Good News: 5th Parliament of the Worlds Religions
As reported to you on the 24th December in my article regarding "Ugandan Anti-gay Proposed Legislation" I last month attended the 5th Parliament of the World's Religions, which was held in my hometown of Melbourne, Australia from the 3rd to the 9th December 2009. This has unfortunately not been reported elsewhere in Nigerian Village Square as far as I can find.
Every one of those that I spoke to were "open-minded" people. They came from "far and wide" the world over. They were of diverse faiths and practices. All claimed that "their" religion was founded upon "Love", and acknowledged that the "Golden Rule" in all its forms was known to them. The opening ceremony noted that "We hold the future, we hold it in our hands"â€¦. while the closing ceremony was rounded off with a song which included the words, "If we don't see God in ALL, then we don't see God at all !"
For the love of God and each other, please, please write to your local church leaders, as well as to international religious leaders worldwide to oppose this Ugandan anti-gay (anti-human) draconian proposal, which is reminiscent of the changes Hitler brought about â€“ with tragic consequences for all â€“ innocent Jews, Christians, Homosexuals, Gypsies, and the differently abled and dis-Abled etc â€“ the whole of the Second World War being brought about because one evil-minded person was able to exercise his influence over others.
I was co-opted by the Council for the Parliament of the World's Religion's to speak at one session of the (approximately) 663 sessions, as "a campaigner for equal rights within religion", and speak I did: I gave it my "best shot" in the 8 minutes allowed in the panel discussion entitled "Voices of Challenge and Wisdom: Gay and Lesbian Perspectives on Faith, Spirituality and Embodied Grace"... which was hosted by Michael Kelly, who holds professional qualifications in theology, spirituality and education, is a doctoral candidate at Monash University (Melbourne, Australia), and who works as an educator, retreat leader, activist and spiritual writer etc.
This panel discussion explored the spiritual insights, questions and wisdom of gay, lesbian and queer people both in relation to mainstream religious traditions, and in the shaping of their own spiritualities. Speakers from a variety of multifaith and multiethnic traditions shared the experience of "coming out" as gay in the face of widespread religious condemnation. They reflected on new ways to embrace the sacredness of the body and sexuality and the prophetic challenges they offer to institutional religion.
Unfortunately , the persecuted Reverend Rowland (Jide) Macaulay from Lagos Nigeria, was unable to attend, but was present with us in spirit, as evidenced by the remarkable stories witnessed by all speakers. His story alone stands as testament to the almost complete failure of organized religions - so far - to nurture and protect - all people, regardless of their sexuality, or gender identity.
This is my story, in the 8 minutes scheduled for want of time:
I am a former military conscript, and observed first-hand the abomination and inequity of war in South Vietnam. I am now blessed to be a free-thinking, loved and loving parent, and grandparent, and was born, raised and educated in Melbourne, by hard-working parents, whose religious beliefs were always tempered, with an eye to truthfulness and equality, before God.
Speaking of "God", I note that the word and concept of "ALLAH" means: "One who deserves to be loved" and "Into whom â€˜everyone' seeks refuge." This word, grammatically speaking, is, I am advised, "unique": It has no plural and presumably, no gender. Allah is "One" and "Only One", but is referred to by at least 99 names: Most Holy, Most Merciful, The Infinite, The All-aware and All-forgiving, Kind and Wise, Generous, All-encompassing Majestic Creator, the Ever-living Giver-of-life, Sustainer, and Bringer-of-death, etc.
I am encouraged to read also from Islamic sources that "the highest aspect of â€˜the struggle' called â€˜jihad ' is to speak the truth â€“ to speak the truth in the face of tyranny", but â€“ am also very much aware that forgiveness and generosity must be nurtured from the home outward, for the "love of truth" to thrive and grow in community. This is why I now appear before you at this Parliament, before those of many religious colours and persuasions, and invite you to take a look at my "wound-wisdom" websites to highlight the issue: "There is no hate in Love."
My websites and blogspots are free to all who seek, and I invite you and others to let me know if anything I have said is not true. They sprang from my concerns about a young trans-gendered person's "growing up issue" described in the "Challenge to Servant-Leaders" section of the www.wound-wisdom.tk website, following my "labour of love", which created the "Peace and Harmony" picture-puzzle artwork, and the insights I had gained from it: that "all of us are both male and female inside."
