Religious and Civilizational Traditions in Dialogue for Peace

Of prime importance is the problem of definition in this fast moving and interactive age.

For example what do we mean by civilization? For some it refers to the basis of man?s highest cultural aspiration; it is often understood as material prosperity, in contrast to barbarianism,with little reference to spiritual evolution. There is also the problem of the inadequacy(and danger)of words to describe religious experience. In any dialogue definition must be clarified.

Thus I will turn to the safer world of observation.

We can all clearly observe the following significant changes taking place-and these are only some:

• The secular world is disintegrating leading to general insecurity.And in some cases fear and panic.
• There is a general decline in respect for politicians.
• There is a lack of inspired leadership on the part of Western Christian leaders(with the exception of the present Pope.)
• The decline of Western Christianity especially in the EU.Inovation replacing Tradition.
• The attack on traditional Christian values and symbols.
• The serious economic and political problems of the EU.
• The so called ?Arab Spring`
• The rise of Islam.
• The rise of Russian Orthodoxy.
• The rise of the English language as the universal language of communication.

Each of the above observations should be seen in the context of history without which there can be little understanding.

Historically fundamentals do not change:

• Civilizations rise and fall. Paul Kennedy in The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers shows the interconnectedness of economic strength, military might, imperial reach-and over reach. For example see the USA in this context.
• Religion at its best inspires to good, and at its worst incites fanaticism. Do we ever learn?
• Christians and other religious peoples should vigorously confute Dawkins claim that scientific evolution inevitably implies there is no God.There are many distinguished scientists who are also believers-Planck,Einstein,Thaxton,Humphries,Stannard etc etc.
• We should defend religious Traditions.Symbolism speaks to man?s deepest yearnings. Jung said,?No science will ever replace myth,and myth cannot be made out of science.For it is not that God is a myth but that myth is the revelation of a divine life in man....`
• Respect for religious Tradition leads to respect for human value.
Religious Tradition is the antithesis of fundermentalism. When religion departs from its source it breeds fanaticism/fundermentalism hence the need to rediscover the origins of one?s Faith-namely the Source leading to a balance in life.

My personal experience of extremes in religion and their negative effect includes an encounter with Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka during the early stages of the Civil War. And we all know of examples of fundamentalists in Christianity and Islam.

My personal experience of the balancing effect of religion has been within the Russian Orthodox context and the encounter with Theosis-God becoming man so that man might become God thereby enabling him to fulfill his potential.

The remarkable rise of Russian Orthodoxy, despite the determined attempt of atheistic communism to stamp it out,has implications for Western Europe. The green shoots of TRADITIONAL Christianity appeal, to the amazement of Western humanists,to the younger generation. For Orthodoxy does not try to define or rely on words but is a living experience.

We urgently need a realistic dialogue between all the world religious leaders based on common principles:
• Religion is not in conflict with science.
• Reverence for God-and Traditional religion-leads to an understanding of and respect for universal laws.
• The universal laws are summed up: Love for God=respect for others.(These numerous laws are as real as scientific laws in their application and should be taught to all children)
• The sincere practice of one?s own Faith should not imply disrespect for the religious Traditions of other Faiths.
• Peaceful co-existence will ensue when all religions, political systems and cultures, being true to their own traditions, respect the traditions of others and inspire their followers and peoples to do likewise.