Once more the holy month of Ramadan is upon us. It is time to reflect on what is happening on our planet. Certainly, this past year since the last Ramadan the world has witnessed a lot of turbulence but also some hope .
The turbulence was dramatized by refusing albeit killing the other because of his or her difference. The latest example of this denial of the other were the two recent massacres of Christchurch in New Zealand and the bombings in Sri Lanka including hotels and churches.
One has to wonder as we enter this sacred month of daily prayers and fasting if humanity will ever learn the lessons of the past.
Denying the other led to the Armenian genocide in the early part of last century. Then during World War Two the Nazi Holocaust resulted in the genocide of 6 million Jews and others. Following World War II we witnessed the Kampuchean and Rwandan genocides.
In the last ten years humanity witnessed the senseless wars in Syria and Yemen with the endless count of innocent civilians
Global turbulence shifted also to other societies that refused to welcome refugees fleeing the misery in their countries. The leaders of Hungary, Italy and Poland have openly and vehemently opposed the presence of any refugees on their soil. Three countries, which following World War I, had their citizens fleeing the misery of war to the welcome shores of the United States.
There is a very interesting but distressing phenomenon going on in our societies. On one hand we are totally connected through social media on the other hand this same media is spreading hatred and misunderstanding among people.
It seems that humanity has lost its compass and needs to go back to the rules included in every religious tradition.
Thou Shalt not Kill is one of the most important commandments God gave Moses on Mount Sinai. In the Qur’an the holy book of Islam imparts this among other rules.
If a truce of peace is asked for by the other group, all efforts are made to pursue peace. Rules of forgiveness and sabr (patience) are much preferred to retaliation in all cases.
Then we have one of the fundamental messages of Christianity. The message of forgiveness as verbalized by the final words of Christ before his death. Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’
In this age of narcissism and pervasive materialism we ought to meditate the meaning of the teachings mentioned above. Can we live with the other? Can we accept difference be it cultural, social or religious ?
This is the challenge today on a planet that is going through environmental, demographic and political convulsions. Global warming is harming and jeopardizing the lives of humans, animals and plants. The planet’s population is growing exponentially and means to feed a sea of hungry humans have not yet been found. Politically, we have the resurgence of populism and abject nationalism and the senseless use of force and power. Rather than living in a globalized world it seems that a modern form of tribalism has taken over. We are uncertain about our identity so let us hide behind walls withdraw from the world. Let us join tribes that are more sympathetic and understanding to us.
Fasting was set aside in the three monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) to be a moment to look at ourselves and the others and meditate the true meaning of peaceful existence and coexistence.
We are all sailing on this planet like in Noah’s Ark. The choice is ours to sail to safer shores or flounder in a sea of hopeless turbulence.
George Emile Irani is Associate Professor of International Relations at the American University of Kuwait.
By George Emile Irani