The "outside" is merely the wrapping which hides the complexity "inside"; for we are all "uniquely" created. If this is the case, male = female, just as black is white, and the end is a new beginning.... And we must honour the inside, as well as the outside. No judgment by an "outsider" is required. Parents are for nurture, "pure and simple", not for judging, whipping, or stoning.
Just how "religious leaders" (who surely were created to "serve the people", not just to puff themselves up though religious dogma) have responded, is noted. Unfortunately, their response has not always been to their credit, and reveals the truth about Loving â€“ that "loving adults are raised in loving homes". Anything less fails a parent's "duty of care", and damage is done. Anything less than "love" is not "holy".
My "wound-wisdom.tk" site contains a summary of the 3000 year old "Wisdom of Solomon", which I have entitled "Ecclesiastes Encapsulated". Wisdom is exulted in the "Book of Proverbs", is ignored at our peril, and should be "the quest" common to all, religious or not. Unfortunately for us, this wisdom is seldom dusted off, and we have to wonder: "Why ?"
Surely, this wisdom is the reason that the Jews were known as the "people of the book". This "life-lessons "Book of Life" has assuredly sprung from the "Tree of Life" also mentioned in various scriptures.
I am pleased to be able to tell you that my "Peace and Harmony" artwork was created under the mantle of my own "Tree of Life" photographed in Vietnam in 1969, which had "entered my heart" and stayed with me. Out of conflict, there came Peace. After it was completed, and after considerable contemplation, thrilled with the work, and giving thanks to God for its creation, I realized that my "picture-puzzle" contains the ingredients essential for peace and harmony - within and without, and named it so.
The events which occurred soon after, which catapulted me into the role of "a Campaigner for equal rights within religion", as described by your Parliaments book â€“ by my contacting religious leaders world-wide by email, were unexpected, but so filled me withrage, that is passion as a parent, that I have devoted myself to this issue since.
I realize also that this issue is at the heart of world sanity and peace. We are at a critical junction. Men and women must "work and love" â€“ together. All must now pull together if we value human life, and the life our Creator God has given this planet Earth. Hate now will catapult us ALL into nuclear oblivion.
This is why loving and "living love" is so important. Hate melts in the arms of Love. So what are we waiting for ? Love appeals to reason, and to respect. If we respect ourselves, we will respect others. Love gives, but is not restricted to a formula. It also receives, and everyone gains.
I have laminated prints of the "Peace and Harmony" artwork available free to you at this session, as a memento of your visit to Melbourne for this Parliament. They are not all the same, however, because the reverse sides contain other, more varied information, which I hope you will share, discuss, and digest also. Otherwise, you may "google-search" the words "wound, wisdom, and letters", with the three words separated by two hyphens â€“ ie "wound-wisdom-letters" â€“ to find most of internet links to the work I have completed thus far.
And so I invite you to work â€“ together - for Love's "freedom": equity and equality - for "Our one hope" (to love, and to be loved, in return) unites us â€“ all, and I trust, hope and pray, that the words of that lovely and truthful message "I will survive", sung by Gloria Gaynor - "As long as I know how to love, I know I'll be alive ! I've got all my life to live, and I've got all my love to give - and I'll survive ! I will survive !" - will become the "self-evident mantra" we can sing, whenever we are confronted with condemnation, so that "we", at least, may "live love", as we live, observing the all important "Golden Rule", known to all major religions.
And finally: Well may you wonder why it is that I have been "co-opted" onto this panel. I am prepared to answer respectfully asked questions later in the session, for I am one of "you" â€“ one who seeks Equality, Truth, and Love â€“ and a person, like yourselves, in no way immune from human fault and frailty, as evidenced by my separation and divorce, but â€“ my children love me still, and are now fully grown into responsible adults. Of my grandchildren, well, time will tell, but so far, they have been given a great, and loving start !
