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The Big Question

Q: Will We Ever Stop Killing Each Other in the Name of Religion?

As Johns Hopkins' university chaplain, Sharon Kugler oversees programming at Campus Ministries and the Bunting-Meyerhoff Interfaith and Community Service Center.
Photo by Peter Owen
A: "I have an abiding hope that we will and reason to believe that it is possible. Here is why:

"As members of one human family, the best and worst of us are often revealed through our 'religious' urges. At our worst, we feed a corrupt belief that we alone have the corner on truth. We cling to the conviction that no other community of believers can enlighten 'our way.' 'Difference' becomes threatening, leading to a compulsion to defend 'our way' with a severity that defies reason and gives way to fanaticism. Sadly, such behavior fractures creation. It can breed alienation, senseless violence, and destruction.

"At our best, we nurture a genuine spirit of love and compassion. Each major religion has some form of the 'Golden Rule' at the core of its self-understanding. Seeking truth and promoting justice by embracing all of creation is the only road to true human flourishing. It is not an easy road. It involves a daring commitment to take each other as seriously as we take ourselves. Only in doing so can we transcend our differences and affirm our best urges and inclinations.

"Through our students, I have been blessed to witness this daring commitment in action. During their interreligious encounters, they explore together the tenets and practices of their individual faiths. At times they struggle with some of the most vexing questions of the ages, and they are often astounded by what they share. With respect and appreciation, they engage each other and take each other seriously. They embody what is possible when a deliberate embrace of difference is met with a steadfast sense of humility about the process itself and the awesome potential of the encounter.

"Our students fill me with an abiding sense of hope. Their souls are deep in dreams of a world transformed, where religious quests open channels of peace and understanding. Through their holy engagement with each other in dialogue and in service to those in need, they affirm that there is reason to believe in possibility. Their daring acts illuminate what our God of many names asks of us — to love in the name of religion."

Return to November 2003 Table of Contents

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