Search of Individual and World of Peace Pt. 2
The law has an interesting way of approximating spiritual principles sometimes. For instance, in a civilized country the laws usually provide for freedom of religion, association and speech such as our constitution provides coupled with the establishment of a secular state so people can feel free to practice their beliefs and be accepted regardless of their religious inclinations. The creation of state religions is clearly opposed to such freedom and is retrogressive by implication. We cannot be toying around with the fundamental principles on which our society is based.
There is an opportunity presented to the Federal Government or individuals to challenge the legality of the implementation of the Sharia as state religion in our courts, especially directly aggrieved persons, and nobody seems to be taking up the gauntlet. Nigerian courts lost an opportunity to make a clear pronouncement in general terms on these same provisions in our constitution in the case involving the Evangelical Church of West Africa and the Rosicrucian Order (AMORC) but avoided this important opportunity on mere technicalities and probably not unconnected with religious proclivities.
It is about time we defined exactly what a ‘secret society’ is within the meaning and intendment of the framers of the Law. Does the term ‘secret society’ mean just organizations that hold their meetings in private and to the exclusion of non-members? who use secret signs and passwords and the like in their dealings? Or secret cults as we have in our Universities who are alleged to be involved in acts of violence and mayhem?
It would seem that the litmus test is whether such organizations are involved in activities detrimental to the peace, safety and growth or development of the society or its good morals. In other words, that they are involved in the pursuit of goals, targets and aspirations that are detrimental to the goodwill of the society or at variance and inspite of the positive aspirations of the society. We must be very clear what exactly we mean when we say Secret Society otherwise we leave room for misinterpretation and disharmony. Are those words equivalent to ‘devilish’ and ‘satanic’ by mere usage or by necessary implication? Or are we just using them as convenient expressions to discriminate against all those who dance to a different drum beat? Or who do not share our religious affiliation?
Nobody or group of persons has the right to cast aspersions on another group no matter how highly placed, on grounds of religious affiliation without making restitution as provided by law and which law should apply equally to all regardless of race, creed, color, sex, situation or circumstance. It is an act of violence to do otherwise. Restitution in this case merely means driving home the message that our society encourages freedom of religious practice so long as the litmus test is not compromised.
Beyond mere technicalities, the courts and the government should always seek to look to the spirit behind these legal provisions, referred to sometimes as state policies. The attempt by ECWA not too long ago to expunge the name of AMORC from the register of Companies following the limited logic of our courts, only for our courts to realize their error and decline the application, brings home the folly involved in narrow interpretations of the law. Without holding brief for either of these groups, what is good for the goose is equally good for the gander. We have a free society of peoples with diverse beliefs, which are personal and self-motivating. The law and the government should be partners in keeping it that way, lest we end up with anarchy, civil unrest and full-blown violence.
Only the one true God knows when humans will appreciate that we are all one in spirit and that in the apparent diversity and differences lies the beauty and majesty of God. Imagine if everybody was white skinned or black skinned and spoke the same language and liked the same kinds of things- it would most certainly be unbearable. We would all call for change and variety. Why is it so hard to see that this same principle applies to everything else? Why is it so hard to appreciate the next person just the way he is and allow him to express freely?
Why is it so hard to acknowledge that we were all created in the image and likeness of God and thus proceed from the same source and substance and are equal in all ways that are important? Why can’t we look at our various beliefs and see within each of them the important unifying qualities? Why can’t we love one another and live in peace with each other so that the glory of God can come present within and around us and make this world a paradise if we so wish? Why do we make the different approaches to God such a big deal?
How much longer are we going to reject and belittle and castigate and confront each other because we think God endorses the separation? How much longer are we going to withhold love and affection because of religion? How much longer are we going to kill and sacrifice each other because of God? How much longer are we going to allow ourselves to be used as instruments of division and anarchy borne of ignorance and narrow mindedness?
How much longer are we going to wait before we open our eyes to see what harm we are causing to the entire world and ourselves? How much longer are we going to wait before we realize that because the multitude accept a concept or way of life as proper does not necessarily make it correct? When are we going to realize that the crowd can and have many times been misdirected!
For as long as we continue to live our lives in the way we have done up to this point, for so long shall true fulfillment and joy and peace continue to elude us and our planet, because we have been less than honest with ourselves. We have elevated mere dogma and outer beliefs into divine spiritual concepts, leaving the substance and reality in favor of form and appearance for hundreds of years. We only need to look around us to see the violence we are perpetrating in our homes, our offices, our jobs and daily lives, paying lip service to the worship of God but turning around and hurting the next person because he comes from a different religious flock.