The other speakers on the panel were Ben Colburn, Chaplain Pamela Yetunde, Shanton Chang, and Will Day. All of the speakers and the presenter at this session spoke with great passion, and I was thrilled at the variety of the presentations, all speaking with "one voice": There is no hate in love. Where we cannot love, then at the very least, we must give respect to all others, and do no harm.
This is the "Good News" of the Gospel, "Encapsulated", as far as I can intuit - see and feel in my bones, in my heart, and in my own "minds eye": "May the grace of God be with every one" (Revelation 22.21).
Another presentation on "Gay Perspectives" was later held in the same room, also packed (a full house !), and the speakers were Justice Michael Kirby (Australia's longest serving Judge), Rev Dorothy McRae-McMahon (Uniting Church), and Dr Abdullah Saeed (Melbourne University). They spoke on the theme "Interpreting the Text: Apostasy and Homosexuality".
The first two are in committed and long-term same-sex relationships, while Dr Saeed was a married Islamic ally, who spoke of the "respect" which was due to every person, no matter the colour, creed, sex, or gender identity and practice etc.
Though only two of the Parliament's 663 sessions were devoted to "Gay Perspectives" they were, and are nevertheless very important, since in many countries still, homosexuality is illegal, and the GLBTIQ and Questioning communities are, through no fault of their own, vilified and punished, by the misled prejudiced, and the unkind ignorant.
Just at present, Uganda is in process of enacting laws to criminalize homosexuality, and this is supported by many church and mosque leaders (see my article etc at http://www.nigeriavillagesquare.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=14077&Itemid=154 , and see also my previous emailed appeal to Nigerian Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola with regard to Nigerian Legislation made public at http://wound-wisdom-letters.blogspot.com . NB a copy of this appeal to reason was also sent to the Nigerian Parliament. But I have not had the courtesy of any reply from either).
"People of good faith can disagree about what the Bible says about homosexuality, but persecution is clearly not the gospel way. Jesus invited people to transform their lives by offering them love, not violence. Nothing could be further from "family values" than coercing family members to turn in their gay relatives to the police. Nothing could be less in keeping with the spirit of Jesus, the great healer, than interfering with HIV/AIDS care and education. The world is looking to us to show thatreligion is about love, not hate."
Said Nazi executed Lutheran Theologian martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer about love from his "Testament to Freedom" page 241: "The worth of a life is measured by how much love it has. Everything else is nothing. Nothing at all." In much more recent correspondence Swami Amarananda of Geneva Switzerland, 5th Parliamentarian has said to me in correspondence 29th December 2009 "Loveâ€¦ is the immutable foundation on which to build anything which is of enduring worth." Who are we to differ ?
Thus far, Nigerian Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola has not "differed", has not differed from the beliefs universally expressed by the 5th Parliament of the World's Religions (which are summed up by its 2009 "catch cry" "Make a World of Difference (for the better): Hear Each Other: Heal the Earth" and closing song: "If we don't see God in ALL, then we don't see God at all !".
And yet he has not refuted his homophobic views, which are founded on "sinking sand" (they are not loving, and appeal only to the unkind ignorant).
So I hope and pray that through your action in transmitting this message, that my dire predictions do not come about in Africa, or anywhere else. All of us must play our own loving part.
As I've mentioned, the 5th Parliament of the World's Religions (CPWR) was focused on "Making a World of Difference" (for the common good of all people worldwide), and to "Hear Each Other" (listen to each other) as we "Heal the Earth" (from all the abuse we've given it). What a Grand Vision ! But all of us must take kindly action out into the world, as we hope and pray for the peaceful resolution of all conflicts. Love your neighbor as yourself: Do this, and you will live ! Thus said Jesus in Luke 10.27-8. Who are we to differ, for God has called us to be "as children", and made us "brethren", that there cannot be any hate or enmity, but only the "best will" to understand each other. Otherwise, we would offend the glory of God, who is a God of love, and not hate.
Bad talk and condemnation only reflect badly on â€“ ourselves, so it behoves us to Love. Jesus himself confirmed his attitude to situations such as these, by saying:
"I pass judgment on no one. But if I were to do so, my judgement would be true, because I am not alone in this; for God who sent me is with me (John 8.15,16). What I say is true, because I know where I came from, and where I am going (John 8.14). I am the light of the world (John 8.12); I Am Who I Am (John 8.23,27). I am telling you the truth (John 8.34); the truth will set you free (John 8.31). Stop judging by external standards, and (if you must) judge by true standards (John 7.24)â€¦.
