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Religious leaders endorse 'new global ethic.' (Parliament of the World's Religions)

Document produced at world gathering

CHICAGO -- Some 250 religious leaders from around the world have given their approval to a declaration that condemns "hatred in the name of religion" and proclaims a "new global ethic."

The statement came at the conclusion of the Parliament of the World's Religions, an international gathering of religious and interfaith leaders, which met Aug. 28-Sept. 5.

Peace among nations will happen only after there is peace among religions, and that can only be achieved if religions recognize the principles they share, explained Swiss-born Fr. Hans Kung, who drafted the "Declaration of a Global Ethic." A Catholic theologian, Kung was silenced by the Vatican in 1979.

Kung, addressing the gathering, explained the need for a global ethic that draws on basic principles found in all religions. "We are not creating a global ethic. The global ethic is already there ... in all these different traditions," Kung said. However, the need for the declaration is evident, he said, pointing to the religious hatred fueling the conflict in the Balkans as an example. Religions must recognize what they have in common, especially in the field of ethics.

The declaration, he said, can serve as "a moral foundation for a new global order." He described the ethics as "a minimal, fundamental consensus concerning binding values, universal standards and moral, fundamental attitudes."

Its four ancient principles are derived from different versions of the Golden Rule that exist in all religions, Kung said.

They are:

* "You shall not kill" or "Have respect for all life."

* "You shall not steal" or "Live honestly and fairly."

* "You shall not lie" or "Always speak and behave truthfully."

* "You shall not commit sexual immorality" or "Respect and love one another."

The global ethic is not meant to create a uniform religion or to water down a tradition's specific moral teachings, he said. "That's why I never speak about unity of religion. I talk about peace among the religions. That would be enough."

Kung noted the ethic is not exclusively anthropocentric but addresses nature and the environment as well. His remarks came as a response to a critique of a fellow priest, Passionist Fr. Thomas Berry.

Berry told NCR that the global ethic, as constituted at the gathering, is inadequate. He explained that the document is predominantly on human pathos to the neglect of a planetary pathos. "My generation," he said, "was autistic as a result of a cultural pathology. Our inner and outer worlds could not get to each other. We were concerned with the human order but not the ecological order. You cannot have well humans on a sick planet," he said.

He went on to say that if the Catholic church were to be totally" pro-life," it would issue an encyclical on the environment.

Cardinal Joseph L. Bernardin of Chicago called the proposed global-ethic document "a wonderful framework in which to continue discussion on further issues." He spoke of the need to respect all of life, addressing the parliament on euthanasia and expanding upon his theology of a consistent ethic of life. Euthanasia, he said, "compromises the fundamental dignity of the human person in its inordinate exaltation of rational consciousness and its challenge to the belief that there can be any significance to human suffering."

In the consistent ethic, Christians cannot be selective about life-threatening or even "life-diminishing" issues such as racism, sexism and child abuse, Bernardin said.

Ultimately, it was agreed the declaration paper would be considered not a final product but rather an initial declaration toward a global ethic. This allowed the statement to obtain a broader consensus.

The Dalai Lama concluded the gathering with a call to continue the conference's spirit of religious harmony. "Nice words are easy. Implementation is much more difficult," the exiled spiritual and temporal leader of Tibet said at a concluding ceremony in Chicago's Grant Park.

Earlier in the week, the Dalai Lama said the intermonastic exchange that has gone on between Buddhists and Christians has had a profound influence on him. He said he was particularly influenced by Trappist Thomas Merton, who died in 1968.

The closing gathering was attended by several thousand people. Parliament planners originally saw the gathering as drawing some 2,500 participants, but it eventually drew some 6,000 religious leaders and faithful representing 125 faiths from around the world. As striking as any aspect of the eight-day event was the response of some 900 people to a presentation by Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thick Nhat Hanh (NCR, July 16) whose writings and retreats stress "mindfulness," a way of being attentive to the moment.

Muslim scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr said, "One should cling to the truth of one's own religion, whether others like it or not. We should not compromise or dilute our tradition in order to accommodate dialogue." He also cited problems of Western stereotypes such as the media's frequent characterization of Muslims as terrorists. "They never refer to a Mafia killing in New York as a |Catholic terrorist act,'" he said.

Several hundred people waited to hear former Clinton staff member George Stephanopoulos and his father, an Orthodox priest, discuss church and state issues but the speakers never arrived. Parliament staff later admitted confusion over confirmation of the engagement, but other rumors suggested that the Stephanopouloses pulled out, as did other Orthodox Christians, in protest of the presence of Wiccans and neopagans at the parliament.

Later several Jewish groups withdrew in protest over the participation of the Rev. Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam, whom they accused of being anti-Semitic.
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Author:Rodenbaugh, Dana
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Sep 17, 1993
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