Last night Wednesday, I attended a Peace Festival Forum at St Paul’s University in Ottawa, on “How World Religions can Promote Peace”. A fascinating panel discussion in which people from seven of the major world religions stood up and talked about their religion and how their religions were essentially peaceful. This was fine up to a point, but I wonder if anything was achieved. The positions taken were essentially an expression of what seemed as very fixed and inviolate doctrines.
This reminded me of another conference I attended during the summer at Carleton University, which made an important point related to this. It involved a group of Western philosophers and a group of Eastern philosophers from the University of Delhi having a discussion on how east and west, or differing ethnic groups, can have a moral discussion in a transcultural sense. It struck me how the western tendency was to deal with differences from a perspective of “fixed views” or philosophies and the eastern group form the perspective of “sympathetic inquiry’. In other words, the west has a tendency towards “critical analysis”, and the east to put “fixed views aside” and ask the question; What are they really trying to say here? They try to deeply understand what is being said rather than to reflexively criticize. They look for moral possibilities as a basis of the relationship or discussion. The dialogue asked; what values do we have in common to hold a moral discourse? West and east both agreed on “the moral worth and dignity of all persons because they are persons”. But to test any conclusions reached using this common position, the west proposed: to minimize comparative harm and neglect, and the east chose: promote the public good and harmony. What I concluded was that to think of the “other” rather than the “self” in terms of moral possibilities might be one answer to the problem of peace.
So my question to the peace panel of religions and to everyone is: what fixed views can you set aside and what moral possibilities can you think of, that you can promote to advance world peace. I challenge you to find one thing you can do today to promote harmony and public good and relieve the suffering of people of other faiths? To the Jewish religion, I challenge you to do or say one thing today that can relieve some of the suffering of the Palestinian people. To Islam, I challenge you to find one thing you can do today to relieve some of the suffering of the Israeli people. This must be from the heart. If you can solve the suffering of others, you will solve the suffering of yourself. If you can care for others, then you care for yourself.
With sincere wishes for the advancement of peace;
Nominated Candidate Ottawa Orleans Green Party of Canada,
Paul Maillet CENTER FOR ETHICS