The following was written to a friend more than 10 years ago in response to his struggle with beliefs arising from other religions.
If we as Christians are genuinely interested in resolving our differences with other religions we need only do one simple thing. In fact it is so simple it will completely astound you. You will not have to introduce any new regulations or rules, you will not have to pay more taxes (in fact it will cost a great deal less), and you will not even have to join a new religion. You will not even have to move or say goodbye to the world and live on a remote mountain top. You need not wonder if I’m suggesting some kind of make belief world only inhabited by Pollyanna’s or do-gooders. Nor am I asking anyone to enter into some sort of dream or drug induced world where reality never takes place. Lastly it will not demand that anyone become holier than they all ready are. No saints need to apply! All it will take, are you ready for this, is for people to change their belief about religion and God!
All the world religions (including us Catholics) simply need to change our belief about our need to defend God! It is as simple as that – no more. You see dear friend, it is only our perception of the need to defend our faith that keeps us at odds with one another and subsequently causes so much pain and suffering here on earth. Every time we profess that we think we know God better than the next person, we cause the other person much sadness and pain. That pain if it is let to fester will eventually translate into fear and ultimately hatred. Do any of us, Muslim, Christian, Hindu or Jew, really believe God is asking of us to defend him from one another? If God is truly allowed to be the all powerful all loving God we would know that: Love does not need to be defended, because Love does not know attack!
The minute we think that our religion is the only one – we are in trouble. The minute we talk in terms of ‘we’ the good guys and ‘they’ the bad guys, we are in trouble. The minute we draw lines and separate ourselves from our neighbours because ‘we’re better’ or because we believe we ‘have the corner on the faith market’ we are in trouble. The minute we teach ‘who is going to heaven and who is going to hell’ we are in trouble. The minute we focus on the future or the past, instead of the present, we are in trouble. Mother Teresa said it best "we need to teach the Muslim to be a better Muslim, we need to teach the Jew to be a better Jew", and so on. This means we need to drop what or who we think God is for our religion and think more about what or who God is for all humankind!
So how can we begin to change our beliefs? Perhaps we should begin by accepting that God is much greater than any idea that we (past or present) might have of him. Perhaps we could begin by changing our beliefs about who God is for all humankind. Perhaps we should admit that there is not one religion that possesses all there is to know about God or the Truth. Perhaps we could begin by accepting that we need one another. Perhaps we could begin by trying to understand each other’s uniqueness rather than by any enforced (and unrealistic) similarities. Perhaps we could refuse to listen to voices which lead to greater disharmony and disunity. Perhaps we should begin by accepting that God is much greater than any idea that we (past or present) might have.
Lastly, if you want peace and harmony you have to want to work for it. It does not simply drop out of heaven. If you want to Love you have and draw on its Source – there we will find an unlimited supply of answers for all of the world’s problems.
Today many people from various nationalitiess work and share their gifts together in a multicultural village or society. This remarkable mix automatically introduces a variety of ancient religious beliefs and customs. Institutional religions now have face the problem of sharing their particular beliefs without prejudice or intolerance with people of different faiths. Unfortunately true ecumenism has not kept pace with the rapid growing mix of religions. Witness the confusion in many parts of our world. The need to redefine and learn how God relates to all humans inclusively rather than exclusively is no longer an option.
UPDATE: A related story about world peace appeared in The National Catholic Reporter, dated Jan. 10th, outlining Pope Benedicts fears concerning the rising anti-Christian tide in various parts of the world.