From top, symbols of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Wikimedia Commons/ by Wiki hamze

Abrahamic faiths call for end to religious violence

By  Bianca Reátegui, Youth Speak News
  • September 26, 2014

TORONTO - Fr. Darren Dias asks Christians to learn from history and become agents of reconciliation amidst modern religious violence.

Dias, a Dominican theologian and professor of theology at Toronto’s University of St. Michael’s College, spoke about religious conflict in the Middle Ages at the Sept. 21 Interfaith Symposium organized by the Intercultural Dialogue Institute. The symposium and concert was held on International Day of Peace and held at the Metropolitan United Church in downtown Toronto.

With the theme of “Bridges Beyond Faith,” the symposium focused on bridging the three Abrahamic faiths — Christianity, Islam and Judaism — in order to reconcile interfaith relations that have been wounded by religious conflict and violence throughout history.

Dias says reflecting on religious history is particularly important for progress in interfaith relations.

“(Christians have) forgotten the way Jesus Himself dealt with violence and we’ve perpetuated violent acts,” he said. “It’s good to remember that history — to own it… to take ownership for what we’ve done and then to think about how we will be agents of reconciliation, healing.”

Dias believes that humanity, having acted as “agents of violence and division,” has much to learn from history.

“So first of all, to acknowledge it and acknowledge that we didn’t do what we should have. And then also to learn from it, to make sure that we’re not doing it again. And then thirdly in learning from it to do the opposite, to become peace builders and people who promote healing and reconciliation. And our history will teach us that.”

The dark medieval history presented at the symposium (which included religious persecution as perpetrated by all three faiths) cautioned the faithful against bringing scapegoating, ignorance and political interest to the world of religion. However, the world is already too well-acquainted with instances of religious violence in respect to the recent crises in Iraq and Syria.

Despite the ongoing violence in the Middle East, Dias remained optimistic about the future of interfaith relations. He believes that all faithful “can, in their daily lives, in seemingly small ways, contribute to peace.”

“We know even in the death and the resurrection of Jesus, it didn’t bring about world peace in a way… in fact, there was a lot of destruction and violence afterwards,” Dias said. “But each religious person — certainly each Jew, Muslim, Christian — in their daily life can live a life of peace and can contribute towards building peace.

“I think that if we think that the three religions are going to come together in some monumental event,” Dias said, “and peace is going to result, that would be very naïve.”

His optimism was echoed by 17- year-old Emily Thorbun-Winsor who attended the interfaith event. She has not given up on achieving peace among religions.

“It’s definitely possible,” she said.

The symposium also featured speakers on the topics of religious history—namely, the religious conflict and doctrine of the Middle Ages.

The first of the event’s two panels focused on the sources of medieval religious conflict; the second, on medieval ideas of peace as conceptualized by Moses Maimonides, St. Thomas Aquinas and Rumi.

In his discourse “Aquinas on Peace,” speaker John Dadosky affirmed that peace begins on the individual level, stating, “True peace begins with the union of desires in the individual.”

(Reátegui, 16, is a Grade 12 student at Holy Name of Mary Catholic Secondary School in Brampton, Ont.) 

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