In a pronounced show of interreligious unity, 10 representatives of the Christian, Druze, Jewish, Muslim, and Baha’i faiths, were joined by 17 Roman Catholic bishops and their advisers from abroad for a special interfaith discussion on religious coexistence on 14 January.
Afterwards, the diverse group visited the Shrine of the Bab at the Baha’i World Centre in Haifa, Israel.
The panelists, who represented each of the participating religious communities, focused on how their coreligionists can not only nurture a spirit of mutual tolerance and coexistence but also collaborate on efforts to build unity. A number of speakers noted that the principles of dialogue, tolerance, respect, coexistence, and love for one another are highlighted throughout their sacred scriptures:
This is the sum of duty; do naught unto others which would cause pain unto you. – the Hindu Mahabharata 5, 1517.
That nature only is good when it shall not do unto another whatever is not good for its own self. – Zoroastrian Dadistan-i-Dinik, 94:5.
Regard your neighbor’s gain as your own gain and your neighbor’s loss as your own loss. – the Taoist T’ai Shang Kan Ying P’ien.
Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful. – the Buddhist Udana-Varga 5,18.
All things whatsoever you should wish that men should do to you, do you even so to them. – The New Testament, Matthew 7:12.
None of you truly believes until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself. – Islamic Sunnah Hadith.
If thine eyes be turned towards mercy, forsake the things that profit thee and cleave unto that which will profit mankind. And if thine eyes be turned towards justice, choose thou for thy neighbor that which thou choosest for thyself. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 64.
In order to create bonds of unity among people of different religions and dispel indifference and prejudice, it is important for people to communicate with and know each other, several of the panelists explained.
Following the discussion at the Baha’i World Centre, prayers were recited in Arabic, English, and Hebrew. The 50 participants then walked to the nearby Shrine of the Bab, a domed building on Mt. Carmel in Haifa, Israel, where the sacred remains of the Herald of the Baha’i Faith are entombed.
The Catholic clerics were visiting the Holy Land on behalf of the Pope and the Church for an annual meeting to show support to the Christian community; they hailed from a dozen different countries, mostly in Europe and North America. Father Yousef Yakoub, the leader of Haifa’s Maronite Christian community, who co-organized the event, recited the stirring Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi:
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.