Religion, Politics and the Importance of Education
By Ronit Yarosky
Last week I was fortunate to attend the “Third Global Conference on World Religions After September 11”, held in Montreal. The conference aimed to bring together the various religions of the world to adopt a Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the world’s religions “…that will help all of us become better human beings.”
The conference was attended by some of the world’s most renowned experts and practitioners, including Deepak Chopra, Karen Armstrong, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and Charles Taylor, amongst many others. The first such conference was held in Montreal in 2006, and the momentum led to the second in 2011, inaugurated by Nobel Peace Prize Laureates the Dalai Lama, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Shirin Ebadi,
and the late Elie Wiesel, to name a few.
There was a great deal to take in – so many incredible guests, speaking on topics ranging from spirituality and the cosmos to more academic discussions on nationalism and the Western notion of separating church and state in an attempt to establish modern democracies.
To me there were two primary take-aways. The first is that no matter how we try, and no matter how good an idea we think it is, it is impossible to completely separate politics from religion. As Karen Armstrong put it, “Trying to take politics out of religion is like trying to take the gin out of the cocktail.”
The other take-away was a strong lesson in compassion. Living in the wealthiest countries of the world, we have a responsibility towards everyone, in our backyard and far away from us. The Golden Rule was oft repeated: “Do unto others as you want done unto yourself”.
You may be thinking, ‘well if it was as simple as that, the world wouldn’t be the mess it is today.’ This is true. It’s easy to say ‘give peace a chance’ – it’s not so easy to make it happen. So what is the answer?
There is obviously no uni-pronged approach to these issues. However, it is indisputable that education is absolutely key in levelling the playing field, whether this is in our own backyards and communities or across continents and cultures.
The link to Mountain Lake PBS jumps out at me so clearly, because PBS is North America’s largest free classroom. Of course your support means we can continue to broadcast incredible shows like Downton Abbey and many more. But if you stop to think about it, you would be amazed at how far beyond television Mountain Lake PBS goes. The impact of your support provides opportunities for people from all walks of life, right here in our own communities, with a window to the world. We invite people from every walk of life to explore new places, new ideas and new experiences.
The eminent Professor Charles Taylor said: “There is an increase in radicalism, in nationalism – but we are fortunate here that we can discuss it and we must discuss this. The more we have open and informed discussions, the more we understand why people react the way they do”. Our world is more and more difficult to understand. But thanks to your support, millions of people can rely on Mountain Lake PBS to explain and challenge thinking, deepen our understanding of complex events shaping our world and communities, and encourage and invite discussion and civic engagement. Your support is truly part of the solution!
Manjit Singh, the Sikh Chaplain at McGill University, emphasized the vital role of education to help bridge the huge gaps our world now faces. “Traditional media and civil society have failed to provide us with the information we need,” he stated. “Education needs our attention and we need free media to contribute to the reduction of fundamentalism”.
Let’s continue to work together towards building a better world and safer communities. Please support Mountain Lake PBS and be part of the change! Let’s continue to work together towards ensuring that everyone around us has access to free educational, life-changing programs and activities. Let’s continue to ensure that we all do unto our neighbours as we wish done onto us.