The Words of the Duffy Family
World Interfaith Harmony Week between all religions, faiths and beliefs. What does it mean to you, me, or this group? I believe the answer lies within each soul present here this morning. We will kick off this grand occasion of World Interfaith Harmony Week here in Montreal with my own personal reflection.
The Hebrew Scripture, in the Book of Genesis, we are told that God created human beings in his image, in the image of God, he created male and female. And within this frame work of God's creation, God embedded in us his character: a character of love, joy, peace, long-suffering (compassion), gentleness, goodness, meekness, and self-control. These attributes are shared by human beings, something that is not found in the animal world.
We also share God's attribute, which first of all is spiritual, and as spiritual beings we can love as God loves. Therefore, love your neighbors as yourself is not limited to just religious people. This characteristic is shared by all people. Some embrace it, and others reject it. But nonetheless, it is there.
All human beings are capable of loving (caritas), for it is embedded in us; unfortunately, the opposite is true and we see in wars. Twelve months ago the world was awakened by a devastating earthquake that hit Haiti, our neighbors to the south. Within hours, the world pulled together its resources to aid Haiti.
The world community was moved with compassion to do something to relief the pain and suffering of the Haitians. The point I would like to make is this, we have within us the power to love our neighbor as our self. That love unites all humanity and leaves out no one. It sounds very poetic, doesn't it?
Before I left Ghana some 37 years ago, I lived with a woman for 23 years. This woman had no formal education and the relationship was rocky at times, but there was lots of love and over all it was excellent. She taught me some valuable lessons about harmony in relationships, and one of them was intercultural and interfaith harmony.
In one of our several interactions, she once quoted Isaiah 49:2 and told me to put my name in this verse:
"The LORD called me [Samuel] before I was born, while in my mother's womb he named me... I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth."
I asked her what that meant, and she said, "Samuel, you are here on this earth to make a difference in this world."
In our world today, women, men, old and young, and children suffer. Worldwide, the suffering continues and the complexity of the issues rise proportionately as the global village expands. As people of faith, we need a comprehensive model of harmony in purpose and meaning -- a place where the learning, understanding, and living environment are one; where everyone would love and be loved; where you are known by your name.
Therefore, this World Interfaith Harmony initiative in the UN, I believe, is a perfect vehicle for us to carry out this mandate in our time and place. This initiative has been the aspiration of Rev. Dr. Sun Myung Moon for decades; let us seize the opportunity together and make it happen beginning in Montreal.
I grew up in a culture that is saturated with many faiths and beliefs, but somehow we have learned to get along by sheer respect and acceptance of individuals, and love them for who they are. It is not a perfect society, by a long shot, but we made do with what we had. This is what I learned from this woman.
How many of you love to sing or can sing? If I may, I will compare interfaith/inter-religious harmony to singing in the choir. This woman I lived with for 23 years told me this: In intercultural harmony (in our context, interfaith harmony) we need to learn to hear one another. She went on to explain that a choir conductor once gave this advice to the group of singers she was leading: "If you can't hear the voices beside you, you're singing too loudly. If you can't hear the voices beside you, you're singing too loudly."
Harmony requires that we be able to hear others, that we deliberately alter our behavior and our attitudes so that we can hear our brothers and sisters in God.
This musical instrument I have in my hand is called an accordion. it was once known as harmonikos (Greek); today we know it as an accordion. It has black and white keys and several buttons. Each key or button can actually play a tone all by itself, but when you play both black and white keys together, you get a beautiful harmonious melody. The same principles apply to a piano. To me this is what interfaith harmony is all about: hearing each other sing, and singing in harmony.
In my experience the language of love (caritas) excludes no one, of any religion or of no faith at all. Every person of goodwill, with or without faith, can and should commit to love his/her neighbor. Love of God and love of the neighbor, loving the good and loving the neighbor is, after all, is the essence of who we really are as God's people.
In the epistle of I John 4:20 it says:
"If a man/woman says, I love God, and hates his brother/sister, he/she is a liar; for he/she that loves not the brother/sister whom he/she has seen, how can he/she love God, whom he/she has not seen?"
The Prophet Mohammad (peace be upon him) said:
"None of you has faith [in God] until you love for your neighbor what you love for yourself." [Sahih Muslim, Kitab Al Iman, Vol. p. 67, Hadith No. 45]
If you can't hear the voices beside you, you're singing too loudly. If you can't hear the voices beside you, you're singing too loudly. Harmony requires that we be able to hear others, that we deliberately adjust our behavior and our attitudes so that we can hear our brothers and sisters in other faiths. This woman I lived with for 23 years whom I referred to earlier was my mother (Victoria). She taught me that all human beings are the creation of God and we must love and respect them as God does.
A final thought: When we leave this place, let us go with the thought and encouragement of the prophet Isaiah: that God has called each and every one of us here at this very moment to make a difference in our world, as little as it may be. The LORD called us before we were born, while in our mother's womb he named us. God gives us as lights to the nations, that God's peace may reach to the end of the earth.
Thank you, and happy World Interfaith Harmony Week! Take care, and peace be with you.