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“What is urgently needed? a resurrection of sensitivity”

Many voices rose for peace in Paris yesterday, calling for religious tolerance, protesting terror, violence and antisemitism. Religious leaders of many faiths came together to speak up for unity in the face of hatred. 

Why is interfaith collaboration so vital these days? These excerpts from A. J. Heshcel’s 1963 essay ‘No Religion is an Island” still resonates strongly. 

Join Lab/Shul on January 17, 2015  to celebrate the legacy of MLK Jr., with Christian and Jewish guest teachers and leaders – to resurrect sensitivity, revive our conscience and pray, together, for justice, dignity and peace. 

“On what basis do we people of different religious commitments meet one another ?
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First and foremost we meet as human beings who have so much in common : a heart, a face, a voice, the presence of a soul, fears, hope, the ability to trust, a capacity for compassion and understanding, the kinship of being human. My first task in every encounter is to comprehend the personhood of the human being I face, to sense the kinship of being human, solidarity of being.

To meet a human being is a major challenge to mind and heart. I must recall what I normally forget. A person is not just a specimen of the species called homo sapiens. He is all of humanity in one, and whenever one man is hurt we are all injured. The human is a disclosure of the divine, and all men are one in God’s care for man. Many things on earth are precious, some are holy, humanity is holy of holies…

 Is it not our duty to help one another in trying to overcome hardness of heart, in cultivating a sense of wonder and mystery, in unlocking doors to holiness in time, in opening minds to the challenge of the Hebrew Bible, in seeking to respond to the voice of the prophets ?

The first and most important prerequisite of interfaith is faith.

It is only out of the depth of involvement in the unending drama that began with Abraham that we can help one another toward an understanding of our situation. Interfaith must come out of depth, not out of a void absence of faith. It is not an enterprise for those who are half-learned or spiritually immature. If it is not to lead to the confusion of the many, it must remain a prerogative of the few.

      Faith and the power of insight and devotion can only grow in privacy. Exposing one’s inner life may engender the danger of desecration, distortion and confusion. Syncretism is a perpetual possibility. Moreover, at a time of paucity of faith, interfaith may become a substitute for faith, suppressing authenticity for the sake of compromise. In a world of conformity, religions can easily be levelled down to the lowest common denominator.

 Both communication and separation are necessary. We must preserve our individuality as well as foster care for one another, reverence, understanding, cooperation.
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What, then, is the purpose of interreligious cooperation ?

      It is neither to flatter nor to refute one another, but to help one another; to share insight and learning, to cooperate in academic ventures on the highest scholarly level, and what is even more important to search in the wilderness for well-springs of devotion, for treasures of stillness, for the power of love and care for man. 

What is urgently needed are ways of helping one another in the terrible predicament of here and now by the courage to believe that the word of the Lord endures for ever as well as here and now; to cooperate in trying to bring about a resurrection of sensitivity, a revival of conscience; to keep alive the divine sparks in our souls…”

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