Managing Editor’s note: all Contributing Scholars begin writing by answering the following question as their first post: Why are you committed to building relationships with those from different religious or ethical traditions? Their answer to this question is below.
Author’s Note: Edited for clarity 23 September, 2015
I believe that in order to better relationships between peoples in today’s interdependent world, it is imperative that individuals become more sensitive to the beliefs and histories of the different peoples that inhabit it. The distinction between the Occident and the Orient, “Us” and “Them,” I would argue, has led to immense suffering throughout the world. By extension, current problems in international relations are not the result of a “clash of civilizations” but rather the result of ignorance. Building relationships with people from various faith communities is necessary in an evolving society. The commitment to improving one’s self and our world must be predicated on creating lines of mutual understanding. As a teacher, I firmly believe that cultivating understanding of differences occurs when we are willing to educate ourselves about the diversity of cultures, belief systems, faiths, religions, and ethnicities that co-inhabit a shared world.
In my work, I strive to espouse to my students, through my research, and in my writings the philosophy that getting to know one another can be a path to building better societies. Connecting with others informs us not only of the Other, but also shines a light on who we are as individuals and on the values we hold. I feel blessed to have encountered so many different people, cultures, and faiths. I went to a Protestant elementary school, a Catholic high school, studied Buddhism and Hinduism academically at McGill, before ultimately studying about the history of Islam. Each of these “encounters” with these uniquely different yet simultaneously beautiful faiths has left me more sure of who I am, what I believe in, and the values I wish to uphold in my life. As a proponent of ecumenism, I wish to end this post with a quote from a great religious sage.
The Lord has redeemed all of us… not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!…And we all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.
I think Pope Francis highlights the “human glue” that binds all of us. I am committed to doing good. That is what my faith has taught me. That is what my humanity compels me to do. That is fundamentally what all faiths teach. And I wish to encounter others, regardless of their faith, in a place of good.