Hope: Spring's Multifaith Gift

Interfaith symposium on hope four speakers

Passover, Easter, Spring: seasons of hope for Jews, Christians, and everyone in our planet’s northern hemisphere.

This might be just the right week to share some reflections on hope.

Recently, four local faith leaders visited the Iona Pacific Inter-Religious Centre at the Vancouver School of Theology to discuss the topic of hope.

Each was asked: What spiritual resources does your tradition offer to cultivate hope in troubled times?

Here are excerpts from their answers.

Acharya Dwivedi (Hindu): Hope, an optimistic state of mind, is the foundation of all our activities. Hope is the energy that animates us. Without hope, why do anything?

Hinduism unites religion and intuition. The Upanishads, Hindu texts, speak of Brahman, an absolutely perfect, supreme cosmic power. Ultimate reality is this supreme being. However,  ideas remain mere scriptural theories until we put them into practice through dharma – practical morality. The Bhagavad Gita teaches that is is your responsibility to practice dharma without attachment to the fruits of your work. Non-attachment recognizes that the body is temporary; only atman, i.e., Brahman as it manifests in you, is permanent. Still, dharma prepares your soul for its future. And the contributions you have made to family and society continue.

Imam Balal Khokhar (Muslim): God’s words, presented in the Quran, help us understand why we have difficulties and hard times. In times of good fortune, people are happy. But if their own hand brings misfortune, they are upset. In our world today, we see greed, illusion, technology, mass media, narcissistic individuals, corrupt competition, sex trafficking, poverty, economic inequality, and addiction to comfort. We cannot blame God for the things we have done with our own hands.

We can shift our perspective, and remember that people are tested through trials. “We will most certainly test you with fear, hunger loss of property,” says the Quran. When we are tested, our arrogance shatters. We can gain empathy and compassion; come to value honesty; and learn about the life to come.  As the life and words of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, teach: with great rewards come great trials.

Reverend Jennifer Wilson (Christian): People speak a lot these days about “sin.” But what causes sin? At one end of the spectrum, people say: low-self esteem. At the other end, people say: immorality. Both definitions help us see sin as something we can limit. But both suggest we cannot fully disentangle ourselves; only God can do this.

Hope lies in admitting that we are mortal and broken, and in allowing God to repair us. We can embrace mystery, trusting there are questions we cannot answer. The poet Rilke urges us to live into these questions. As the fundamental Christian liturgy teaches: Christ died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again.

Rabbinic Student Susan Shamash: Jewish scholar Harold Fish says, “Jewish narrative is the unappeased memory of a future still to be fulfilled.” In the Biblical book of Genesis, the Jewish story begins with God’s call to Abraham: the books ends with a promise unfulfilled. In the book of Exodus, the story does not reach closure; a journey that should have taken days continues for years. At the end of Deuteronomy, Moses still has not crossed over into the promised land. The Book of Chronicles closes the Biblical narrative with permission given for the Jews to return from Exile.

Ours is a story with beginning but no end, open to human freedom. Our golden age is in the future, when, as the Prophet Isaiah says, “nation will not lift sword against nation.” “On that day,” says the Prophet Zechariah, “God will be One and God’s name One.”

Image: clockwise from top left: Acharya Dwivedi, Susan Shamash, Imam Balal Khokhar, Rev. Jennifer Wilson

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