Achieving Peace and Reconciliation: Is Religion a Bridge, or a Barrier?


The world seems a very troubled place in 2017. People are shouting loudly, and not always listening to each other. Can religion help, or is it just making matters worse?

I consider myself a spiritual person, but I am certainly not aligned to any particular religion. In fact, although aspects of some of the world’s belief systems interest and resonate with me, I do my best to avoid any manifestations of organized religion. For example, I am not comfortable with being told to “bow my head in prayer” before a business meeting.

But that’s me. Diversity is key. I used to find the interfaith ceremonies in commemoration of 9/11, which the U.S. Embassy in Jamaica held for several years afterwards, extraordinarily moving. To me, it was a coming together of cultures. Is religion culture? Or does culture include religion? Well, that’s another question.

Aisha Mulendwe of the Buddhist community speaking with Sheikh Tijani of the Muslim community. (Photo courtesy of Dorothy Whyte)
Aisha Mulendwe a Buddhist, speaking with Ahmad Tijani of the Muslim community at the Baha’i celebration of World Religion Day. (Photo courtesy of Dorothy Whyte)

So, on the afternoon of Sunday February 15, the Baha’i community of Kingston invited representatives from the Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, Christian and Muslim communities to join in a special program to mark World Religion Day.

Maintaining the annual tradition started in 1950 by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States, which is now observed on the third Sunday of January each year, this year’s interfaith observance was held at the Multi-functional room of the Main Library at the University of the West Indies. The Baha’is of Kingston used this occasion to dialogue with representatives of the major religions on the topic: Religion…a Bridge or Barrier to Peace.

The Baha’i community reports: “Quotations from the six religions support the fact that all religions come from One Heavenly Father, teach that mankind needs to live in a state of unity as we strive to foster our spiritual and physical development and demonstrate that the pure form left by the Holy Teachers Krishna, Moses, Buddha, Jesus Christ, Muhammad and Baha’u’llah, constitutes a bridge for peace.”

Well – any thoughts, my dear readers?

Walter Scott, Chair of Jamaica's Baha'i community, speaks to the audience on World Religion Day. (Photo courtesy of Dorothy Whyte)
Meeting Chair Walter Scott speaks to the audience on World Religion Day. (Photo courtesy of Dorothy Whyte)

10 thoughts on “Achieving Peace and Reconciliation: Is Religion a Bridge, or a Barrier?

  1. Our religious beliefs should not divide us. However, the powers that be have used religion, as in the case of British colonial India, to divide us. In our times, it’s Western Christian-based advanced nations against the Islamic Middle East: Christianity versus Islam.

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    1. Yes, this is very true. The beliefs, in themselves, should not divide us – but that is in an ideal world. There are other battles going on that are based on religion to a large extent, e.g. the Buddhist minority waging war against a Muslim minority in Burma. Plus, my problem with all this is the religions themselves are divided: Sunni versus Shia for example, the cause of much conflict. The followers of Falun Gong are also oppressed in China…and so on…

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  2. You ask, in the context of the world being a troubled place, if religion can help. I would prefer a values based approach, which the religions certainly address, rather than a religious approach. I was brought up in the Christian faith but remember, very clearly, at about 11yrs of age wondering why women weren’t addressing us from the pulpit. At that young age I felt something was very wrong and as an adult, I can’t accept such patriarchal teachings. However, a values led reflection is what is needed and starting school or work with a moment of self reflection will go a long way for us each to take responsibility for the world we are creating. Thanks for the blog!

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    1. Dear Glynis: Thank you for your thoughtful comments. I was also brought up in the Anglican Church, and often wondered the same thing as you. I do think a values based approach would be far more helpful (and quite possibly more achievable) – rather than looking at the dogma and comparing religious structures, etc. I practice mindfulness and although it is quite a hard discipline in many ways, it opens my eyes to many things in life. Thanks!

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  3. I was in attendance and it was so pleasing to see representatives from 6 different beliefs all agreeing that religion can be a bridge to peace. Indeed, the spiritual leader of the Jewish Community in Jamaica, who was one of the presenters last Sunday, commented on the importance of the function at the Synagogue today.

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  4. Actually we Buddhists do NOT say we all come from one heavenly Father at all. Buddha is not revered as a god but as an example of how to attain enlightenment, Buddha means Enlightened One, and the Buddha’s intention is to help others attain buddhahood like him.

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