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Promoting Unity, Tolerance and Compassion: Inspirational Faith Leaders

Protecting Unity

All over the world and across all religious traditions, visionary faith leaders are working toward the dawning of a new era of unity, tolerance, and compassion. Among these inspiring and courageous individuals:

His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has been a tireless apostle of unity, compassion, environmental awareness and more. He has stated that “we must recognize that there is nothing to divide us from our brothers and sisters of other denominations or religions. On the contrary, there are many things that unite us.” He also has pointed out that “Christianity and the religious traditions hold principles not only for nurturing inner spiritual peace but also for striving to establish peace in human relationships and society. It is contrary to the essence and mission of a representative of the Church or religion to promote violence in the name of God.”

His Holiness Pope Francis stands with his dear friend His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew as prophetic voices for healing ancient divisions and bringing humanity together. He began his papacy by performing the Maundy Thursday ritual of foot-washing upon Muslim immigrants to Italy, and has demonstrated a firm commitment to dialogue with people of other faith traditions. He has challenged us all: “May we never fear to pursue the paths of concord that the Spirit points out.” The Pope also stated, with humble simplicity and deep wisdom, that “Christian unity is achieved by walking together.”

Rabbi Arthur Schneier is the Founder and President of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, a vibrant international coalition of interfaith leaders to uphold the principle “live and let live” and address issues pertaining to human rights and religious freedom in former Communist countries. He received the Athenagoras Human Rights Award in 2008. In 2018, on the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht in 1938, when Nazis destroyed Jewish synagogues and businesses all over Germany, Rabbi Schneier declared: “People should not have to risk their lives when going to pray in churches, mosques, synagogues, or temples.”

Malala Yousafzai became the youngest winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, when she was seventeen. This followed an extraordinary series of events that began when the Taliban denied Malala and other girls the right to go to school. Young Malala began to speak out for women’s education, whereupon a Taliban operative shot her in the head on a bus in October 2012. In her Nobel acceptance speech, she said: “I do not even hate the Talib who shot me….This is the compassion that I have learnt from Muhammad — the prophet of mercy, Jesus Christ and Lord Buddha.” Today, her Malala Fund enables education for girls in six countries.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been an international advocate for compassion and mutual understanding, saying: “Since all major traditions have the same practice, just different methods and different philosophies, but with the same purpose, that is the ground for mutual respect.” He has also preached a message of selflessness and love: “The more we care for the happiness of others, the greater our own sense of well-being becomes. Cultivating a close, warm-hearted feeling for others automatically puts the mind at ease.”

Her Royal Highness Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein of Jordan has won renown all over the world for consistent and determined dedication to human development, the alleviation of poverty, and the promotion of peace. In Jordan, she founded Tikyet Um Ali (TUA), an NGO focused upon eliminating hunger. TUA’s Eradicating Extreme Poverty Project provides a variety of aid to poor families.

His Majesty King Charles has for decades been an apostle of compassion, founding the international charitable organization and recipient of the 2023 Athenagoras Human Rights Award, The Prince’s Trust (now the King’s Trust) while Prince of Wales. In his Christmas message for 2023, he said: “At a time of increasingly tragic conflict around the world, I pray that we can also do all in our power to protect each other. The words of Jesus seem more than ever relevant: ‘do to others as you would have them do to you.’ Such values are universal, drawing together our Abrahamic family of religions, and other belief systems, across the Commonwealth and wider world.”

These leaders and many others are inspirations for all of us in living lives dedicated to unity, compassion, and peace. Let us strive to emulate them!

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