Leaders from different faiths met at an Athlone mosque last week to discuss how to make peace in an angry and violent world.
At the symposium, at the Baitul Awwal Mosque on Wednesday November 30, James Elman, director of the Cape Town Interfaith Initiative, said religious leaders should lay foundations for mutual respect.
“We also need to be patient with ourselves and each other. We are quick to judge sometimes and in order to overcome that we need to find inner peace that comes from God,” he said.
Captain Junaid Alcock, from the Athlone police, said if gangs could create peace among themselves then so too could people from different faiths. Protecting the youth was the community’s biggest challenge, he said.
“Back in the day, we always had something to do when we got out of school or in the school holidays. The problem with the youth today is that they don’t have faith, so they seek better idols outside, such as gangsters,” said Captain Alcock.
Guest speaker Nita Makanjee, from the Brahma Kumaris, said it was a great paradox that we needed to fight for peace. While we all had our differences, love was the common thread running through all faiths.
“How often do we relate to each other as brothers or sisters? “We need to ask ourselves if we are holding hate or judgement, because with that it is not possible to love. We talk a lot, but it is time to act. Respect yourself so that you can respect others. We all want the same thing, we just express ourselves differently,” she said.
Father Matsepane Morare, from the Roman Catholic Church, said peace and justice belonged together – the one could not truly exist without the other.
“There is a Latin saying that if you want peace you must go to war,” he said. “On the surface, it may seem harsh, but it does not mean that you must take guns and fight. Some people say fight for peace, others say fight for justice.”
Mickey Glass, of the Jewish faith, said he was troubled by the violence and aggression in the modern world. He asked whether peace could exist among faiths and said there was a dangerous perception that Jews and Muslims did not get along.
“Islam and Judaism have a lot in common. After decades of working with different faiths, I’ve found that ignorance causes misunderstanding between each other. We need to overcome this. We must invest more time and education to educate ourselves.”
Pastor Vusi Funda from the Baptist Church said: “As humanity, as one, we must all come together and walk together … and show that we are one and at peace with each other.”
South Africa, he added, still bore deep wounds from its past, and it was vital for the country to prioritise peace and justice if there was any hope of them healing.
Rayaan Allom, from the Islamic faith, said Islam meant peace and that peace should exist in all relations. However, there could be no lasting peace without justice.
“One should be kind and generous, humble and not arrogant, not be afraid to speak to the truth, put others above ourselves, and be grateful,” he said.