Despite his hesitance to say anything “principled” ahead of Israel’s upcoming elections, President Obama today did remind us of a profound truth about all major faiths at this morning’s National Prayer Breakfast:
But no matter what we choose to believe, let us remember that there is no religion whose central tenet is hate. There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being. This much we know.
We know too that whatever our differences, there is one law that binds all great religions together. Jesus told us to “love thy neighbor as thyself.” The Torah commands, “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.” In Islam, there is a hadith that reads “None of you truly believes until he wishes for his brother what he wishes for himself.” And the same is true for Buddhists and Hindus; for followers of Confucius and for humanists. It is, of course, the Golden Rule – the call to love one another; to understand one another; to treat with dignity and respect those with whom we share a brief moment on this Earth.
While these humble, yet vital words are not getting much press, I am encouraged. Like his inaugural reference to “the slaughter of the innocents,” might today’s reference to all faiths having a shared humanity have an implied application to those who would turn their eyes away from the sufferings anywhere, including in Gaza?
Such ecumenical sentiments will not go down well with the “just warriors” and their media agents who have been so determined to launch crusades against “the jihadi religion.” Yes, the ironies in that statement are intended. In my experience, those “religious” figures most determined to do battle with another “jihadi” religion often seem themselves most determined to justify war in the name of their religion.
Yet just as each creed breeds its own jihadis, so too we can yearn for better angels to emerge. May they draw from within to build common ground in our shared humanity, our capacity for empathizing with the suffering of another, beyond creed and confession.
As the 13th Century Persian poet Sa’di put it, as etched into the walls of the United Nations:
Human beings are members of a whole,
In creation of one essence and soul.
If one member is afflicted with pain,
Other members uneasy will remain.
If you have no sympathy for human pain,
The name of human you cannot retain.