundaries are fostered within the family as very young children, noted Dr. Kyungro Yoon, former President of Hansung University in the Republic of Korea. Discussing the formation of an ethical society and importance of the family, he said “virtue is nurtured and passed on through the generations.”
The Interfaith Panel also featured former President of Bolivia Jaime Paz Zamora, Rabbi Julian Vainstein, Rabbi of the Jewish community in Paraguay and Dr. Marsudi Syuhud, General Secretary of the Central Board of Nahdlatul Ulama. The three-day 2014 Global Peace Convention, Roadmap for National Transformation: Liberty Prosperity and Integrity through Moral and Innovative Leadership, concludes on November 21.