Interfaith Reflections

Without getting lost in the concepts of political secularism, I think it is important to acknowledge the level of incomprehension present in our world today.

Call it sectarian violence or religious terrorism, it has and is changing the way we live our lives.

This last week with the terror inflicted upon us all, a sobering psychological climate descended upon our world.


The online attack on Sony Pictures by North Korea was an introduction to the idea of government restrictions crossing borders and attacking freedom of speech.

Next we had Paris and the shooting at Charlie Hebdo, followed by further shootings of uniformed people, who are apparently not considered to be individuals, but symbols of sinful governments.


Again our freedom was attacked, only this time it was done as a result of social hostility involving religion.

Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, in essence, the freedom to exist with our own beliefs, to be viewed as equally respectable human beings; this is being aggressed.


Is there a way out of this?

For some the answer lies in laïcité, the crusade for the separation of church and state in Austria that is led by Niko Alm.

He believes that the rights of the individual must be protected, in the name of democracy and in the name of our freedom.

This is how he became the head of Pastafarianism.

He went in to renew his driver’s license and upon seeing that the law says there be no headgear worn unless it is worn for religious reasons, he had his photo taken while wearing a pasta strainer on his head. He wanted to see if anybody would say anything. Nobody did.

Granted, he was called in to have a medical check before his document was issued, as they needed to make sure he wasn’t a complete lunatic.

He explained that he believed in the Flying Spaghetti Monster and must wear his headgear, the pasta strainer, at all times, for religious reasons.

In reality, what he did was make the point that he was doing this in the name of democracy.

Equality, being the most basic principle of democracy, must not be violated.

No one is to be discriminated or privileged due to their religious beliefs.

Freedom of religion must not be used to find legal loopholes. [1]


For others, such as Brian J. Grim, Ph.D, expert on religious freedom and global religion, the answer lies in knowledge, information; data.

Having devoted his career to understanding religious conflicts and gathering factual numbers that allow for open discussions to take place, he leads his own crusade.

Times have changed and while government restrictions were the main enemy of freedom of religion during the days of the iron curtain and the bamboo curtain, today’s world offers the even more terrifying scenario of social restrictions on religion.

Grim believes that in providing facts there is hope.

Education could be the answer to mass atrocities in the future. [2]

I won’t get lost in examples because the blog would turn into a book, (especially as there are examples for and against every faith and they all would required equal time on my page!), but I’d like to illustrate the difference between government restrictions on religion and social hostilities.

Pakistani law dictates that blasphemy is punishable by death (government restriction).

When two famous politicians suggested this law be overturned they were assassinated (social hostility).

5.1 billion people (3/4 of the world’s population) live under such restrictions. [3]

I find it hard to talk about this subject because I want to believe that there is a possibility of one day having an integral society where we all respect each other’s ideas.

The Interfaith Amigos [4] are actually great fun and offer some great insight in how their three traditions can find common ground.

They are Pastor Don Mackenzie, Rabbi Ted Falcon and Imam Jamal Rahman.

They started working together in an effort to stimulate interfaith dialogue.

They use humour to discuss ideas such as theological exclusivity, or the core traditions in their three religions and ultimately display the fact that they are very similar.

Rabbi Falcon speaks of the ancient psalmist who said: “Be still, be quiet and remember the deeper wisdom that arises from within you”

Pastor Mackenzie says that Jesus experienced the same silence that we need now as he prepared himself for his ministry of teaching and healing.

While Imam Jamal Rahman tells us how the Koran invites us into the sacred room of silence where the angels and the spirit descend. [4]

Then they all continue preaching loudly and simultaneously so none of them can be understood!

While this humorous cacophony is deliberate, it emulates our world, where violence is being used in the name of religion.


We will never have the exact same traditions but our core values, across the religions of the world, are very much alike.

Through education and through having the courage to speak out and stand up for our freedom and our rights as human beings we can heal.

Let us not be a ‘silent majority’.


Written by Blake Ward and Boky Hackel

One thought on “Interfaith Reflections

  1. This is an extremely well written essay. I really like that fact that it provides information about some of the work being done in Europe (vs. Canada) to preserve democracy and individual freedom.

    Thanks for taking the time to write and share!

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