Exploring the Converging Paths of Religions
All Believers Network (Belnet),
University of Hawaii’s ReligionDepartment,
Milun: Association for Promoting South Asian Culture.

September 1, 2014

Workshop Learning and Recommendations

Whereas our beautiful world is being torn apart by religiously-motivated violence;and whereas this violence often stems from a misinterpretation of sacred texts and an inadequate knowledge of other religions and value systems; and whereas Hawaii has an exemplary record of interfaith harmony; and whereas we experienced this interfaith harmony at the above-mentioned workshop:

Now, therefore, we, participants at the aboveworkshop from at least 14 religions and religious philosophies (Baha’i, Buddhism, Christianity, Hawaiian Spirituality, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Seicho-No Ie, Sikhism, Sufism, SukyoMahikari, Taoism, and Unity), hereby summarize our learning and recommendations as follows:

1. One Reality concept:Based on Belnet’s survey results and discussions at the workshop, we believe there indeed is the same Reality worshiped in all religions and philosophies, though called by different names and revered through different rituals.We recommend this concept be promoted on a larger scale though activities and initiatives including:

- Conferences and outreach: We support Belnet’s plans to organize a local workshop, similar to the current initiative,on LaborDay 2015, and a larger-scale international interfaith conference on Memorial Day weekend, 2016.Public and private sector and foundations funding should be sought. While we support the separation of church and state, we request the Hawaii state government to support this initiative as it does not promote any religion but utilizes the One Reality concept to promote global peace – reinforcing, in the process, Hawaiias the World’s Interfaith Harmony Capital; and

- Creative and performing arts: (a) We congratulate Saleem Ahmed for visualizing and writing lyrics for the inspiring poem In which tongue does our God speak?, Chris Suzuki for composing and arranging its moving music, and the Hawaii Youth Opera Chorus for rendering it so beautifully. Because music recognizes no boundary, we suggest that, under the theme One Thought, Many Tunes, a recording be made of this poem in various musical, religious, and cultural styles, particularly encouraging our schools, churches, and other groups to compose such music. This will reinforce the unity of the Divinity concept.Similarly,we encouragethe production of other poems, music, dances, and other forms of creative and performing expressions of the One Reality concept.

2. Index of Interfaith Harmony (IIH): Belnet should take the leadership in developing objective criteria for honoring cities/communities worldwide which promote interfaith harmony. Examples of indices include: (i) The extent to which followers of various religions work together in projects involving community development; (ii) The extent to which followers of various religions work together to organize interfaith activities; (iii) The extent to which followers of various religious minorities are elected to legislative/elected offices; and (iv) the absence of interfaith violence.Belnet should share this index with the UN, Parliament of World’s Religions, and other public and private sector agencies for instituting this global recognition of cities/communities having high IIH.

3. Exemplars of Religions: Similarly, we recommend the institution of an annual international recognition of individuals from various religious and inter-religious groups contributing to promoting interfaith harmony. As a first step, objective indices should be established to encourage impartial selection of these Exemplars of Religions.

(4)Interfaith curriculum:Textbook knowledge of various religions should be reinforced through underscoring commonalities across religions. This should be reinforced with experiential expressions of the One Reality concept through prose, poetry, dancing, and other performing arts and informal meetings between followers of various religions. We also recommend the institution, in our schools and elsewhere, of the concept of Aloha Months, with each month promoting a different aloha action – such as love, working together, forgiveness, and tolerance.

The workshop helped change the thinking of several of us and strengthened the understanding of others. Such initiatives, with their multiplier effects in various fields, should be encouraged and supported. We close with our thanks to the various speakers and workshop participants, the three workshop co-sponsors, and their five workshop supporters (HonpaHongwanji Mission of Hawaii, The Interfaith Alliance of Hawaii, Gandhi Institute for International Peace, Pacific Institute forIslamic Studies, and the Unity Church of Hawaii).

September 22, 2014

Click here for IC 2014 program video (2 1/2 hours)