ARTICLE: World Peace Day

ARTICLE: World Peace Day

As we mark World Peace Day on 21st September, members of the Abraham Festival committee shared their thoughts on what peace means to them.

My own thoughts on peace are informed by my Muslim faith: the word Islam means ‘surrender to God’, and is related to the Arabic word ‘salaam’ which means peace. This word includes a sense of security, as in the afterlife; it is the salutation of peaceful Muslims, and signifies accord with those around us. It also means acknowledgment that we are satisfied with what we have. The core message of Islam is individual inner peace, which leads to peace in the community and the world; it teaches abstention from aggression or war, except in self-defense.

But ‘peace’ also has a practical meaning. It is not just the absence of war; peace is like a balance with equal weights on each side. If the balance is disturbed, then peace is lost. We are seeing this imbalance in the world today. Peace can only be achieved when there is hope and justice for people of all races and faiths; when people feel safe and their property is not taken from them. Peace can only be achieved when children are educated; when they have clean water and are free from malnutrition. Peace can only be achieved when people are free to practice their religion and are proud of their culture.

The pursuit of peace means we must demand justice and dignity for all people, and social programs which allow people to live with dignity. We must demand that civil rights are not compromised in our quest for security. As a Muslim, I believe every human being has a right to live in peace.

To Helen McCarthy, a Catholic, peace means loving her own fragility – accepting her own weaknesses,  Jesus’ statement ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ means love of self is the first step in accepting and loving our neighbor. Loving despite imperfections creates bonds so we can face obstacles together. We should feel secure enough to be honest and to trust.  Confronting injustice, poverty and indignity is best done together. Peace may seem elusive. Christ said: do to others what you would have them do to you. While Christians try to apply the teachings of Jesus, ethical conundrums remain.

According to Rev. Jessica Beecham-Stockton, a United Church member, our society seems to encourage competition which is on the continuum of violence, however co-operation can overcome the tendency to compete. Forgiveness is another aspect of peace; and showing compassion towards the other. The crunch comes when we ask forgiveness but the other person will not hear us. However, someone said NOT forgiving is like swallowing poison and expecting our enemy to die. Author Ariel Dorfman struggled with the evil he saw in Chile at the time of Pinochet. He realized the dictator was a man much like himself and that within himself he had the potential for such violence.

According to Heather Pollack, Jewish values are founded on three key ideals: truth, justice and peace. In Hebrew, the word for peace, “Shalom” is used when greeting and parting from others. It is used to make a particular wish for the Sabbath. Jews invoke it when blessing children on Friday nights and when descendants of the High Priests of the Jerusalem Temple bless the community on Rosh Hashanah, the New Year.

Peace means more than an absence of war. Ideally peace is between nations, friends, and family, but it is also important within oneself. It involves security, safety, and physical and spiritual well-being. Peace is to be actively pursued, whether political or personal. The only higher value in Judaism is life. Self-defense is the only justification for war, but it is of great importance to actively seek alternatives before making the significant decision to respond to violence with violence.

We need a world where all parents can provide for their children, send them to school and put them to bed with the confidence that the following day will also be peaceful and secure. As individuals, we must resist thinking of other groups as somehow having different dreams than we do. We must also encourage our political leaders to actively pursue peace, to explore every option to avoid war and to know the importance of the life and prosperity of every human being.

With the world in turmoil today, the Abraham Festival committee members often find themselves on opposite sides of an issue; however with mutual respect and acceptance Jews, Christians and Muslims rise above their differences and continue to work together for peace.

Elizabeth Rahman is one of the founders of the Abraham Festival

ARTICLE: What PEACE means to me as a Muslim

By Elizabeth Rahman

The word Islam means ‘surrender to God’, and is related to the Arabic word ‘salaam’ which means peace. This word includes a sense of security or permanence, as in the afterlife; it is also the salutation of peaceful Muslims, and signifies accord with those around us. It also means acceptance /acknowledgment– that we are satisfied with what we have. The core message of Islam is individual inner peace, which leads to peace in the community and the world; it teaches abstention from aggression or war, except in self-defense.

But ‘peace’ also has a practical meaning. It is not just the absence of war; peace is like a balance with equal weights on each side. If the balance is disturbed, then peace is lost.

We are seeing this imbalance in the world today. Peace can only be achieved when there is hope and justice for people of all races and faiths; when people feel safe – when their property is respected and not taken from them. Peace can only be achieved when children are educated; when they have clean water and are free from malnutrition. Peace can only be achieved when people are free to practice their religion and are proud of their culture.

