“Over the years my religion has changed and my spirituality has evolved. Religion and spirituality are very different, but people often confuse the two. Some things cannot be taught, but they can be awakened in the heart. Spirituality is recognizing the divine light that is within us all. It doesn’t belong to any particular religion; it belongs to everyone. We all have the same God, we just serve him differently…It doesn’t matter whether you’re a Muslim, a Christian, or a Jew. When you believe in God, you should believe that all people are part of one family. If you love God, you can’t love only some of his children.” ~Muhammad Ali, The Soul of a Butterfly: Reflections on Life’s Journey
Many criticize – rightly – the use of violent religious rhetoric and the role that religious leaders have sometimes played in fanning the flames of conflict. Yet there has not been enough attention given to the ways in which spiritual leaders can lead societies out of conflict.
Faith leaders, as the natural center of moral authority within any given group, are uniquely situated to establish important precedents for a community when entering into dialogue with leaders from other faith traditions. When interfaith dialogue works to articulate principles and values that all people can share as the basis for cooperation, it strengthens and supports one’s own faith commitments while expanding the reach and relevance of one’s spiritual values in the wider public sphere.
Dr. Hyun Jin Moon noted in a 2013 interview in the Joong Ang Daily that the success of the civil rights movement in the United States and the struggle against British colonial rule in India was able to succeed in part because of Gandhi and King’s understanding of spiritual principles and moral legitimacy. He explains:
“A Great Awakening was a key factor for the movements led by Gandhi and Dr. King. These two pioneers touched upon universal principles and values that moved their nations and its people to eventually have political solutions that secured the rights of all people.”
The Global Peace Foundation works with spiritual leaders by first providing platforms for interfaith dialogue which has often naturally led to programs such as trainings for interfaith cooperation and community building. Dialogue on shared values and aspirations has opened the way for collaboration and opportunities that may have been otherwise unthinkable.
It is with this understanding that GPF engages faith and community leaders in programs such as the Kaduna State peacebuilding workshops in Nigeria, interfaith youth camps in Kenya, Global Peace Interfaith Youth Assemblies, etc. These grassroots programs are slowly building the necessary momentum towards a new global Spiritual Awakening.