Inspiration comes with commemoration. Moslems, Jews and Christians are going through days of inspiration judging from the holy days they respectively observe this week.

Jerusalem Tuesday, April 3rd, 2007


Inspiration comes with commemoration. Moslems, Jews and Christians are going through days of inspiration judging from the holy days they respectively observe this week. Moslems celebrated on Saturday last Eid Al Mawled Al Nabawi (Birthday of the Prophet); Jews celebrate Pessach (Passover) today and Christians celebrate Easter on next Sunday. Each of these celebrations carries significance to the respective faithful. In fact, for some of these faithful their own sense of identity, their world view and their justification for doing or not doing things are all motivated by religious belief. When religious belief permeates one’s being all else falls in place, or so one would like to think. Difficult decisions and acts that are judged controversial and unacceptable by any standard are considered in the line of religious duty. They are often a proof not of prayer and meditation but of solidarity with one’s group and its ideals of history and religion, of selective experiential reality and of the world to come, both heavenly and earthly.


No one group or individual is immune from impulsive religious beliefs and their effects. In the act of self and group justification, projection on others of the bad and ugly is one method whereby we stand on a different moral, ethical and spiritual plateau. This is a style used not only by religiously motivated politicians and practitioners but also by a variety of faithful, of all religions, driven by religious belief and commitment, among other things. In this sense, the religious experience that is supposedly intent on promoting self and group cohesiveness could become a way to denigrate others and to justify all acts against them. In the end, being confined in one’s religious belief and bounded by one’s group spells ignorance of others and their natural claims to precisely the same things that we claim.


The failure of monotheistic religions lies in their inability to open up to each other’s narratives, beliefs and details of faith. Condescending attitudes abound while genuine mutual acceptance is rarely put to a test, if ever. This is evidenced in the conflict over the Holy Land, venerated and sanctified by Judaism, Christianity and Islam. While the conflict, in its very nature is political territorial, the religious dimension nevertheless is intertwined particularly with the territorial. Trying to disengage the religious from the political and territorial becomes a formidable task especially when the religious is used as basis for territorial claims.


In this week of holy celebrations, it is most appropriate to send to the faithful of the three religions wishes for blessed and happy commemoration of the respective great feasts and holidays. This is an elementary sign of mutual religious acceptance and it reflects the good in one’s heart but clearly it is not enough. In the long run, much needs to be done particularly by the religious leadership. While this leadership remains limited in its political clout nevertheless, it has the heavy responsibility of seeing to it that a basis is found in which the faithful of the respective religions learn to appreciate and respect each other’s narratives and beliefs. It is then that one can hope that the religious will cease to be a basis for claims that negate the other and what he/she stands for. It is then that the test of the belief in the One God can become a factor for peacemaking and healing rather than for continued confrontation and plight.