Countering Religious Extremism: The Healing Power of Spiritual Friendships provides a viable alternative to religious extremism. It profiles how diverse peoples of faith are coming together building relationships and a way of life that rejects both conversionist competition (without succumbing to relativism) as well the unacceptably low hurdle of tolerance. This alternative future, this “third way,” is embraced by Muslims, Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Buddhists, Hindus, and people who adhere to other faiths or to no faith at all. And the look on their faces is also vibrant, for they too sense that they are making history.
The model for creating spiritual friendships that will change the world comes from a group of Christian and Muslim men known as the “Shapiro group.” The 8 to 12 men meet at a deli for lunch a couple of times per month. What holds the group together is the esteem and love that they have for one another. The question is this: if these ordinary men meeting at Shapiro’s for over eighteen years can encourage one another in their adventure with God, why can similar groups not form across this country and the world? Margaret Mead’s familiar adage certainly applies to the Shapiro group and other interfaith groups that were interviewed for this book. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.”
Countering Religious Extremism: The Healing Power of Spiritual Friendships invites readers on a journey. Those interviewed for this book have already built bridges of understanding and have crossed them into a far better future, one superior to the vision of extremism or Western materialism.
We call on people who love their faith to join us.
Quotes from the Book
This book is the record of the spiritual gifts, the treasures that I and others have received from spiritual friendships. These experiences give me hope that religious extremism, such as that promulgated by ISIS/ISIL as well as by hate groups in our own country, will not be the world’s future.
As will become clear from the chapters that follow, diverse communities already exist where the “religious other” is perceived not as a threat but as a gift of God.
Partners in spiritual friendships know that religious tension, hatred, and violence need not be humanity’s future. They know that the healing power of religion is just dawning, and this power can transform the lives of individuals. Between peoples of faith, religions can build not walls of separation but bridges of understanding. Such bridge building is essential in providing a viable alternative to religious extremism.
Extremist utopian visions always end up in stifling uniformity and isolation. In contrast, spiritual friendships acknowledge, yes, even celebrate, religious diversity. They offer a future of new and life-enriching possibilities, where across religious lines people of faith encourage one another to live more compassionately; where, without sacrificing their distinctiveness, peoples of faith cooperate in purposeful and healing action and give birth to new methods of defusing religious suspicion and hatred.
The Unity of Humankind and a Culture of Peace
Exerpts from the speech by Focolare co-president, Jesús Morán, at UNESCO Headquarter, Paris, France.
“Twenty years ago, in this prestigious hall, Chiara Lubich described the relationship between the culture of unity and peace, by presenting the experience of the Focolare Movement in the world. She said this experience enables mutual recognition of each person’s dignity, fosters a communitarian lifestyle and demolishes the artificial barriers that cause distrust, hostility and enmity. Above all she presented the fundamental idea of a new world order based on an understanding of peace which sees humankind as one family, with God the Father as the source of infinite love for all and for each person. And even though wars were not entirely absent from the world at that time, Chiara Lubich stressed many initiatives and experiences that pointed the way to unity among persons, communities and peoples."
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Heroes of Peace
On November 15th Chiara Lubich and her commitment to peace will be remembered at UNESCO headquarters in Paris, France. We offer some thoughts on peace from Igino Giordani.
“Social wounds are called wars and disagreements. They tear at the social fabric leaving wounds that are unable to be healed. Ancient souls yearned for peace: “if you want peace, prepare war,” said the Romans. But in the spirit of the Gospel, true peace is never obtained by war, but by the sprouting of a peaceful disposition and by a harmony of minds. You don’t commit evil to obtain good. “If you want peace, prepare peace.”
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