Interfaith Harmony and the Earth Federation Movement

 

Glen T. Martin

 

December 2012

One of the mottos of the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA) is "democratic world law is the 21st century form of love."  This declaration may initially appear strange. How can law be likened to love? But the spirit that envisions the universal rule of democratic law is the same deeper human spirit that envisions world peace or interfaith harmony. This insight goes back to the very foundations of the world's great religions, although it has often historically been perverted through dogmatism, fanaticism, and sectarianism. The insight is found in the famous "golden rule," it is found in the 'mystical' traditions of all the great religions, and it is found in the movement to establish democratic world law.

 

As scholar of religions John Hick shows in An Interpretation of Religion, all the great religions teach some version of the golden rule: "As you would that men do unto you," says Jesus, "do also to them likewise" (Luke 6:31).  This rule can be understood as a rule of prudence and mutual toleration (I would have others tolerate my faith and my religious practices) or it can be understood as a council of love (I would have others love and revere my faith and religious practices and I should love and revere theirs). Perhaps this Hadith of the Prophet in Islam puts it more clearly: "No man is a true believer unless he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself." It is not simply toleration, according to this Hadith, but one must actually desire for others what one desires for oneself. The Dhammapada, expressing the compassion (karuna) taught by the Buddha, declares that: "Life is dear to all. Comparing others with oneself, one should neither strike nor cause to strike." How much has history shown that the dogmatic privileging of one's own religious ideology to the exclusion of others promotes both striking and causing to strike?

 

The Constitution for the Federation of Earth establishes planetary democracy (and hence the equality of all and requirement of toleration as foundational) and its Article 12 proclaims the universal right of "freedom to profess, practice or promote religion or religious beliefs or no religion or religious belief." Just as democratic law cannot deny or repress faith or religious belief so it cannot legitimately promote faith. It necessarily must leave this to the realm of the personal freedom of citizens. How, then, can the World Constitution and Parliament Association that sponsors the Constitution for the Federation of Earth see this document as the 21st century form of love?

 

The answer lays in the fact that the rule of democratically legislated law over all persons establishes equality, freedom, peace, justice, and prosperity for all human beings. What else but love can be so concerned with the welfare of all people equally?  Even though the Earth Federation government must remain neutral regarding religion or no religion, the planetary community of world citizens that it establishes flourishes in the positive fullness of freedom and peace. In Christianity, Jesus says that agape is "like the sun and the rain," equally falling on all people, the just and the unjust (Matt. 5:45). This is what good law does as well. Under the Earth Constitution such law is universal, no one is exempted. Democratic world law, therefore, is analogous to love. It not only treats everyone equally, but promotes their flourishing equally in dignity, mutual respect, and freedom, just like the spirit of agape.

 

 The Earth Constitution expresses its own golden rule in its affirmation of the principle of unity in diversity. Interfaith harmony cannot exist through an affirmation of diversity alone. In unredeemed diversity lies the conflict of seemingly incommensurable religious perspectives, a fragmentation in which each claims to possess the one true faith. Harmony only arises when diversity is embraced by a unity affirming and encompassing the diversity without negating it. Spiritually that unity may be the spirit of love (agape) or compassion (karuna), but institutionally that unity is provided by democratic world law, which we have seen is analogous to love. Within the Preamble we find:

 

Conscious that Humanity is One, despite the existence of diverse nations, races, creeds, ideologies and cultures and that the principle of unity in diversity is the basis for a new age when war shall be outlawed and peace prevail; when the earth's total resources shall be equitably used for human welfare; and when basic human rights and responsibilities shall be shared by all without discrimination...

 

         Interfaith harmony indeed envisions a new age because, like the Sufi tradition within Islam, it understands a deeper spirit and spirituality that does not contradict the beliefs and rituals but removes their apparent incommensurability with other religions and other faiths. Just as Mahatma Gandhi declared of Hinduism, interfaith harmony understands that the truth of our human situation can be expressed in a multiplicity of metaphors, symbols, and doctrines. We must "cling to truth" (satyagraha) in Gandhi's understanding, not claim its absolute possession. There is no longer any such thing as the "one finally correct" formulation of truth. Language and history embrace a multiplicity that must be embraced in a new unity that does not destroy the multiplicity but harmonizes it. The spirit of the Earth Constitution, expressed in its Preamble, embodies this understanding.

 

This understanding may be embodied in ideals expressed within the Constitution for the Federation of Earth, but it is also a living reality with the World Constitution and Parliament Association that promotes the Earth Constitution. Our worldwide membership from most of the countries on Earth includes people from many religions and spiritual traditions as well as many from around the world people who do not profess any religion or spiritual tradition. In Thailand and Nepal there are many Buddhists (and non-Buddhists) who support our work, in India many Hindus (and non-Hindus), in Ghana, Togo, and South Africa, many Christians (and non-Christians), in Libya, Turkey, and Bangladesh, many Moslems (and non-Moslems).

 

Our work for democratic world law within the Earth Federation Movement affirms the inclusive principle of unity in diversity throughout all the domains of human life, as well as harmony with our planetary environment. Our work has long interfaced with religions and spiritual movements that are explicitly founded on the principle of unity in diversity and recognize the need for world political unity and world government. There are many Baha'is who support us, for example, understanding that their founder, Baha'u'llah, declared that the rulers of the Earth must together "consider such ways and means as will lay the foundation of the world’s Great Peace among men."  In Lucknow, India, we have worked closely with the City Montessori School (CMS) and its founder/manager, Dr. Jagdish Gandhi, of the Baha'i faith, who promotes the unity of God speaking through all the world's great religions as well as world political unity under a democratic world parliament.

