Let All Associate In This Great Human Garden
Tonight I had an interfaith gathering at my home based on the Different Conversation About Religion developed by the Interfaith Youth Core.
We started out by introducing ourselves, and happily we found out we had a diverse group with nine participants from a variety of backgrounds including Lutheran, Jewish, United Church of Christ, Moravian, Catholic, Coptic Christian, and Baha'i.
I played a song based on the scriptures of the Baha'i Faith which described the tone that I intended to set for the meeting, Let All Associate. The lyrics are:
Let all associate, therefore, in this great human garden even as flowers grow and blend together side by side ...Love ye all religions and all races with a love that is true and sincere and show that love through deeds..." (Abdu'l-Baha)
The Tongue of Grandeur hath, however, in the day of His manifestation proclaimed: "It is not his to boast who loveth his country, but it is his who loveth the world."(Baha'u'llah)
The goal of this gathering was to discover the shared value of service to humanity across different religious traditions using scripture from the world and our own stories about how we incorporated service into our lives as encouraged by our faith. We found out that the value of service to others is truly universal in religious traditions as well as in secular thought. Compassion towards others seems to be the natural response of human beings, we all share a common humanity and can easily relate to the feelings and sensitivities of others.
We read from Baha'i, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jain, Jewish, Muslim, Secular Humanism, and Sikh traditions, including the following beautiful and inspirational passages. It is quite apparent how similar they are, and how they inspire us to care for others as we have been cared for in our lives. We had a wonderful time, got to know each other and share our values and inspiration, and grew in appreciation of the wonderful and diverse religious traditions of our world.
Christian Tradition of Service (Matthew 25:35) "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me." Then the righteous will answer him, "Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?" And the king will answer them, "Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me."
Jewish Tradition of Service (Deut 10:17) For the LORD your G-d is G-d supreme and Lord supreme, the great, the mighty, and the awesome G-d, who shows no favor and takes no bribe, but upholds the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and befriends the stranger, providing him with food and clothing. You too must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.
Muslim Tradition of Service (Surah 93:1-11)
I call to witness the early hours of morning, and the night when dark and still, your Lord has neither left you, nor despises you. What is to come is better for you than what has gone before; for your Lord will certainly give you, and you will be content. Did He not find you an orphan and take care of you? Did He not find you perplexed, and show you the way? Did He not find you poor and enrich you? So do not oppress the orphan, and do not drive the beggar away, and keep recounting the favors of your Lord.