Religion, Ethics and Evil

Religion, Ethics and Evil

Pope Francis says that history cannot be used to defend the wickedness of war. Pope Francis urged the religious leaders that religion must never be used to defend the "evil" of war, as reported by Euronews.

More than 80 imams, patriarchs, rabbis, and muftis were among those in his audience at a conference in September 2022 in the former Soviet country of Kazakhstan, along with a delegate of Patriarch Kirill, who has approved of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and was not present at the gathering.

Pope Francis made no mention of either Russia or Ukraine. But he stressed that in order to foster a culture of peace, church leaders themselves must take the initiative.

He said, "How can we who call ourselves Christians submit to the loss of that life if the creator, to whom we have given our lives, is the originator of human life?"

"Let us join our efforts to guarantee that the Almighty will never again be held prisoner to the human hunger for power, mindful of the wrongs and follies of the past."

Pope Francis then issued a challenge to everyone in the room, urging them to resolve disagreements via negotiation and communication rather than using force.

"May we never excuse violent behaviour. May we never allow the profane to take advantage of the holy. Power must never serve as a prop for the holy, and vice versa!

The message from Patriarch Kirill, leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, was read to the conference by Metropolitan Anthony, the church's director of international affairs. Kirill didn't specifically mention the conflict in it, but rather difficulties that have arisen over the previous 20 years as a result of "attempts to establish a society without depending on moral norms."

The Russian patriarch criticised the liberal, secular mindset of the West and said that external threats to Russia's borders were the origin of the war in Ukraine.

In his letter, Kirill said that these efforts "have not only resulted in the loss of the notion of justice in international relations, but have also led to harsh confrontation, armed wars, the rise of terrorism and extremism in many regions of the globe."

He criticised the dissemination of false information, the "distortion of historical facts," and the "management of public consciousness" in order to propagate messages of "hate against whole peoples, civilizations, and faiths," implying that he believed Russia was the target of a smear campaign.

The grand imam of Al-Azhar, the centre of Sunni learning in Cairo, was among the religious leaders in addition to the Russian Orthodox delegation. In his speech, Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb lamented the replacement of traditional religion with "selfishness, worship of pleasure and lust, and sexual liberation" that includes polygamy and gay marriage.

The Right Rev. Jo Bailey Wells, the Anglican bishop of Dorking and one of only six women in charge of delegations, bemoaned the lack of female representation in religious leadership despite the fact that women make up half of the world's population.

She later told reporters, "I anticipate it will be a challenge for those attending to strengthen women in the domestic environment and in public life.

In spite of the difference in emphases, what the religious leaders agree are the following. 1. There is so much of evil in the world, as illustrated by the war, violence and injustice present in the world. 2. We need a new ethics or morality, that will address our current problems. Without a revised and enlarged ethics, humanity as a whole cannot find solutions to the actual problems that we face. 3. Religions still have a significant role to play in the elimination of evil and in the promotion of an inclusive ethics that embraces everyone and everything.

This calls for inter-religious collaboration that fosters ethical ways of living and our sensitivity to recognise the evil in the world and the firm belief that the good is more overpowering than the evil present among us. Belief in the power of goodness and love is the gift that our faith in God can give us. We need to reaffirm the basic goodness in human beings, which will enable us to face our collective problems together. It is very easy to see the power of war, violence and evil and become despondent. As against this, we need to realise the tremendous amount of goodness present in the world, often left unnoticed.

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