 

In India, WCPA has worked closely with the International Society for Intercultural Study and Research (ISISAR), headed by Dr. Santi Nath Chattopadhyay and centered in Kolkata.  ISISAR has published scholarly volumes on religious thinkers such as Vivekananda and Rabindranath Tagore. Vivekananda attended the initial great World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893 and was a leader in the movement for interfaith harmony, as was Tagore whose mystical religious poetry reflecting interfaith harmony has had a worldwide impact.  Both Vivekananda and Tagore promoted world political unity as well.  Members of ISISAR understand these connections, as does WCPA. Interfaith harmony and global political harmony are two sides of the same coin.

 

We have also long worked closely with World Union and the Sri Aurobindo Movement, centered in India, for their followers understand Sri Aurobindo and The Mother's vision of a unified political and spiritual world system. During the three decades following 1970, Samar Basu and A. B. Patel, both leaders in World Union, were also leaders within of the World Constitution and Parliament Association. A. B. Patel was General Secretary and Treasurer of World Union International Center, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry and for a number of years Co-President of WCPA. Like Basu, he participated in the first three Constituent Assemblies in 1968, 1977 and 1979 during which world citizens from many countries worked together to envision, write, and promote the Earth Constitution to all the governments of Earth. Patel presided over the signing of the Earth Constitution at the Second Constituent Assembly in Innsbruck, Austria in 1977 and was its very first signatory. He was also elected as Parliamentary Speaker for the first session of the Provisional World Parliament held under the authority of the Constitution that took place in Brighton, England in 1982.

 

In Japan, WCPA has long worked with the Oomoto Religion centered in Ayabe and Kameoka. The founders of Oomoto affirmed multiple revelations from the creative source of Being and the need for the political and spiritual unity of human beings on Earth. Their organization called Jinrui Aizenkai or Universal Love and Brotherhood Association (ULBA), founded in 1925 by Onisaburo Deguchi, co-founder of Oomoto, works to bring not only peace and love through its multiple chapters around the world but also political unity in diversity for our planet. WCPA former President, Dr. Terrence Amerasinge (1917-2007), was the director of the ULBA chapter in his home country of Sri Lanka. In January 2005, I traveled with Dr. Amerasinghe on behalf of ULBA down the coast road south from Colombo, Sri Lanka, to assess the damage from the terrible tsunami so that the Sri Lanka ULBA chapter might provide effective help. A number of members of the Oomoto religion in Japan, like members of WCPA, also work in cooperation with the World Federalists of Japan, another organization that understands the need for democratic world government.

 

From the above it should be clear that WCPA not only supports the principle of interfaith harmony but is itself a living embodiment of the principle of unity in diversity that is behind the Earth Constitution and the authentic quest for interfaith harmony. But interfaith harmony is not a principle opposed to the potential social harmony of those who are skeptical of any expression of faith and prefer to claim they have no religious beliefs or faith. In my travels in support of the many diverse chapters of WCPA around the world, from many diverse nations, cultures, races, and religions, I experience great delight in the wonderful and beautiful diversity of our membership, both those with and without faith. The principle of unity in diversity holistically repudiates all notions of incommensurability and affirms harmony across all the dimensions of existence.

 

Harmony, therefore, to be real and effective, needs to be understood as this holistic concept that requires a genuinely holistic approach.  Interfaith harmony cannot be actualized apart from cultural harmony, racial harmony, gender harmony, ideological harmony, community harmony, economic harmony, and world political harmony.  None of these harmonies necessarily mean a lack of disagreement, conflict, or differences among the diverse peoples of Earth. But they all require an effective realization of unity in diversity that makes the diversities non-destructive simply because we are all united within a deeper unity. That is why the WCPA strongly affirms the quest for interfaith harmony. As part of a holistic approach to harmony, it is part and parcel with the quest for world political harmony under the Constitution for the Federation of Earth. In the final analysis, the Earth Constitution could and should function as a universal framework— guiding the quest for interfaith harmony among human beings.

 

As I wrote earlier for The ABC of Harmony: the Earth Constitution provides a democratic and legal framework for the truth expressed by the ABC of Harmony that "people include all human beings from birth, irrespective of other qualities: gender, race, age, culture, religion, and so on." The Constitution constitutes a global social contract that guarantees rights and responsibilities for all, simply as human beings, to ecological integrity, peace, social justice, and the fundamental elements of civilizational harmony. In this respect it provides a necessary condition for the actualization of the paradigm of harmonious civilization outlined in the ABC of Harmony.

 

References:

 

Constitution for the Federation of Earth:

See Glen T. Martin, Constitution for the Federation of Earth, with Historical Introduction, Commentary, and Conclusion. Pamplin, VA: Institute for Economic Democracy Press, 2010.

 The Earth Constitution can also be found on line at www.wcpa.biz, www.worldproblems.net,   www.earthfederation.info,   www.worldparliament-gov.org and  www.radford.edu/gmartin.

Hick, John, An Interpretation of Religion, Second Edition. New York and London: Yale University Press, 2004, Chapter 17, "Soteriology and Religion." John Hick is a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Research in Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Birmingham, UK.

International Society for Intercultural Study and Research (ISISAR): http://www.freewebs.com/isisar-worldpeacecongress/.

Martin, Glen T. is professor of philosophy and chair of Peace Studies at Radford University in Virginia. He is President of the World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA). His personal website is www.radford.edu/gmartin.

Sri Aurobindo Movement: http://www.sriaurobindoashram.com/default.aspx.

Universal Love and Brotherhood Association (ULBA): http://ulbaintl.org/index.php.

World Constitution and Parliament Association (WCPA): www.wcpa.biz. See also www.worldparliament-gov.org.

World Union no longer appears as an active political organization. Today the name "World Union" refers to the journal on world unity as envisioned by Sri Aurobindo, published from Pondicherry, India.