Every year on the 21 of March is recognized by the United Nations as the international day for the elimination of racial discrimination. Thus I use this opportunity to share my thoughts here with you.
We currently live in crucial times, both growing anti-Semitisms, Islamophobia, Xenophobia acts of violence, and threats are palpable. We used to read such acts of violence in history books, but now it seems that we live in the middle of history itself. Both mainstream and social media are polarizing in a very rapid way, often as much as the people who listen to them are polarized. The rhetoric of “us versus them” even among religious people sells like hotcakes, and radicalization among various groups is clearly visible once media have had their say.
Amid all of this, two voices emerge from within every group: those of dividers and those of peacemakers. Dividers often point fingers at their opponents. They often find historical, theological, and actual faults in the other and expose them. Most dividers have very little objective knowledge of the other. They have barely read each other's sacred books, and when they read—they do it from a fault-finding, accusing attitude and not an objective perspective. There are also dividers in the name of democracy and freedom of speech, who feel that they have the liberty to write and make cartoons to humiliate and hurt other people’s sacred beliefs.
By contrast, the current situation also gives birth to peacemakers and bridge-builders. Be it in Islam, Christianity, Judaism, or secularism, some men and women choose peace, who reject hate for having the last word. The peacemakers do not look at what divides us, but what brings us together. Even though we different beliefs, yet we share one world, one Earth, and breathe the same air and live in one country. We have to make it together. Bridge-builders are often accused and hated from within their own groups; they are being criticized for being collaborators and betrayers.
I always tell my fellow Christians that they don't have to worry about me because, as a follower of Christ, I know who I am. I am never insecure by a person from another faith simply because I know who I am and what I believe. This gives me the confidence to speak and to seek fellowship and dialogue with people who think and believe differently. Peacemakers study and look for what can bind us together; they search for common ground and build their strategy from there. We need such peacemakers.
I humbly offer the following recommendation for consideration, at least for those who choose for peacebuilding.
1) Let us identify and recognize bridge-builders. In every religious group, there are people, men, and women of influence who are opening their doors and arms to the other religious groups. In the Netherlands, think about my friend and Rabbi Lody van de Kamp with is Muslim friend Said, or Rev. Herman Koetsveld, a Christian pastor and Enis Odaci, a Muslim journalist and public speaker who chose for dialogue and friendship. Such people should be identified and recognized.
2) Various platforms and tools should be given to such bridge-builders to share their stories and influence others by their message.
3) Identify and address the common grounds in our spiritual and theological doctrines between different religions.
4) Identify and address the collective pain and suffering of humanity and allow the bridge builders to address such matters following by action.
5) When trust is built among the religious groups that are involved, identify, and address the differences and misunderstandings between religions.
6) Develop curricula, and educational programs build upon the recommendations and advice of such Bridge builders.
7) Create moral and ethical boundaries for freedom of opinion and expression of ideas. Does ridiculing, humiliating other belief systems and religions in de media part of freedom of expression of one's thoughts?
I am convinced that such steps will help religious people/organizations develop a better understanding of each other together and contribute to a better world. As long as we live together here on earth, we have to share everything; we have to live together in harmony and love, otherwise hate, and violence will take over this world to a much greater extent than we even experience today. Let us plant the seed of love and build bridges of friendship. The choice is ours!