Having just returned from Brussels and the presentation of our book Reductionism, Globalization and Faith, I am encouraged by the openness and eagerness of those we met to the possibility of using the world’s scriptures as a vehicle for peace instead of for political violence. In one week we distributed three hundred signed copies of the book to members of parliament, commissioners, council members, ambassadors and staff members, and have received numerous emails of thanks and enthusiasm for our message.
One journalist, who identified himself as an avowed atheist, was nonetheless, firmly supportive of our non-sectarian approach to unity. Feedback from the presentation included a suggestion to develop a curriculum for use in Belgian public schools as a sort of primer on the communalities between religions, and the creation of a follow-up publication in which prayers of all traditions would be collected into a single volume, arranged thematically. Yet others offered volunteer assistance in promoting a deeper understanding of our underlying unity.
What was most encouraging about al this was the very diversity of the people themselves. Greeks and Poles, Germans and Italians, Estonians and Belgians, Spaniards and French, were all equally aware and concerned that religious ignorance and cultural bigotry we on the rise again in Europe, and that these factors are toxic in the hands of ideologues eager to exploit them for there personal agendas. Europe’s history, in this regard, is even darker than America’s, for there is a long list of holocausts, pogroms, purges and inquisitions implemented under the aegis of some sort of religious orthodoxy or purism that has stained European soil with the blood of millions stretching back millennia.
What was equally refreshing, and a stark contrast to the U.S. Congress, was the approachability of people in positions of power. Unlike walking the corridors of Congress, where even interns are dressed in power suits hoping to impress, the European Parliament was a fascinating mix of blue jeans and Prada, and the way someone dressed was no clear indication of their rank or function.
Racism, religious resentments, xenophobia are all alive and well in Europe, and given the economic instability, they represent endemic risks to social progress that can be easily fanned into flame in the current environment. But it was heartening to see a recognition of the need for spirituality- a spirituality that can both transcend sectarianism and still celebrate its rich variety of traditions.
One highlight of our time in Belgium was sharing the book with the staff of the Saudi Arabian Embassy. Christians and Muslims who had worked there for years had never spoken to each other about matters of faith were suddenly finding common beliefs and seeing each other in a new way.
Time will tell what our next step should be- we are exploring the possibilities of creating a radio program to address these issues openly, as well as writing to expand these themes and delve into them in ways that are both academically well-founded and easily accessible to the average reader. The public school curriculum idea, suggested by someone in the audience, is, among other suggestions and ideas, a very attractive one.
Ironically, I returned from Brussels to my regular work as a medical interpreter on September 11 when the tragedy in Ben Ghazi hit the news. The core of our book was written eleven years ago as a response to the 9/11 tragedy. Though we conceived of FID aver a decade ago, it seems our message is still as timely as ever, if not more so. In our mission statement we identified educating people in positions of leadership, and after years of patient plodding, we are finally achieving that. We appreciate the prayers of all those who have been so supportive- and welcome into that list all those in Europe with whom we met and are now corresponding in Europe.