Respect Graduate School, PA, USA, Nov. 10: Aziz Nathoo, CEO, UMMA Charities, addressing the audience It is no secret that the deepening of political differences among various groups in the United States has been associated with strong feelings of psychological and spiritual unease, amounting to what some observers have termed a “spiritual sickness,” a crisis of the soul. In recent years the spiritual crisis in the nation seems to have intensified. We can see despair and fear developing and growing among our fellow sisters and brothers which is easily giving rise to anxiety, uncertainties, and insecurities. It’s almost as though hatred is targeting us from many directions – whether it’s religion, or race hatred, or culture hate or even road rage. These various forms of hatred are manifested in the ongoing attacks on people through many forms of violence.
As a follow-up to the ‘Healing the Soul of the Nation Conferences’ convened by the School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution (S-CAR) in Virginia, and the University of Pennsylvania Office of the Chaplaincy, a one day conference was convened for religious leaders, lay leaders and community activists at the Respect Graduate School on Saturday, November 10. About 80 people participated.
The conference addressed three areas:
- Is the soul of the nation wounded, and how? What does that wound look like in terms of impact on the individual and community?
- What can religious institutions and community organizations do to address the wounds of our nation? What can they do more broadly to help cure the nation’s ills?
- Share what steps you and your organization is doing to heal the wounded soul of the nation. What sort of actions do you hope will come from this conference?
Representatives from various religious institutions and community organizations, including the Brahma Kumaris, along with representatives from the government, made many interesting observations.
Abdul Chaudhri, Chairman, eMgage, making a comment It was unanimously agreed that the soul (people) of the nation is wounded and it’s very important that we understand how it all started. The issue of violence is only a manifested form of our ‘illness.’ It was discussed that violent behaviors can be traced way back in history. It’s almost as if violence has become part of its DNA!! As Rev. Dr. James Jackson, Sr. Pastor Goodwin Memorial Baptist Church, clearly stated that the soul’s connection with the Divine is broken and that needs to be healed/repaired. If not, we remain far from healing the nation. Some of the other highlights included:
- understanding where people are coming from. It is vital to learn to listen with empathy. In other words, “walk in their shoes.”
- it’s necessary for each of us to work on ourselves spiritually so that we are not disappointed when human beings fails us.
- small groups go a long way in offering support and care for each other. This was encouraged by a few of the panelists if we wish to see change.
- placing tremendous emphasis on acceptance and respect regardless of religion, culture, race, and gender; and expressing true love and care for each other.
- Focus on our ‘common ground’: all religions embrace high morals and values in life – peace, love, and respect for all. This brings inner strength that can shift thinking patterns and feelings.
- Spiritual trajectory – from awareness to attitude to vision to action. A shift of awareness can precipitate changes on a deep level, changes that can bring an end to violence in all its forms.
- To introduce values-based activities and storytelling as means of education.
- To work with media to shift the narrative from stories of brokenness and breakdown to stories that emphasize goodness and resilience, creating waves of hope. Images and Voices of Hope, a non-profit organization, was used as an example of this.
And for us, as leaders, I feel if each one of us can commit to upholding our individual empowerment, we can inspire many others and also empower them to do the same. It is said, “one empowered human spirit can inspire many, who can then inspire many more, creating a ripple effect.”