RELIGIOUS leaders must speak out against actions by their
co-religionists that betray the values of their shared faith.
This was the agreement of the three representatives of the
Abrahamic faiths at a lecture on faith and politics organised on
Wednesday of last week, by the Awareness Foundation, a Christian
charity set up to increase Christians' awareness of their
neighbours' faiths and cultures.
The director of the Awareness Foundation, the Revd Nadim Nassar,
said: "We need to admit that at certain times, all religions were
abused by politicians, and that some religious leaders also abused
poli-tics, all in the name of power. Christianity is not an
The relationship between Christianity and politics had "always
been controversial", he suggested, "because Jesus did not preach a
political system". Jesus had challenged the "injustices in the
system" and reserved some of his harshest criticisms for
hypocritical religious leaders who "turned their living faith into
chains around the lives of the people". Mr Nassar warned: "People
are still manipulated by religious leaders into supporting their
political agenda, even at the expense of people's lives."
Asked about his views on Israel, Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt, the
founder of the Jewish charities Tikun UK and Aish UK, said: "While
I do not think it is as bad as it can be portrayed, I do not think
it reflects Jewish values in the way I would like it to do." He
suggested that religion's job was "not to impose itself, but to
educate and inspire the people". It should be the "guiding
factor" in people's lives, resulting in politics that was "more
appropriate, kinder, more generous".
Sayed Abi Abbas Razawi, a Muslim who teaches subjects including
principles of jurisprudence and comparative mysticism, agreed
that religious leaders should challenge their co-religionists where
necessary, but said that "the complexities of religion need to be
analysed and evaluated." This was difficult because of the
"political connotations" involved: "When you look at religion
today, religion has been misused in the name of politics."
He spoke of the part played by of the imam, and the placing of
leadership "in the hands of the élite" - people who are
"spiritually purified" and "selfless".
Asked whether all residents of a country, regardless of their
religion, would be happy to be led by an imam, he said: "What is
important here is that the perfect man understands . . . the
people. . . In terms of universal wisdom, it is the same in all
human beings. Good is good and bad is bad."
All three speakers agreed that religion should not be kept out
of the public square. "Secularism should not mean that God is out,
and that I can't talk about my faith because it is taboo," Mr
Nassar said. "When we squeeze God out of the system, morality