The concept of return from a Hindu, a Muslim, a Jew and a Christian
Elijah Interfaith Summer School 2022, day 2
As I reflect on the day the last session is what comes to mind. I wonder whether that was because it was the last session more than the deepest impression.
Before I share it another image comes to mind. I sometimes say, “Don’t go with the first thought go with the third.”
I was walking back on El-Khanqa street when I could hear someone running. I looked behind and I saw it was a young boy. I stood aside to allow him to run uninterrupted as he passed he did a little jump into the air. I was moved by it. A child here doing what children do regardless of the situation around them.
Returning to my first thought, we had assembled on zoom to hear from four religious leaders on their thoughts on return, a Hindu, a Muslim, a Jew and a Christian. It seemed to echo our discussion of the previous day in which it was my sense that we were speaking of a commonality, the self in relation to the divine, yet in our own faith language. The speakers regardless were collapsing the religious and saying, at least in my hearing, that ultimately it is the experience of the individual and their relationship with God. I experienced difficulty when the Rabbi spoke about ‘Return’ also being a return to the land. Something was said such as ‘As the people return, God will also return’. He was speaking of what is termed Israel today.
This touched on my own experience as a Northern Irish Protestant when I absorbed a story of my people which somehow made the land we were on linked to our religious identity. The difficulty with that was other people lived on the same land who were not us. Then I did not want to share and if I did it was on our terms as if the other was a guest. This led to a conflict as the other had their story too and in their story, we came after them so we were behaving as bad guests.
Such an idea fused with other components made me very zealous in my youth to the point that I may have been prepared to give my life for this land. And then I had a series of experiences that ultimately led me to where I am now which is ‘I privilege the spiritual over the physical’.
I deliberately use that phrase as it emerged yesterday. It was said that we needed to be careful that we don't privilege the spiritual over the physical. I am grateful that it was said as it seemed to tell me where I stood.
And why do I stand there? Because I have experienced the danger of religion when it leads to a superiority whereby you consider yourself more special than the other and use your story, your God to justify the oppression of the other.
I have also experienced liberation from the shell of religion to an expansive relationship with God. That experience leads me to recognise the other as a brother and sister, a fellow child of God.
PS a sound of Jerusalem below