(File pix) The Palace of Peace and Accord in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana. AFP Photo

WITH so many chaotic things happening every day in this world, it is extremely easy to think that there is little hope left for mankind.

But unbeknownst to many of us, the agenda for world peace is being actively worked on and advocated. In fact, it is revisited, polished, updated, and reinstated every three years when religious leaders from different faiths and countries meet and engage with each other in interfaith dialogues at The Congress of Leaders and Traditional Religions.

I had the pleasure of attending the latest edition of the congress, which took place in Astana, Kazakhstan.

In essence, this year’s session was no different than the first one in September 2003. Everyone, from rabbis and muftis to monks and priests, found pleasure in each other’s company as they worked together on figuring out what world peace truly means and how to achieve it.

But what makes the sixth installment of the congress notably distinguishable from past editions is in the way that religion as a world view was translated into practice; every edition runs its own theme.

The 2015 edition of the congress, in particular, had witnessed lengthy discussions between religious leaders and political figures, that culminated in the establishment of peace-ruling standards and even the creation of Astana’s glorious Palace of Peace and Accord.

Naturally, this year’s session built on where participants had left off three years ago, with a special focus on how religious communities can face issues of global security, changing geopolitical landscape, extremism and terrorism, and the unique challenges and responses they entail.

In hindsight, the narratives that I had gleaned from my time at the congress confirmed what I have long suspected: that religious tolerance is our only way to world peace.

In this technologically savvy era, religious faith faces a number of challenges, one of which is the decline in numbers. But the reduction in number of believers is not that drastic a fall.

Research done by demographers Conrad Hackett and David McClendon in 2015 showed that only 16 per cent of the world population (which today stands at 7.7 billion people) consider themselves “unaffiliated”; the rest of the world still resort to one religion or another to act out their belief systems.

What this tells us is that most people have always believed, still believe, and will likely continue to believe inahigher force that powers us all into being. Now to come back to why I believe world peace may not be as elusive as the sceptics may think. The rationale behind it is actually logical.

That all of us, no matter how different our skin colours, socioeconomic status, and belief systems are from each other, live on the same planet called earth is very telling of that singularity which we, in each of our unique ways and methods, believe in.

This force that binds us all comes in various names — Allah, God, Yahweh, Brahman, and many, many more.

We are the same in our humanity, even if our deliveries are different. There are so many interpretations and modes of worship of the Divine. And we have many languages to communicate and map our meanings. Some of us have found a way to truly fathom why we are all here. Some are just happy to know that they are here.

To each his own.

If the togetherness is the best that we can get right now, then it’s high time to make full use of it. Any disharmony that exists is not the result of our religious differences, but our inability to live in peace.

Religion is a world view that leads us on a path to a life of morals. A life ethically lived is a life at peace. And a life at peace is a life lived in peace.

Ahmad Kushairi is NST news editor (Weekend/Probe/Special Report)

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