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On The Millennium Summit, Religion and Politics

The U.N.'s "Millennium Peace Summit" in many ways is more stunning for what it reveals about the multinational organization than for the actual gathering itself. To think that the "congress" of the world's nations is only now getting around to officially considering a role for religion in conflict resolution is both sad and possibly indicative of why the U.N.'s "peacekeeping" efforts are rarely effective.

According to a CNN report regarding the conference the U.N. is doing by religion as Europeans did by America- just recently recognizing something that was here before their arrival and full of resources. "We have to ask a fundamental question," said Bawa Jain, secretary-general of the summit. "What role does religion have to play in helping resolve these conflicts, or in exacerbating these conflicts? Can religion play a role in the peace-making process?"

Of course the answer to Mr. Jain's last question is "Yes". And it is a healthy start if the U.N. is doing more than window dressing and is seriously considering a role for religion in conflict resolution. And it would have been even better if the Dalai Lama were invited to attend the event. Though his representatives are at the conference, there is really no good reason why the Tibetan Buddhist monk leader shouldn't be at the conference.

I recently saw and heard the Dalai Lama speak in person and was favorably impressed by his message. He very eloquently expressed what leads to conflicts on a personal, national and international level and he also articulated many of the principles that contribute to peace. He certainly, in my opinion, is capable of serving as a voice for peace in the world.

While people talk otherwise, religion and politics have always been connected. In fact, I believe that your politics is your religion. The "two" fields have absolutely nothing that is not in common. Both reflect value systems and standards of right and wrong. Both attempt to address the question of "what is the best way to live?" Both center around human beings and human nature. So to think that "religion" has been divorced from "politics", especially in the area of conflict resolution, is sad.

How could the principles of a way of life that is good for the individual and the family not be good for solving problems among nations?

No group of people has been hurt in this regard by the insistence upon a separation of religion and politics more than the Black community which is inspired by and thrives upon religion. Just imagine if the Black community took the U.N.'s lead and convened a summit of religious leaders to actively discuss the principles in faith traditions that have been successfully applied to solve issues of poverty, disease and conflict resolution. So much good could be produced in Black communities across America.

And what if president Clinton had the courage to do what the U.N. has done and host a summit in Washington D.C. with this country's religious leaders in order to address the same problems? Imagine the good that could possibly come from such an endeavor. It certainly couldn't do any harm, if the motivation was proper.

After all, murderers, terrorists and drug dealers have made it into the White House, why not men and women of the cloth?

Hopefully the Millennium Summit can inspire a similar and sincere call from the Oval Office. This country could badly use some help in the area of conflict resolution - among its own citizens. We could rest our case in that regard on the subject of the racial divide alone.

This government has tried everything to solve that one; from tax cuts to spending programs; to busing programs to enforcing voting rights; from affirmative action to hate-crimes legislation; everything that is except a change of the human heart. None of the other efforts have worked.

Why not start a process of renewal, reconciliation and atonement right from the White House with the President in the lead advised by the nation's religious and spiritual leaders?

It certainly will cost less.

Cedric Muhammad

Wednesday, August 30, 2000

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