Expanding the Power of
Last month Muslims celebrated Eid ul-Adha, which
marks the end of the pilgrimage to Mecca and is celebrated by Muslims
around the world. This year numerous Muslim congregations used the
opportunity to hold interfaith services. In fact, in recent years, many
mosques, churches and synagogues have established sustained programs to
cooperate on feeding the hungry, providing activities for youth and
doing homeless outreach, among other work. Such interfaith activities
have now become a mainstay in the United States and other countries.
Today our challenge as those who care about supporting tolerance is to
engage individuals at a deeper and more sustained way.
Education and media—two spheres that touch almost every member of our
world community—are key to this engagement and to ensuring that our
global community can spread tolerance, sharpen its sensitivity to
injustice and celebrate religious and cultural diversity.
Institutions like the Vatican, the Cairo-based Al-Azhar University, the
World Jewish Congress (WJC) and the Geneva-based World Council of
Churches (WCC) have already engaged in efforts to foster tolerance by
bringing together religious leaders of different faiths.
Interfaith activities like these have significant merit. Through
highlighting these activities in the media and taking lessons learned
from them into schools, the value of such efforts can be deepened and
broadened. Schools are where children acquire the skills and values
necessary for responsible citizenship. Learning to get along with
children of other religious and ethnic backgrounds is just as important
as learning science, math and language, especially in a world where it
seems misunderstandings all too often abound. In order to cultivate a
more tolerant world, educators should begin to incorporate the principle
of understanding those of different faiths more into curricula.
Some schools are already beginning to do this. The Three Faiths Forum in
the United Kingdom, for instance, links schools which have students of
different faith backgrounds, building sustained relationships across
religious lines. Tens of thousands of Arab students, who are potential
leaders, have studied at the interfaith-oriented American University of
Beirut (AUB) and its high school, the International College. AUB’s
success lies in an egalitarian philosophy of education, a social climate
of diversity and teachers who come from diverse national and faith
Like schools, the media is also crucial in shaping attitudes. Using
media to highlight positive efforts will provide an opportunity for new
audiences to learn about endeavors to promote religious tolerance and
widen audiences’ perspectives. In his journalism and television
reporting on different religions, journalist Bill Moyers has contributed
immensely to the appreciation of all faiths. Krista Tippett’s inspiring
On Being, a popular radio program produced and distributed by American
Public Media, examines diverse ways individuals grapple with “big
questions” about ethics and faith. Such programs encourage listeners to
discover insights into unfamiliar faith traditions and help people find
If those involved in interfaith efforts can broaden their focus to
include engaging educators and media professionals, their work will be
even more effective.
Efforts to combat intolerance through education and media should
continue for decades and can help institutionalize a global movement for
tolerance. Today, more than ever, we need sustained efforts to save the
diverse, precious heritage of all faiths.
* Ghassan Rubeiz is the former secretary of the Middle East for the
Geneva-based World Council of Churches (WCC). This article was written
for the Common Ground News Service (CGNews).
Source: CGNews, Nov. 13, 2012, <www.commongroundnews.org>.
Copyright permission is granted for publication.