Thought for the day with Lord Singh, Director of the Network of Sikh Organisations, broadcast on BBC Radio 4's Today programme this morning.
There’s a meeting in the House of Lords tomorrow on the role of faith communities in promoting peace. But if we look at the world about us, we can hardly fail to notice, that at first sight at least, religions seem to be a part of today’s conflicts.
When religions talk of taking the lead in working for peace some may be forgiven for the comment, “Physician first heal thyself”.
So what should religions be doing to improve their image and make a real contribution to peace? And is peace in itself always a good thing?
I’m reminded about the time when I was invited to give the annual City of Coventry peace lecture. I immediately started to look through Sikh scriptures for suitable quotes on the importance peace in the usual meaning of the word - that is, the absence of active conflict.
To my dismay, I found nothing. It was then that I realised why Sikhism and other religions that talk so much about justice and fairness in society and see the absence of conflict desirable, also recognise that this in itself, does not always result in justice.
All wars and conflicts eventually end in peace; but it can be the peace of the graveyard, with injustice and arbitrary rule being the true victor: a fate which, with the current brutal crackdown in the city of Homs, could be the lot of the hapless people of Syria today.
To my mind, peace without justice is simply a papering over cracks. Greater justice and fairness in society for all people must be the goal for people of religion who want to make a real difference. It’s a sentiment echoed in the closing line of the Sikh daily prayer, the Ardas, with its emphasis on the well-being of all.
It’s perhaps because of this that I’ve always been an avid fan of the brilliant and compassionate novels of Charles Dickens, whose birth bicentenary falls today.
He saw that a fairer and more peaceful society can only be built by tackling underlying hardship and injustice.
My hope is that we move to this wider understanding of peace. To do so, we need to set aside energy-sapping and conflict-causing arguments about my religion or my interpretation of religion being better than yours and move to a common goal of working for peace based on fairness and justice for all members of our human family.