Monday, 30 June 2008

New City Magazine: July 2008

Each month, the magazine New City prints the "Word of Life". This is the meditation on a short Scripture quotation prepared by the Focolare movement, and used by its members and friends throughout the world.

The Word of Life for July is the "golden rule": In everything do to others as you would have them do to you: for this is the law and the prophets (Mt 7:12). This rule is reflected in the thought of the other world religions, and can also be lived in a completely non-religious way.

On the page opposite Chiara Lubich's meditation on this Scripture text, New City reproduces a mosaic from the United Nations building in New York that expresses this "golden rule". It strikes me that this "golden rule" is an excellent and entirely appropriate motif for the idea and purpose of the United Nations as an organisation. It is a motif that has the possibility of uniting in common purpose those of different religious beliefs and those of no religious beliefs.

However, this uniting in common purpose of those of different beliefs cannot be successfully achieved on the basis of indifferentism. The essential motivation behind the mosaic at the United Nations should not be one that is indifferent to the differences between its members, treating those differences as if they do not matter. On the contrary, it should be a motivation that is anxious to find and build on what is common, among the differences (if that does not seem a contradiction).

When Pope Benedict XVI visited the United Nations in April 2008, I commented on the welcome given to him by the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and contrasted this with the welcome given by President Bush. In this context I would suggest that there is a need to recall the United Nations, as represented by its Secretary General, to the original sense of the "golden rule" mosaic. Trying to attribute "faith" to those of no religious belief, and referring to religious "faith" as being something that a non-believer can have a share of - I really cannot grasp what the word "faith" means when it is used in this way. And this indifference between belief and non-belief undermines the idea of a commonality-across-difference (by doing away with any genuine idea of difference) that is essential to correctly understanding the universal appeal of the "golden rule".

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