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On Religions and World Peace

9/13/2004 - 6:00 AM PST

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Pakistani Bishop Sees a Common Anthropology

MILAN, Italy, SEPT. 13, 2004 (Zenit) - Here is the text of an analysis of religions and world peace offered by Bishop Anthony Lobo of Islamabad-Rawalpindi, in Pakistan. He delivered it Tuesday at the Men and Religions meeting in Milan.

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Mr. Chairman and distinguished guests, I would like to expose this topic in these phases:

1. A common anthropology (humanism) underlying all religions
2. The roots of violence and wars
3. Religions as the healer of violence

The theme of this international meeting is "Religions and Cultures: The Courage for a New Humanism." I think that what is called "new humanism" is rather an anthropology common to all religions. Though I will use the Bible to explain this, I am sure that the anthropology I describe, based on the Bible, will be echoed by scholars of other religions.

What is this common anthropology? In the book of Genesis, the origin of creation is described as one of compassion, gentleness, peace and harmony. A later Hebrew word to describe this is "hesed," which indicates a harmonious relationship between God and human beings, between human beings themselves, between human beings and nature (including animals) and within the human person's own being.

Violence, including war, is a parody of creation because it replaced the fourfold harmonious relationship with a fourfold alienation: human beings alienated from God, from one another, from nature -- including animals -- and alienated from one's own self.

Religions can engage in dialogue, despite their differences, because they have a common anthropology. Though I spell this out using Christian Scriptures, I believe other religious scholars will find echoes in their own scriptures of the main characteristics of the common anthropology, the basis of a new humanism, for the healing of violence in our world of wars.

1. Common anthropology

Common anthropology begins with the creation of human beings. They were made in the image and likeness of God. The one God of Christianity is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The life of God consists in the Father giving all to the Son: all his life, love, wisdom, power. The Son returns all to the Father. This mutual self-giving (self-emptying) is called the Holy Spirit (John 17:10).

Being made in God's image, the human person is, at the core and center of being, made for self-giving, which is love. Because God is essentially love (1 John 4:8) man was made for love. God made human beings male and female and blessed them and commanded them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the animals. This subduing the earth and dominion over the animals was characterized by kindness, gentleness, harmony and peace, in one French word: "douceur."

Since human beings were created before any of the religions we know existed, we can speak of an original anthropology, predating all religions. Hence I call it common anthropology. What are the characteristics of this common anthropology?

The first is truth. By this, I understand the correspondence of the human person with God. Made in God's image and likeness, the human person is true. As human beings lose their resemblance to the Divine Exemplar, they become less true.

The second characteristic of this common anthropology is equality. "Male and female he made them. He made them in his own image and likeness." Man and women are equal in dignity and their offspring, too, made in God's image and likeness, will be equal in dignity, rooted in their resemblance to their Creator.

The third characteristic is that human persons by nature are relational. Man and woman relate to one another, to God, and to others in creation. Each person has a wisdom open to the other. Each person is by essence, dialogical.

The fourth characteristic is gentleness (or love, harmony, kindness, peace) in French: "douceur." A negative word for this is "nonviolence." Man's mission to "subdue" the earth was a stewardship of caring, not a license to exploit and dominate.

2. Violence as a parody of creation

But, when Adam and Eve sinned, the whole situation changed so much that it resulted in a parody of creation. Instead of God's blessing, there was a curse on the ground. Instead of fruitfulness, the earth would bring fourth thorns and thistles.

Instead of being characterized by "douceur," "non-douceur," or violence, made its appearance. This does not mean that "douceur" completely disappeared. It was God's gift to the human being in creation and therefore our mission given with his blessing. Only now, after sin, all "douceur" is marked by violence and has to make its way along the road of violence, never outside it.

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