Sunday, October 10, 2010

Building Bridges of Understanding

Steve, my brother-in-law, and one of my best friends from my time at Brigham Young University shared with me today an article about Mormon expatriates. But before I could read it I was distracted by two addresses that were given at a forum at BYU on October 10th, 2006. The first by President Boyd K. Packer, an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was a special introduction to the second address by Dr. Alwi Shihab, then Indonesian Presidential Advisor and Special Envoy to the Middle East. These two great leaders spoke on the need to build bridges of understanding between the West and Islam.

I was able to attend this special forum assembly and was greatly impressed by the messages that President Packer and Dr. Shihab delivered. I was happy to review their words today, exactly four years since they were given. I share with you a few of their remarks.

From President Packer:

"Ahead of us, indeed already all around us, is the world of Islam. Christianity and Islam will clasp hands in cooperation and understanding or clench fists in confrontation and prejudice....

"It is important that we in the West understand there is a battle for the heart, soul, and direction of Islam and that not all Islam espouses violent jihad, as some Western media portray.

"It is as well important that friends in the Islamic world understand there is a battle for the heart, soul, and direction of the Western world and that not all the West is morally decadent, as some Islamic media portray."

From Dr. Shihab:

"It is worth noting that the Muslim world is too large and too diverse to march to the beat of a single drummer. Many people of the West mistakenly assume that the Muslim world is equivalent to the Middle East. The fact is that the Muslim world extends from Morocco to Merauke, Indonesia, and from Uzbekistan to Cape Town, South Africa. In addition, more Muslims live in China than in the Arabian Peninsula, and more Muslims live in Indonesia than in the entire Arab world combined....

"It is a sad reality that even international efforts to counter radicalism and terrorism often themselves become radical—and, hence, counterproductive. We must, therefore, deal with religious radicalism and intolerance not with brute force but with wisdom and the willingness to address the root causes of these problems....

"For almost a millennium and a half, Islam and the West have been viewed as two civilizations interacting in conflicting dialogue. To reach constructive dialogue and find solutions to the obstacles, it is important to think in terms of actual existing conditions in today’s world of the twenty-first century and not impose concepts and programs from an earlier age....

"...We must always bear in mind that religion is not just an abstract doctrine or simple belief. It has been and continues to be the significant factor that shapes people’s identities as individual persons and as groups. It is...our duty to find the way to harness the potential of religions to motivate their adherents to strive for peace, justice, and tolerance in everyday life and in all walks of life."

There is much more that could have been shared. I encourage you to read their full remarks. President Packer and Dr. Shahib are shining examples of how to successfully participate in interfaith dialogue and cooperation. Their messages are deserving of thoughtful consideration by all.

2 comments:

Deb said...

I remember when these talks were given at BYU. Very wise and powerful talks. Thanks for sharing.

Rachel said...

Thanks for sharing, Nate. I hope more people come to see that Muslim extremists don't embody Islam, and Western extremists don't represent the majority of westerns.