Civilisation in the Service of Humanity Inter-Civilisation Dialogue A response to the paper by MP Jawad Abdullah Bo Hussein.

Multiplicity of Civilizations and Citizenship Duties

By BK Jayanti Kirpalani

We greatly welcome this unique opportunity to participate in such an important dialogue.

The theme that has been taken up in this conference is a very necessary one in the world today. We live at a time when we are seeing more rapid changes than ever before in the history of civilization. Each year sees an increase in instability and violence, not only between nations but also within nations, and we also see a great deal of sorrow and suffering in the world, as negative traits (vices) become more and more prevalent.

So much of this can be avoided when nations and the individuals who comprise that nation find it possible to cultivate within themselves the shared human values that are being discussed here: the values of peace, respect, compassion and tolerance to name a few.

It is clear from this diverse gathering that that there are many individuals, groups and nations around the world who are diligently working towards inter-cultural harmony and understanding, and the Kingdom of Bahrain is to be commended for taking this excellent initiative in bringing together such an esteemed and enlightened group of people from many backgrounds.

The research paper presented by my learned brother the MP Jawad Abdullah Bo Hussein enlightens us to the fact that whatever cultural or religious background we come from, our essential and innate human values are the same. We may differ in some minor details, but there is certainly a platform of moral, ethical and spiritual principles that we can all agree on.

The coming together of people from many nations, cultures and religious backgrounds, to discuss, share and understand each other and their respective cultures better, is surely sowing seeds of change and hope for a better and more harmonious future. As my distinguished brother states in his paper, ‘People are either your brothers in religion or in humanity’. At times we may not fully agree with each other on certain theological or other principles yet we can still aspire to a mutual human understanding, whilst at the same time accepting that others will have differing points of view and opinions. We can engender feelings of respect for the rights of another, we can listen with interest to one another’s opinions, and we can draw upon and learn from one another’s experience and culture. This is the point at which we can come together rather than allow ourselves to be divided.

It is a mark of the greatness of a human being when he can accept, without discrimination or dislike, a fellow human being whose opinions differ from their own. Such a person will realise that they themselves, their beliefs and opinions are not diminished by such. Rather; they would regard that the variety of life on earth with its many various facets is further testimony to the greatness, love and mercy of the Supreme.

We also understand, and it is made clear in the document, that the Creator made us all so that we can come together, know each other, respect each other and be in community. To know, to be open to dialogue, and to be educated in an enlightened way about other peoples and religions is an essential part of engendering good relationships with our neighbours. And this getting to know each other can be greatly enhanced when we approach it by seeing what unites us rather than simply what divides us: if we can hold the vision of another as a brother united not by religion, country or culture, but instead united by the fact that we are all a creation of the One Creator, then our vision will be a benevolent one. We can only profit by this type of interaction: it will add to the richness of our experience and depth of wisdom.

Here, the example of the Tree of Life, which you have so aptly taken as your logo, takes on an even deeper significance. It stands alone and its beauty is created by the multitude of branches, twigs and leaves, which are all connected and yet separate. We are all leaves of the tree: we may belong to different branches or religions, but we are all connected, and the Seed, which nourishes us all, is One.

I also fully agree with my learned brother that our mission on earth must be to incite whatever is good in humanity and to connect with fellow humans in a positive way to motivate their abilities, talents, and potential, so that we can all be enriched by the experience. When we are living in accordance with our highest principles and taking sustenance from the Supreme, then we are able to maintain an elevated way of living.

There is a beautiful and deeply significant saying which I have learned from my esteemed brother’s paper and which touches me deeply. The Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) said, “When one limb of the body suffers, the whole body responds to it with wakefulness and fever.”

Whether we are referring to the physical body, or to a community, a nation or indeed the world itself, all parts need to be present, sound and in good working order for the whole to be complete and functioning as it is intended. The fingers of one hand, though they are separate and individual, each make their own unique contribution to the perfectly functioning hand, and each one has its necessary part to play.

Likewise, all levels and aspects of a society need to be functioning in a healthy way for the whole to be healthy. Each one of us needs to play our part in the best way we can. Values need to be apparent in all areas: governance, corporations, commerce, education and social enterprises, right down to the individual. In all of these areas, ethical and values education can play a part.

A person is fortunate who lives in a civilised community which upholds the rights of individuals. However, to accept civil rights and liberties as a part of a culture, also means to assume the responsibilities which go alongside those rights. When individuals can be motivated and inspired to live up to their higher nature and potential, then each ‘cell’ of this hypothetical body will contribute to a harmonious whole.

Taking personal responsibility is an essential part of living in a peaceful cohesive society, and my respected brother mentions the aspects of loyalty and paying taxes as the mark of a good citizen. This requires honesty, trust and a sense of community. People are able to co-exist successfully and to thrive as a community when they are also inspired to give back to society and each other. When there is a sense of belonging, responsibility and moral obligation, then society is strengthened. Other qualities equally important in building community are co-operation, humility and understanding. When a society’s leaders display qualities that others can respect and aspire to, then trust is built. However, we as individuals need to learn to live peacefully with ourselves before we can live peacefully and successfully with others. Even the family unit today is in disorder because it is as though we have forgotten how to have respect for ourselves, or for each other. It is only possible to have respectful or loving relationship with those around us when we have respect for ourselves. Our birth family is the microcosm that reflects the macrocosm of the world. When we can remain stable, peaceful, strong, compassionate and loving within ourselves and with those immediately around us, then we can live peacefully with others: as a close family unit, as a valuable community member, as a participator in a civil or religious society, or as a citizen of the world.

Good governance guided by high moral values and respect for all, is a worthy aim for those in positions of responsibility, and we applaud the Kingdom of Bahrain and the individuals responsible for this conference as promoters of the ethical standards that Bahrain is aspiring to, and wishes to exemplify to the rest of the world.

Let us just spend a few minutes in reflection, going into the depth of the original values that we all share as human beings.

(Three minutes conducted reflection time)