From Security to Compassion
by Dr. Aref Ali Nayed
Compassion architecture is built on the theological fact that true security can only come from God’s own compassion towards humanity and the compassion of humans towards humans. Compassion is the condition of possibility of true security.
A Common Word, which was launched in October 2007, is an important contribution to an alternative compassion architecture. Its signatories, whose number has since grown to 301, include Muslim scholars and thinkers of all theological schools, both genders, all ages and occupations.
The response from Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox Christians has been very positive and several constructive conferences have already been held with them to explore our common ground. Some Jewish scholars have also made positive and encouraging comments and they will be addressed in a similar document.
For example, Muslim scholars met evangelical Christian leaders last summer at a conference at Yale University, for many the first time either had sat down to discuss faith with the other. It was a transformative event. The dark and twisted images Muslims and evangelicals often had of each other came tumbling down. A door for compassionate cooperation opened.
Last November, a Common Word delegation of two dozen Muslim scholars, led by Grand Mufti of Bosnia Mustafa Ceric, met Pope Benedict XVI at the Vatican and held three days of talks with leading Catholic scholars there. The encounter was soothing and healing after the wounds of the pope’s speech in Regensburg in 2006.
Last month, one of Islam’s top Muslim television preachers, Amr Khaled, toured several Muslim countries including Sudan to rally tens of thousands of young people around the theme of A Common Word. The response proved overwhelmingly positive.
Initiatives such as A Common Word are giving rise to a “network of networks of compassion” with multiple nodes and growing complexity and inter-connectivity. Much like the internet, this network of networks does not depend on any one node. It is robust and resilient precisely because it is so widespread and interconnected. Compassion architecture will rise from a wide variety of initiatives such as A Common Word coming together.
In a ‘stuck’ or ‘jammed’ world situation, A Common World hits the reset button with fresh and purified presuppositions. Now, we watch the lights come on in a fresh way, a way that may very well get our world going again. What better presuppositions to start with than Love of God and Love of Neighbor?
Reorienting and purifying intentions is the most important change to make if the Obama “change platform” is to work. Change requires a shift from self-righteous arrogance to attitudes of humility, concern for others, brokenness-before-God, compassion and understanding.
What humanity needs most today is a prophetic teaching of compassion and love. Inherent in A Common Word is a lofty, scriptures-based exhortation from which many lessons, sermons and much guidance can flow.
Today we are all frightened, in one way or another, physically, politically, socially, and economically. For too many years, fear ran our lives both as actors and acted-upon. During those terrible Bush years, the generals and security agencies thrived on offering their “Security Architectures”. It is time for true change: change from fear to hope, from hate to love, from madness to sanity and from cruelty to compassion. The new day is indeed luminescent with rays of hope!
God knows best!