Love your neighbour as you love yourself (Luke 10.27). Do this and you will live (Luke 10.28). Loving your neighbour as you love yourself IS loving the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength (Luke10.27-28). Do not judge others, and God will not judge you; do not condemn others, and God will not condemn you; forgive others, and God will forgive you. Give to others, and God will give to you (Luke 6.37)."
There is no hate in Love. This is the Gospel (Good News) message of Love, which is God. Thanks Be â€“ To God !
Any law which is not consistent with the Law of Love is no law at all.
This is the filter through which all things must pass. There is no "other". What we do for One, we do for All. There is no religion higher than Truth. It is only space which separates us: Nothing separates us.
Love is the absence of hate, for there is no hate in Love: Love is pure: (If I have no love, I am nothingâ€¦ Corinthians 13.2).
Lest we forget: Godly, Parental love "gives" but is not restricted to a formula. It also "receives" and everyone gains. This is the "win/win" experience of loving. Love is nurture, pure and simple. And from that love, from the home outwards, we will gain "peace" where all people are respected.
If it is necessary for anyone to do some more research into these matters, then you might like to look up another recently publicised story by CNN's Ivan Watson on the 17th December 2009 at http://edition.cnn.com/2009/WORLD/meast/12/17/gaza.gender.id and http://birdofparadox.wordpress.com/2009/12/21/intersex-youth-in-gaza . If you or any reader has any problems with the "Gay" issue, I commend you to read the story of Juliet-Julius, now Julius Kaggwa â€“ intersex child, and now a proud and loving parent: http://www.mask.org.za/article.php?cat=uganda&id=2259 . Or if you wish, you might like to research the case of South Africa's athlete Caster Semenya.
Ignorance is no argument in sincere division. Majority mob violence is not heroic. It is, in deed, the opposite, like hate fuelled rape â€“ an abuse of power, one over the other. Fortunately for us, education lights the way. Bitterness and resentment is the only fruit of unequal relationships. Realistically, there is no end to diversity. The truth we allow is expanded by loving; even when this is difficult for us as parents, when our children do not turn out to be all that we had expected, or hoped and prayed for. So long as we parents, and our children express and continue to receive our love, everything will "turn out well" â€“ for "the good". In the A - Z of sexuality, homosexuality is only one aspect of it, and if a homosexual act is loving (mutually desired and appreciated by the partners) there is nothing that can be said against it. And in fact, any act of love should be applauded, for it puts the "other" before self.
It is time that humble citizens tell their religious and political leaders that "enough is enough" â€“ and to dismantle all discriminatory legislation, even if it is recent, like in Nigeria and Uganda.
May all of life's blessings and benefits be yours, also: Long may your love-light shine brightly: Peace to you, as well ! Shalom ! Inshallah ! Hope-fully ! In the Name of God, the Infinitely Compassionate, Loving and Most Merciful:
Let it be so ! Let it begin ! With ME ! With US ! Today, and Every Day !
Peace ! Amen ! Kindly Action ! Love ! Live ! Shalom !
PS: Related articles and blogs may be found at "Ugandan Anti-gay Proposed Legislation" http://www.nigeriavillagesquare.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=14077&Itemid=154 and http://nigeriavillagesquare.com/forum/main-square/33151-nigerian-muslims-want-new-constitution-5.html and http://nigeriavillagesquare.com/forum/main-square/33151-nigerian-muslims-want-new-constitution-9.html and http://nigeriavillagesquare.com/forum/blogs/a-piper-too/no-compulsion-religion-1079 and http://nigeriavillagesquare.com/forum/blogs/a-piper-too/grand-perspectives-1076 and http://nigeriavillagesquare.com/forum/blogs/a-piper-too/lovingly-confront-condemnation-arise-humbly-equally-530 and http://nigeriavillagesquare.com/forum/blogs/a-piper-too/ecclesiastes-3000-year-old-wisdom-solomon-eternallytrue-soundadvice-all-520 etc.