Voices of Faith: What can faiths do to bring civility to society?
Lead by example
Lama Chuck Stanford, Rime Buddhist Center & Monastery, Kansas City, Mo.: All faiths encourage good actions, positive virtues and personal responsibility and see themselves and the world as sacred. Yet there is still much suffering in the world, and much of it is caused by religions themselves.
Therefore, it seems what is needed is better interfaith understanding. It is through interfaith dialogue that we can find the common quality of all religions that is of humanitarian ideals. By working individually and together we can create the causes and conditions for achieving a more peaceful world.
It is up to each of us to first work on changing our own inner feelings of anger, hatred or prejudice. We must replace those negative emotions with compassion and loving kindness for all people, not just for those who are close to us, but for everyone — even our enemies. Only then can we encourage our political representatives and leaders to do the same. We have seen many times throughout history how one person can make a difference in the world.
We should lead by example, both as individuals and as a nation.
From the Buddhist perspective it is believed that our fundamental nature is basically good. It is our nature to want to help others. Therefore, we can do much to bring about peace in the world. It was Gandhi who said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Begin to reconcile
The Rev. R.L. Baynham, pastor of Metropolitan Baptist Church, Kansas City, Kan.: This question is profound. If we define civility as having good manners and behavior, then we are able to at least start at a place where we can begin to reconcile. The material I have read regarding the relationship religion has with society and how we may impact it is overwhelming.
One of the difficulties is that each religious group has its own set of moral teachings, and therefore it becomes extremely difficult to establish a single pattern in which man can achieve a harmonious life among his peers. We believe that the teachings of the Bible provide a central starting point in bringing man into the right relationship with his creator and his fellow man. Based upon what we are observing in today’s world, we are watching nations being torn apart because of greed and status.
The lack of civility has become a greater part of this life’s experience. From every part of the world we are watching the tearing down of society, families and institutions. Faith groups must then continue to help redefine quality of life and belief in a system of good will and eliminate the competition to be the only voice.
Each group has enhancing qualities that provide a vehicle by which we can achieve wholesomeness, fairness and honesty within our system. Simple things like treating our neighbor like we want to be treated are avenues that we can walk and that will bring about civility.
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