A positive energy flowed through the room as a March 12th, 2015 Global Peace Interfaith Forum at Pace University concluded. In a spontaneous gesture of solidarity, participating students of the Christian Fellowship and the Muslim Student Association decided to join hands and close the event with the prayers of their respective faith traditions, followed by a short group meditation.
This anecdote demonstrates well how students took to heart the theme of the event at Pace’s New York City Campus, which asked ‘What does it take for Christians, Jews, and Muslims and other religions to be at peace with each other?’
“It’s not enough just to be tolerant” said featured speaker Kimihira Miyake, director of Global Peace Youth US, as he highlighted examples from around the world where faith groups have come together for common cause in powerful and proactive ways, guided by Global Peace’s framework of the common principles, values and aspirations that all the major faiths have in common.
One participant acknowledged, “The theme is a very essential topic to be discussed, especially in the university environment where so many religious groups gather for their educational pursuits.”
What does it take? The answer that came from the panel of speakers was clear and unanimous. It takes an understanding of our common heritage as one human family. Mr. Leonard Burg, United Nations Representative from A Centre for the World Religions and the Project and Operations Coordinator for the Pace University Division for Student Success, encouraged the students to study the sacred texts of other faith traditions to recognize the universal underlying principles that all traditions share.
Diana Mendez, a senior International Affairs major at Pace, recounted a speech during GPF’s Global Peace Leadership Conference in September 2014, where Akbar Ahmed, chair of Islamic Studies at American University, spoke. Amb. Ahmed relayed the significance of America’s ideals at its founding, one of them being religious freedom. He did so by referring to a statue of Thomas Jefferson outside of the University of Virginia campus dated 1786, which ‘mentions the name of God for Christianity, Yahweh for Judaism, Allah for Islam, Brahma for Hinduism.’ It was this idea of religious freedom, introduced even hundreds of years ago, that inspired Diana to see how diverse religious groups can treat each other as a family. She shared how this reinforced her experience during a home stay with a Muslim family in Malaysia during the 2013 International Young Leaders Assembly where she felt at home even in a completely different culture and religious tradition.
“We need to understand that we come from the same source. We are one family under one God”, continued Kimihira, reminding the audience that we often use familial terms to those who are closest to us, “If we all come from God, then we need to be able to see each other as brothers and sisters.”
“We need to understand that we come from the same source. We are one family under God”
In concluding reflections, one participant shared, “it is extremely important to come together in one unit and one accord despite our beliefs and opinions, for the sake of our society and country to move forward in the diverse world.’
The event was co-hosted by the Global Peace Foundation US and the Pace University Division for Student Success.