The pursuit of peace means we must demand justice and dignity for all people, and social programs which allow people to live with dignity. We must demand that civil rights are not compromised in our quest for security. As a Muslim, I believe every human being has a right to live in peace.

 

An Affirmation of Peace

Peace is not the product of terror or fear.
Peace is not the silence of cemeteries.
Peace is not the silence of violent repression.
Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all.
Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity.
It is right and duty.

Archbishop Oscar Romero of San Salvador

Christ in Islam

By Elizabeth Rahman

Non-Muslims, especially Christians, are often surprised to discover that Muslims believe in Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) and in Maryam (Mary), the mother of Jesus. The Holy Qur’an, the Muslim holy book, speaks of Mary not only as the mother of Jesus but as ‘a virtuous woman, honoured above the women of all nations’. There is a whole chapter in the Qur’an called Maryam, referring to the mother of Christ.

We are told that God sent 124,000 prophets to all tribes and nations, and Muslims are required by God to believe in all of the Prophets of the old and new testaments, including Jesus Christ, and this line of prophets ended with Muhammad (pbuh). All these prophets preached the same message of one God; however their teachings were sometimes distorted by those hearing the message. You may be surprised to know that Christ is mentioned in the Qur’an four times more often than Muhammad.

So Muslims believe that Jesus was a prophet, a human being, and not divine. In chapter 4 of the Qur’an, we read: ‘Christ Jesus the son of Mary was no more than an apostle of God’. In Islam, Jesus is regarded as a human prophet and messenger of God, not part of God Himself. Jesus is also referred to in the Qur’an as the Spirit of God, the Word of God, the Sign of God & other honourable titles in the Qur’an. Jesus is also referred to as ‘Maseeh’ or messiah in Hebrew, which means ‘anointed one’, and he was anointed as God’s messenger by his cousin John the Baptist (pbuh), who was also a prophet of God.

According to the Qur’an, Jesus was one of God’s most beloved messengers, a precursor to the last prophet Muhammad and he was sent to guide the Children of Israel. In the Holy Qur’an, there are many stories of Christ’s miraculous birth, his teachings & the miracles he performed by God’s permission, such as healing the blind & those who had leprosy.
Muslims believe that Jesus was immaculately conceived without the intervention of a human father – that Jesus was born miraculously of a virgin mother and no father, much like the birth of the prophet Adam, the first human being, who was created with neither mother nor father.

When Mary was due to give birth, she retired to a remote place. When she returned with the baby, there was much ridicule. The people said: (quote from Qur’an)

“Thy father was not a man of evil, nor thy mother a woman unchaste!
She merely pointed to the babe. They said: ‘How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?’
The baby said; ‘I am indeed a servant of God: He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet;
And He hath made me blessed wheresoever I be, and hath enjoined on me prayer and charity as long as I live;
(He) hath made me kind to my mother, and not overbearing or miserable;
So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)!’
Such (was) Jesus the son of Mary: (it is) a statement of truth, about which they (vainly) dispute. It is not befitting to (the majesty of God) that He should beget a son. Glory be to Him! When He determines a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be’, and it is.”

So this was Christ’s first miracle, when he spoke as a tiny baby to defend his mother’s honour. The Holy Qur’an denies that Jesus was crucified, that is that he died on the cross. Rather, God took Jesus up to Heaven where he sits at God’s right hand. Christ’s enemies boasted that they had killed him, but God tells us in the Qur’an that He made it look as though Christ had died on the cross to confound his enemies.

It is important to note that Jesus prayed to the same God to whom all Prophets prayed, the same God of the Jews and the Christians.
We are told in the Qur’an that Jesus will return before the end of the world. As I quoted, Jesus refers to the day that he will be raised up again; this refers to the day of judgement, when all mankind will be raised up again and we will be questioned about our beliefs and our actions, and judged accordingly.

There are many stories about Jesus and his ministry. Jesus was once seen running away from a man. People were surprised to see him running away – he did not run away from anything or anybody. He was known for his goodness, humility and friendliness.
So they asked him, ‘Jesus, spirit of God, why are you running away from that man?’ Jesus replied ‘I am running away from a fool’.

People were still more surprised – they knew that Jesus was a prophet. He had cured the sick. He had even brought the dead to life. So they said, ‘But Jesus, spirit of God, you have power to bring the dead to life’.
Jesus smiled and said: ‘True, I have brought the dead to life. But I find it difficult to bring a fool to his senses’.

So to sum up, according to the Qur’an Jesus was a great prophet ‘in the company of those nearest to God’, a servant of God & messenger of God who preached the same message as all the other prophets of the old and new testaments – that is the message of one unique God.