Friday, December 9, 2011

Must religions be in competition?

The purpose of all religions was/is to direct large groups of human beings in improving their lives.
All religions teach tips for emotional health like tolerance and peace; they try to help us get past our attimes destructive impulses; they try to make us higher in our understanding of the natural and social and unknown worlds that we live in.  No religion is perfect (but if you want to argue this, please try in the comments section.)

If all are trying to accomplish the same thing, why fight over religion?

In Dialogue of the Deaf (yesterday's Daily Trust newspaper), the writer Adamu Adamu points out that such fights are over nothing. I quote:
"[Story of] the famous travellers in the Mathnawi of Maulavi. Four people were travelling together—an Arab, a Persian, a Turk and a Greek—and, as is the nature of travel, they soon became very hungry; and just when it was getting unbearable, they found a dinar. They gave thanks to God, but in trying to decide what to do with it, a bitter disagreement broke out between them.
The Arab said they must buy inab with the dinar or nothing. The Persian angrily said he would have nothing to do with that inab; they must buy angur. The Turk said they must buy uzum; while the Greek said there would be a war if they didn’t buy isitafil with the money. And the sabre-rattling began.
The Arab, who had the money in his hands rushed and bought inab and it was only when he returned that each realised that inab, angur, uzum , and istafil all mean the same thing—grapes, respectively in Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Greek. And war was averted when they finally realised that they were saying the same thing but in their different languages."

As a good Christian, must I defend Christianity to make sure that it survives?  So what if my inherited religion disappears?  Christianity was born out of the ashes of previous beliefs anyway - e.g. Roman paganism, Jewish myth, and in Nigeria for instance, African religions.  And where did Roman beliefs come from?  And the Jews who had travelled widely within a 1000km radius at the time?
Now you can imagine some of the origins of Islam, a big influence may even have been Christianity.  My point is that religions evolve, and God may not be asking us to keep them static.

In the same article, Adamu says that the path to peace may lie in abandoning the desire to win the most territory for our religion.  He writes: "... so long as Christians do not allow themselves to be agents of imperialism and Muslims do not allow themselves to be agents of imperialism-affiliated conservative Arab reactionary forces, they will have no reason for quarrel; for, in the real sense of the word, they are not in competition when each is involved in the doing of good or in accomplishing God’s work."

Ramadan Millennium, 1999, View of Al Aqsa Mosque through Church Spire, Jerusalem, By Rula Halawani

    Read Dialogue of the Deaf, an article about the inter-faith dialogue necessary to stopping religious violence in Northern Nigeria.

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