Phoenix: Build a Global Inter-Faith Institute (GIFI) in Gaza 1.21.09

Building World Peace on Commonalities, Not Differences

Brian Crissey

Policy idea for Obama: Build a Global Inter-Faith Institute (GIFI) in Gaza. Rise from the ashes of peace. Retrain world leaders to build on commonalities, not differences. Seven principles: Love of one God; Golden Rule; Peace; Compassion; Tolerance; Forgiveness; Music as the universal language. Build on "Beyond Our Differences" and "Playing for Change."

"Your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy."
      --President barack Obama January 20, 2009

Gaza destruction

As we stand on the cusp of a New Age, as President Obama so eloquently put it in his innaugural address, we see the ashes of a crushed people in Gaza. Thousands are dead, families are torn, and emotions run high. Out of these ashes let us raise a new Phoenix, a Global Inter-Faith Institute, GIFI for short. The ground-breaking has already occurred, courtesy of the Israeli invasion.

Let us not let this magical moment pass without seizing it and shifting the direction of the world. This is a rare opportunity that may never return again. Now is the time.

Bill Moyers on 12/26/08 featured a moving documentary, "Beyond Our Differences," in which many global religious leaders share their thoughts on what is common to all faiths and how the world could be different if we built upon what we share rather than destroy each other over how we differ.

Arab Jewish children

The call for peace, tolerance and mutual good will is shared by all our diverse traditions, and these common beliefs form a basis upon which to build an instrument for world peace. This is a must-see film. Speakers include religious scholar Karen Armstrong, the Dalai Lama, Andrew Young, Deepak Chopra, Dr. Noam Chomsky, Ela Gandhi, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Ahmed Nazi (the Prime Minister of Egypt); Van Jones, Katherine Marshall, Jakaya Kikwete (President of the United Republic of Tanzania), Chief Rabbi David (of the International Jewish Committee for Interrelgious Relations); Father Kieran Creagh, John Hope Bryant, Carol Lockenburg, Adrian Hekel, and Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev.

A spiritual experience, according to Depak Chopra,occurs when one enters a domain of awareness in which you recognize your universality. In that spiritual experience are profound insights that can lead towards peace. All faiths have similar spiritual experiences and their shared insights can lead to peace on Earth.

At this moment in time, many religions are moving toward fundamentalism, which often leads to violence and killing, but at the same time, every one of these same religions includes a directive to not kill. Every religion offers a version of the Golden Rule, and yet they visit horrors upon each other in the name of God. Religions often selectively quote their sacred texts to justify war, and depend upon the ignorence of their followers to prevent their dwelling upon the passages that forbid killing. The war cry of the Crusaders was "God Wills It!", but the moment one uses religion to justify war, one has surely lost the plotline.

National self-defense is an inalienable right of every nation, but tanks cannot defeat deeply held beliefs, and the killing of innocents is always wrong. Revenge never ends violence, it only begets more violence. It is time for global change. It is time for a re-education of religious leaders and their followers based upon what they all hold in common.

Common Word Between Us

On October 17, 2007, 138 Muslim scholars and leaders signed an open letter calling upon the religious leaders of the world to build on "the common word" between Islam, Judaism and Christianity, based upon the fact that each of these three major faiths, which comprise a majority of people on Earth, has as its two major bedrock beliefs the same principles: love of the one God and love of one's neighbor as oneself. As one might expect, this astonishing document received little or no attention under the Bush administration. Now is the time to seize this opening and begin a faith-based search for the common ground of peace between seemingly antagonistic belief systems. Now, at the cusp of a New Age, this olive branch can be received.

Grandpa Elliott

Bill Moyers on 10/24/08 had another very important guest: Mark Johnson, the producer of a remarkable documentary about the simple but transformative power of music: Playing for Change: Peace Through Music. The film brings together musicians from around the world — blues singers in a waterlogged New Orleans, chamber groups in Moscow, a South African choir — to collaborate on songs familiar and new, in the effort to foster a new, greater understanding of our commonality. Johnson's global collective music, especially "Stand By Me" and "One Love" have become moving touchstones of a global movement to achieve peace through sharing the magic of music. Johnson is currently building community music studios in South Africa and other distressed locations. This idea can be championed and integrated with great effect into the proposed Global Inter-Faith Institute.

Arab Jewish boys Phoenix: The Idea

All world religions share common principles in at least these seven areas:

  • The Love of God
  • The Golden Rule
  • Peace
  • Compassion
  • Tolerance
  • Forgiveness
  • Communication Through Music
candles for peace

Use the Israeli invasion and destruction of Gaza as a symbolic stepping stone to world peace by building the first Global Inter-Faith Institute (GIFI), or Phoenix, from the ashes of Gaza. Build it green. Employ local Palestinians and Israelis, working side by side, not corporate contractors, to do the work. Build a local economy around the site. Build affordable housing for the Gazans. Develop the beach area. Make GIFI an international tourist destination with daily sacred ceremonies of all kinds, musical presentations and programs on the commonality of world religions. Invite the world's intereligious leaders to come, speak, and discuss. Include a Playing for Change studio where amateur musicians from around the world can build collective music for peace. Raise funds to sponsor amateur musicians from around the world to come and contribute. Replicate the idea in every trouble spot around the world until war is made obsolete.

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