Know ye this day that God is for all and answers to any name so long as the intention is loving and good, looking to the heart all the time and not to appearances. Know ye this day that God accepts you just the way you are with all your shortcomings and inadequacies; can we not do the same for each other? Know ye this day that each person is moving along just fine from were he/she is at this given moment, depending on his/her level of awakening, circumstances, upbringing or childhood influences.
Allow each person his space to grow and to gain experiences as may be appropriate. Do not rush in to ‘save them’! Save yourself first. This of cause is not to say do not preach the good news, if you must, just present the information as best you can and then leave the rest to God and the Holy Spirit. Ultimately, let your actions and right conduct speak for you.
Let go today of your self-righteousness, your judgmental attitude, your bigotry, prejudice and intolerance. Learn to be more open minded and appreciative of others and what they have. There is so much in this life to learn about God. To believe that all one needs and consequently others too is contained in some book of a few hundred pages, is simply ridiculous and the height of self-delusion.
We would all probably have a better and more informed society if people were encouraged to read the holy books from the different religions like the Holy Bible, The Holy Koran, The Bhaghavad Gita, The Zend Avesta, The Tao te Ching, the Vedas and Upanishads and the entire host of other wonderful and inspiring writings, expanding our horizons rather than constricting them. We would be amazed at how great God truly is and then some.
As we move further into the 21st Century, we can all resolve to make necessary adjustments to our belief systems- it is apparent that quite a number of them have not worked too well for us up to this point. Friends we can just let them go now, it is about time. It is time to change, it is time for the new order, and it is time for the new dispensation, a dispensation that will manifest in greater brotherly love and togetherness, of acceptance, cooperation, understanding and enthusiasm for life. Definitely, this will be difficult, but go ahead and make the changes anyway and make this world a better place today for us and for our children.
Let us resolve today to see each person we meet as God standing in front of us and act appropriately. Let us utilize our belief systems positively for the upliftment of mankind and not as a tool for man’s destruction –surely that was not God’s intention from the onset. Make the decision today to institute peace within yourself, to foster it in your homes and in all your dealings, in how you express and how you relate to others. Make the decision today to love no matter what the differences might be between you and the next person. Make the decision today to let there be peace on earth and let it begin with each of us as we move this world into the next evolutionary cycle!
On the 24th of January 2002 more than 200 leaders of the world’s religions gathered together in Assisi, Italy to make a clear and bold statement that “ violence and terrorism are opposed to all true religious spirit and we condemn all recourse to violence and war in the name of God or religion”.
In attendance were Pope John Paul II, Bartholomew I, a dozen Jewish Rabbis, 30 Muslim Imams from Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Pakistan, dozens of Ministers representing Baptists, Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, Disciples of Christ, Mennonites, Quakers, Moravians, The Salvation Army and the World Council of Churches, Monks, Guru’s representing Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and Zoroastrians and Native African Religions. They all came out with what has been referred to as;
The Assisi Decalogue for Peace:
I. We commit ourselves to proclaiming our firm conviction that violence and terrorism are incompatible with the authentic spirit of religion, and as we condemn every recourse to violence and war in the name of God and religion, we commit ourselves to doing everything possible to eliminate the root causes or terrorism.
II. We commit ourselves to educating people to mutual respect and esteem, in order to bring about a peaceful and fraternal co-existence between people of different ethnic groups, cultures and religions.
III. We commit ourselves to fostering the culture of dialogue, so that their will be an increase of understanding and mutual trust between individuals and among peoples, for these are the premise of authentic peace.
IV. We commit ourselves to defending the right of everyone to live a decent life in accordance with their own cultural identity and to form freely a family of their own.
V. We commit ourselves to frank and patient dialogue, refusing to consider our differences as an insurmountable barrier, but recognising instead that to encounter the diversity of others can become an opportunity for greater reciprocal understanding.
VI. We commit ourselves to forgiving one another for past and present errors and prejudices and to supporting one another in a common effort to overcome selfishness and arrogance, hatred and violence and to learn from the past that peace without justice is no true peace.
VII. We commit ourselves to taking the side of the poor and the helpless, to speaking out for those who have no voice and to working effectively to change these situations, out of the conviction that no one can be happy alone.
VIII. We commit ourselves to taking up the cry of those who refuse to be resigned to violence and evil and we are desirous to make every effort possible to offer the men and women of our time real hope for justice and peace.
IX. We commit ourselves to encouraging all efforts to promote friendship between peoples, for we are convinced that, in the absence of solidarity and understanding between peoples, technological progress exposes the world to growing risk of destruction and death.
X. We commit ourselves to urging leaders of nations to make every effort to create and consolidate on the national and international levels, a world of solidarity and peace based on justice.
Enough of talking and time for action!