How can the sacred wisdom of the diverse peoples of the world assist us in building a sustainable, peaceful, compassionate world civilization?
The Victoria Multifaith Society and the University of Victoria’s Multifaith Services have teamed up to provide a platform for that discussion. On 4 February, in honour of UN Interfaith Harmony Week and the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, panelists from the diverse traditions of Aboriginal Spirituality, the Bahá’í Faith, Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, and Unitarianism will discuss how to take this turbulent period of history and build the stable, egalitarian, humanitarian future we all want.
The cinematic and literary fields are awash in dystopian warnings powerful enough to strike fear into the most courageous of hearts. A positive narrative would be a refreshing change. It isn’t enough to know the future we don’t want.
How can we get past the competitiveness and greed of a zero-sum system to a more inclusive, sharing, cooperative social arrangement? Beyond all rhetoric, what are our most deeply held values and greatest needs? What are our strongest points of connection, our common ground?
The visionary teachings and profound truths of the world’s great spiritual figures have ever-increasing relevance in an interconnected world that’s trying to find its way. Each advance in technology seems to require a corresponding leap in our collective maturity, our ethical and moral expectations.
It’s amazing to think that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, first drafted by a Canadian, and championed by Eleanor Roosevelt, was declared in 1948 in Paris with no dissenting votes. For all our amazing material progress since that time, we’ve slid at an ever-quickening pace towards insularity, polarizing ideologies, and ecological crisis.
Noted human rights lawyer and scholar, Payam Akhavan, remarked in the 2017 CBC Massey Lecture series, "The problem with the world is not a shortage of brilliant theories or feel-good slogans. The problem is that we confuse proliferation of progressive terminology with empathy and engagement. … There can be no meaningful change if we choose to look down at the arena of anguish from thirty thousand feet."
Payam is a fellow Bahá’í who has seen persecution and human rights abuses first-hand. Abstract professions of good will, even solutions that are timely but temporary – none are enough. On the other hand, sophisticated cynicism is also not going to get us where we need to go. As he noted in the lectures, “our survival depends on acceptance of a transcendent ethos of human dignity for all." The degree of our responsibility towards our fellow human beings is a mirror image of the degree of our need for one another.
The foundations for a just, equitable, secure world are hiding in plain sight. What’s needed is the moral courage, or perhaps sufficient desperation, to allow us to go beyond ancient prejudices and the current distractions of a consumer society to the solid ground of shared wisdom. It seems fitting that the turning of history’s spiral brings us back to indigenous roots, drawing from the wisdom of the past to create the next stage in our collective endeavor.
How do we successfully tap into that wisdom? One thing is certain, we need to listen in an unbiased way to what has been handed down, our spiritual heritage, to allow those common threads to shine.
Creating the Future: Visioning a Sustainable, Compassionate Worldi s a free event, scheduled for 1 p.m. on Sunday, 4 February in David Lam Auditorium at UVic. In addition to the panel, it will include Q&A, music, displays and refreshments. All are welcome.
Sheila Flood is a member of the Bahá’í Faith (www.bahai.org), a chaplain with UVic Multifaith Services and the Secretary of the Victoria Multifaith Society.
You can read more articles from our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking, HERE
* This article was publsihed in the print edition of the TImes Colonist on January 13 2018