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American Bishop: Supreme Leader’s Message to Youth Hard Blow on Face of Secularism

2 February 2015 8:31

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Rev. John Bryson Chane, American Bishop, says future of the younger generation lies in following religious principles, and the Iranian Leader’s message to the youth is a severe blow to the negative impacts of modernity and secularism in the West.
“The future of the world rests squarely in the hands, hearts, minds and souls of the youth of the world. The great challenge facing the younger generation is more than just studying Islam as important as that is. As religious leaders from both occidental and oriental theological traditions, we all must work harder together in encouraging the younger generation of this world to understanding the negative impact that modernity and secularism have on our collective cultures in the 21st century,” Rev. John Bryson Chane said in an interview with Fars News Agency.

Rev. Chane also attached great importance to preparing the ground for a more peaceful coexistence between Islam and Christianity, calling on followers of all monotheistic faiths to line up against extremism and condemn violence in any part of the world.

“Islam and Christianity in particular share common values that condemn violence and extremism. Christianity and Islam can be partners in spreading a great story. There are in the world today 1.6 billion Muslims and 2 billion Christians. Think of the strength in those numbers when scholars and religious leaders from these two great monotheistic faiths stand together and decry violence as an anathema of their faith traditions,” he said.

An internationally-recognized peace advocate, Bishop Chane has received numerous important awards, including DC’s Interfaith Bridge Builders Award, the George Washington University President’s Medal, the Berea College Founder’s Medal, Search for Common Ground’s Award for Global Peace and Reconciliation, the Rumi Forum’s Global Peace Award, and the Yale Divinity School’s Lux et Veritas Award. He is a prominent figure in interfaith dialog.

What follows is FNA’s interview with Bishop Chane:

Q: Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei has addressed a letter to the youth in Europe and North America. The letter, published online and shared over Twitter, called on West’s younger generation to carry out extensive research to get firsthand information on Islamic teachings and values from the primary and original sources of Islam, warning against prejudgments and disinformation campaigns. What’s your take on the message?

A: I am delighted to read the Leader’s letter. It is for me an opportunity to echo what Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei has expressed in his letter to the youth. The future of the world rests squarely in the hands, hearts, minds and souls of the youth of the world. The great challenge facing the younger generation is more than just studying Islam as important as that is. As religious leaders from both occidental and oriental theological traditions, we all must work harder together in encouraging the younger generation of this world to understanding the negative impact that modernity and secularism have on our collective cultures in the 21st century. Unemployment globally, lack of education, failed or failing economic systems leading to poverty in many nations have created an environment for the young to lose hope for a better future. Beyond hopelessness, the tragic face of humiliation emerges. All of these take away the opportunity for youth to become community focused, and theologically literate. Many young people struggle to understand commonly shared values of morality, love of God and neighbor and the Godly admonition of living to care for and meeting the needs of those less fortunate. Love of God and neighbor are at the core of monotheism as we know it in Christianity and Islam. The great challenge before us as Muslim and Christian leaders is to work tirelessly with the young whether in Western Europe or North America to focus on religious values and the moral principles that define both the core of the Prophet Mohammad’s teaching as experienced by reading the Holy Qur’an and also the teachings and theologies of other prophets and Jesus. Living in a Post Modern world, secularism has become a major challenge to shared monotheistic religious values. If religious leaders seriously worked collectively with the youth of the world about the great gift of teaching the Holy faith as contained in the Qur’an and other Holy Books we would be living in a less violent world. Prayer, reading scripture and living in communities where the words of the Prophet Mohammad are heard and embraced is of extreme importance. Young people of the world so exposed would become the keepers of the olive branch, the purveyors of peace and could live well in carrying forward mutual respect for all human beings.

The Leader is right when he recognizes that the very future of the global community must be focused on a better understanding of Islam both in the West but also throughout the world. Islam is a religion of peace…not of violence, extremism or hate.

Q: The Iranian Leader’s message was well received by the younger generation who agree only by reading the Holy Quran can one understand the core values of Islam. Also, world mainstream media and a large number of high-profile figures have so far highlighted the importance of the letter, given the current situation in the West. How can followers of various faiths across the world launch an anti-extremism campaign taking into account the true Islamic and Quranic principles as highlighted in the leader’s letter?

A: The truth has the power of eliminating the threat of extremism. The Leader has said this in his letter and by also reflecting about it by asking important questions. The truth for Muslims is found in the Holy Qur’an. The teaching of the Prophet Mohammad has the power to change lives for the better and to empower his followers to seek the global peace that passes all understanding. It is also important to understand that Islam does not simply stand alone in the monotheistic, theological world. Christianity, Islam, and Judaism share the very same God, and find themselves connected by history through the intervention of God’s Holy Spirit upon their prophets and teachers. By the hard work of transforming the knowledge of the young to the positive experience of Islam they can live well into a far better, less violent world. Islam and Christianity in particular share common values that condemn violence and extremism. Christianity and Islam can be partners in spreading a great story. There are in the world today 1.6 billion Muslims and 2 billion Christians. Think of the strength in those numbers when scholars and religious leaders from these two great monotheistic faiths stand together and decry violence as an anathema of their faith traditions.

When we believe that our religion, our holy texts, our histories, our way of worshipping and experiencing God is the only way to be, then we disrespect the very nature and presence of the Holy One. If we as Muslims and Christians from the Eastern and Western traditions cannot come to terms and embrace the teaching that God is truly the God of all humanity, religions, nations and states then we are in for a conflict filled and violent 21st Century where terrorists claiming to be either Christian or Muslim will rule the day. The battle to end violence cannot and should not be Islam’s alone. Christians and Muslims must work together in a common effort to educate and turn the hearts of the young away from violence.

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