May 29, 2006

Global Ethic Project

Posted in Personal, Religion, The Cause at 1:10 am by egalitaria

Think about the two crucial artefacts of modern-day society that Malaysians still need a long way to go in terms of public discourse: Religion and Media. More specifically, the way in which Media presents Religion. The way we know religion today, the way our worldviews are formed, have all been influenced by one way or other by the mass media.

Broadcasting, print, magazines, you name it. Religious tolerance or the lack thereof can be closely traced to the way in which norms and values are presented to us. Think: Cartoon incident.

I could go on into the theoretical aspects, but I'll highlight an interesting project that has been taken up by Konrad Adenauer Foundation, based in Germany with a branch in Malaysia.

It is called the Global Ethic Project, which seeks to bring together the major religions of the world, and connects all of them by intrinsically extracting their common values and ethics. This is what I have been saying all along! There is a separation of beliefs (faith) and values (teachings) in every religion. While there is clear difference between the belief systems of the various religions, there is hardly any discrepancy in their teachings of values and ethics.

The Project has taken off in Penang, and the Foundation together with Malaysian Interfaith Network (MIN) has distributed booklets in Malay, English and Mandarin. It's pretty impressive!

Taken from their website here, the Global Ethic Project has sought to do the following:

The term Global Ethic refers to a set of common moral values and ethical standards which are shared by the different faiths and cultures on Earth. These common moral values and ethical standards constitute a humane ethic, or, the ethic of humanity. In view of the process of globalization this ethic of humanity has been termed by the famous Roman Catholic theologian and philosopher Professor Hans Küng as the Global Ethic.

They start out the Global Ethic booklet with a basic premise of "the Golden Rule": Treat others as you would like to be treated", which is found in every religion of the world.

It goes on to highlight the basic teachings that are COMMON to all major religions of the world:

  • Every human being must be treated humanely
  • Have respect for life
  • Deal honestly and fairly
  • Speak and act truthfully
  • Respect and love one another

Now, I am not one to subscribe to a supermarket-type religion, and this project is by no means a religion all on its own, as clearly stated in its objectives. Instead, it is seeking the public space morality, which I've written about before here. I believe this is one of the ways forward in searching for solidarity amongst the various races and groups in the current pluralistic society we live in. It is impossible to ignore the fact that, quoting from someone today, each of us is adhering to and practising a religion that each feels is special and unique. However, this does not mean that I expect someone else to feel that my religion is special and unique. It is special and unique to me.

This creates for my personal convictions a certain implication, which I am still trying to explore. A friend mentioned the other day to me, that my interest in interfaith work is limited purely to the socio-political perspective. Beyond that, into the personal sphere, I still believe in the verity of my belief. I think my take is that, this is unavoidable, and I would expect just as much from any other religious adherent. If all are able to at least, desire to reach some commonality in humanity, (even if it is for a socio-political reason), then we would be able to promote some civilised dialogue.

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