On Saturday 8 May 2021, a car bomb was detonated outside Sayed Ul-Shuhada high school in Kabul, Afghanistan, just as the mostly Shiite girls were emerging to return home. At the time of writing, the initial death toll of 50 had risen to 85, with 147 reported injured.
Meanwhile, two countries away, brutal violence has erupted between Palestinians and Israelis in the latest flare-up of a centuries-old conflict.
And closer to home, militants claiming religious motivation make their incursions into our neighbour, Mozambique.
Cape Town Interfaith Initiative is appalled by the lack of respect for life in these tragic, deliberate acts of destruction. We also note with deep sadness the targeting of the Al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as the timing of the escalation which takes place towards the end of the Holy Month of Ramadan. Sacred places should remain sacred and undefiled by violence. History has not been respectful of Holy Days, but our future can be different.
The threat of toxic pseudo-religion that foments fear, division, and hatred, is present. Influences and ideologies which steal the hard-won freedoms of individuals and populations amount to an abuse of religion and should be resisted in the same way that we reject colonial and neo-colonial influences.
All of this violence represents a betrayal of the deepest teachings of most of the world’s religions, expressed as the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have done unto you. It is a betrayal of the Great Masters of all religions, who have taught peace.
As the Cape Town and South African interfaith community, we attest to the best elements of the great Islamic and Jewish traditions – compassion, mercy, and justice, which we see in our everyday dealings with one another. True religion is wholehearted surrender to these qualities. Any type of compulsion via fear or violence has no place in this din (Arabic for “law” or “religion”. Hebrew for “law” or “Judgement”. English: a loud, unpleasant, and prolonged noise).
CTII seeks to promote harmony between people of diverse religions, based on spiritual understanding and respect. We know that much of the violence is politically motivated, and that religious affiliation may often be used as a tool for fostering division, suspicion, and fear.
For those of us who have loved ones of all religions, these situations are devastating. CTII acknowledges the losses, the trauma, and the pain of people. We pray for the softening of the hearts of leaders, that they may find the compassion and the wisdom to seek peace.
We pray for healing and calm, and most of all, we pray that the children of all our children will recognise the light of God in each other’s eyes and will not know the trauma of the bloodshed of our times.
We pray together an ancient prayer without boundaries: “Source of Life, please heal us all.”