Climate change in the human heart needed for peace on Earth

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, December 3, 2015

“We must rely on each individual’s moral and intellectual screen to separate the right from the wrong.” —Rob Young

As delegates from around the world gathered in France last week for the Paris Climate Change Conference, others gathered in Calgary to address a necessary change in a different kind of climate: the climate of the human heart as reflected in the history of Jewish-Christian relations.

I attended the Calgary event. But before I say more about it, here are a few responses to last week’s column on the responsibility of human hearts to discern good from bad information in all of our inter-religious and inter-ethnic relations.

Former Cochrane resident David Forbes, journalist and human relations facilitator, writes from Medicine Hat:

“There is so much misinformation that doesn't add up.  People talk about refugees, terrorists, immigrants, foreigners, etc., as if they are one entity, creating suspicion and tension.  On top of that, people talk about Afghans, Syrians, Muslims, Lebanese, Anti-Semitics, Israelis, Taliban, Africans, etc., as if they were one and the same.

“We need to focus on standing together on this. The terrorists, whoever they are, thrive on confusion and fear. It would seem that people such as you and I try so hard to build bridges of understanding and then they get smashed by some idiots.”

Sometime-Cochrane-area resident Rob Young, a media relations professional, agrees. Writing from Toronto, he says:

“This issue of ‘information’ in media is a tricky one even within the category of the legitimate offline press. Pure reportage gets treated very differently from paper to paper. Add editorials, columnists, commentary, opinion, and the fifth estate becomes quite confusing. Clarity takes another beating when we move from press to broadcast where the half- page article is treated as a 20-second piece of AV.

“And it gets murkier still when we move from offline to online. It is in the realm of online, where individual postings and YouTube uploading gets spread around as fact through Facebook networks. That’s when the real trouble begins. And instantaneous messaging, as in Twitter, is old-time face-to-face gossip magnified in speed and mass.”

Such online gossip is like the proverbial feathers spread in the wind, he says. “Once released, they can never be recaptured. We must rely on each individual’s moral and intellectual screen to separate the right from the wrong and the good from the bad. We can’t hope to turn to the media and say, please, get it right. We can only hope there are enough of us with well-developed screens.”

One way of developing and applying those moral and intellectual screens was illustrated at the Nov. 25 event in Calgary.

Jewish, Catholic and Protestant representatives from southern Alberta gathered at St. Gerard’s Catholic Church to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Nostra Aetate.

Nostra Aetate: a Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions was proclaimed by Pope Paul VI on Oct. 28, 1965. In part, it addressed Jewish-Christian relations, stating that “we cannot truly call on God, the Father of all, if we refuse to treat in a brotherly way any man, created as he is in the image of God.”

Bishop Frederick Henry, representing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Calgary, denounced the “demeaning references to Jewish people.” Acknowledging the dehumanizing attitudes of many Catholics toward Jews that fed into the Holocaust, he said “the flood of anti-Semitism” had to be cleaned up. After all, the Jewish religion “is the root of our religion.”

Rabbi Shaul Osadchey, Beth Tzedec Synagogue, Calgary, agreed. Recalling the anguish Jews had experienced over being labelled “God-killers,” he said: “Subsequent soul-searching following the Holocaust may have been a result of Catholics seeing what happened from their blame of Jews for the crucifixion.”

Dr. Doug Shantz, professor of religious studies at the University of Calgary, addressed the impact of Nostra Aetate on Protestantism. He noted especially how Pope John XXIII, the mover behind this important document, included Protestant observers in the deliberations of the Second Vatican Council. His was “an attitude not of confrontation or competition, but of dialogue and collaboration,” Shantz said. This attitude has also come to characterize the current Pope, Francis, who has declared that “interreligious dialogue is a necessary condition for peace in the world.”

This is the first week of Advent, those days in the Christian calendar leading up to the angelic Christmas proclamation of “Peace on Earth to all people of goodwill.” May this season of looking forward to better days include changes in the climate of the human heart to better discern and practice the ways of justice, mercy and truth toward all people, created in the image of the One God.


© 2015 Warren Harbeck

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