Faith groups call for sense of responsibility and interdependence

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Healing the World was the theme of an event at London Central Mosque that brought together different faith groups during World Interfaith Harmony Week

A Dharmic panel discussion with Yann Lovelock, Ajit Singh, and Kiran Bali at London Central Mosque

Photo © Dr Richard Boeke

Interfaith organisations came together in London on 1 February for an afternoon of discussion and learning as part of the United Nations World Interfaith Harmony Week. First observed in 2011, the week is an annual event to foster dialogue, mutual understanding and cooperation among all people regardless of their faith, and was proposed in 2010 by HM King Abdullah II and HRH Prince Ghazi bin Muhammad of Jordan.

Hosted by the London Central Mosque, the theme of the 1 February event was ‘healing the world’. Two separate panels discussed what this means from their own religious perspectives.

A panel of representatives from the Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, included Rabbi Jackie Tabick, who discussed the topic in the context of taking care of our planet’s natural resources.

Rabbi Tabick addressed the need for world faiths to reframe the idea of humanity’s relationship with creation and change people’s perception of human dominion over nature. It is humanity’s responsibility to be good stewards of creation, she said.

Echoing the need for a renewed sense of responsibility, the Rev Peter Owen Jones, presenter of the BBC’s Around the World in 80 Faiths, was emphatic in his view that world religions have largely failed in addressing this issue.

Imam Abjujalil Sajid proposed that before anything else can happen, people must take responsibility for themselves. This begins with how we communicate, which must be done, gently, calmly and with reason, he said.

The second panel of the afternoon offered perspectives from the Dharmic traditions, namely Buddhism, Sikhism, and Hinduism.

Ajit Singh, a trustee from the World Congress of Faiths, which was one of the co-sponsors of the event, said that Sikh prayer establishes a link between the person and the elements, and damaging the elements means we are damaging ourselves and all other beings.

Kiran Bali, a Hindu from West Yorkshire and an interfaith leader, discussed aryuveda, a traditional medical approach that seeks balance among many factors that contribute to our wellbeing. She also discussed ahimsa, an important tenet of dharma (righteous conduct) meaning to cause no pain to any other living thing either in thought or deed.

The final panellist, Yann Lovelock, discussed Buddhist perspectives on how holding one set of beliefs does not mean you must have antipathy for another, and how unless you understand your own mind, you cannot begin to understand the traditions of another.

While the Abrahamic traditions offered ideas that highlighted the theme of responsibility, the Dharmic perspectives fell largely into the theme of interdependence. In their presentations, all of the speakers returned to the notion that keeping both these themes in mind is vital to finding solutions to the major problems that we face today.