The Universal Compassion of Divine Messengers panel, organised by the Affinity Intercultural Foundation, on Tuesday April 11, at the Parramatta Riverside Theatre, coincided with three major events in the global religious calendar.
Muslims celebrated the birth of our beloved and treasured Prophet Muhammedpbuh; Christians celebrated Easter and members of the Jewish faith observed Passover.
This alignment of sacred and important religious events presented the ideal backdrop and atmosphere to discuss and commemorate the honourable work of three divine messengers; Muhammedpbuh, Jesuspbuh and Mosespbuh.
Through the knowledge and powerful words of Professor Mahmut Erol Kilic, Bishop Kevin Manning and Rabbi Gary Robuck, the audience heard inspirational stories of the hardships, courage and determination of the divine messengers to follow the command of God and deliver His message from a Muslim, Jewish and Christian perspective.
Rabbi Robuck spared time with his family on Passover to enlighten the audience on the character and nobility of Mosespbuh referring to him as “Judaism’s greatest prophet, law giver and teacher”.
The Rabbi continued to say that “even as a young man Mosespbuh had a refined conscious and that he puts an end to the violence that he witnessed. Mosespbuh was brave and courageous in front of the Pharaoh who was the most powerful man in the world and asks for his people to be freed”.
“Mosespbuh was religious and attentive and a role model to seek and uncover the divine even in the most dark and remote places and always lived life in the immediate presence of God”, the Rabbi said.
The compassionate words of Bishop Kevin Manning had a great impact on the audience as he shared the attributes of Jesuspbuh who instructed his disciples to convey and show mercy.
Bishop Manning explained that God speaks to man through the universe and His power and compassion are evident through His creations. Therefore God is visible through the mercy of Christ. The sacrifice of Jesuspbuh would restore the relationship between God and man as Jesuspbuh states “blessed is the man who does not lose faith in me”.
Bishop Manning went on to explain that “the suffering of Christ speaks in a special way to man and not just the believer. The message of Christ is culminated on the cross because Christ appeals for mercy when he suffers. Mercy is an indispensable dimension of love”.
International keynote speaker Professor Mahmut Erol Kilic, Head of Islamic Sufism, School of Theology, Marmara University, Istanbul, Turkey, presented insight into the life of the Muhammedpbuh and Islamic theology and spirituality.
Professor Kilic explained that verses in the Quran “emphasised the oneness of humanity as a family where everyone is equally eligible for basic human rights including choosing one’s religion without coercion”.
He continued to emphasise tolerance and acceptance of other religions as stated in the Qur’an, which has references to the Bible and the Torah and what was revealed to other Prophets.
The Qur’an encourages Muslims to have dialogue with others and have no distinctions between humans because we are all made by the Creator and will eventually return to Him”.
Professor Kilic also explained the compassion and tolerance of Prophet Muhammedpbuh who emphasised that hurting someone from the people of the book (Bible, Torah, Qur’an) would be like hurting him personally.
Islamic theology and spirituality promotes and encourages interfaith dialogue and Muslims were reading the Torah and knew the Gospel from the time of the early Sufi’s.
Professor Kilic explained that “in order to heal the world we have to nurture ourselves in the beauty and compassion of the Prophet Muhammedpbuh. Humans have divine guidance, which is currently lost in the jungle of this world where pain and suffering is caused by a separation from God”.
The Professor expressed a need to wake up to a higher level of consciousness. We should be able to perceive the truth and noble character of Prophet Muhammedpbuh more clearly, because through him, humanity has received a religion of mercy, heart and compassion. The coming of the Prophet changed everything-a higher standard of morality was sent”.
“The world has reached a state where unity, substance, grace, vision, love, and beauty are needed to sustain us. The bedrock of Islamic thought rests on the foundations of humanity, compassion, and learning where peace signifies an act of reconciliation to overcome violence”.
“The Prophet himself proclaimed that he was not sent for condemnation but as the Prophet of mercy and displayed this attribute when he asks for the forgiveness of those who have come to hurt him rather than ask for their punishment. The emphasis on Allah’s mercy is evident in the Quran where His name Ar-Rahman (the Merciful) appears more than any other name.
The event successfully highlighted the compassion of the divine messengers and their impact and contribution to the foundations of society and religion. Having listened to the speakers, one may ask “what did the panel achieve?” The panel achieved many things. Firstly, it showed that members of the Muslim, Christian and Jewish faiths can come together to acknowledge the wonderful work of the divine messengers in harmony. It showed that as a community we can respect the values and beliefs of each faith and the willingness of the community to reach out and embrace each other in support. More importantly it is an influential demonstration of the tolerance, understanding and similarity of faiths existing and operating parallel to one another. Professor Kilic asked an important question; “If Prophet Muhammedpbuh, Jesuspbuh and Mosespbuh were alive at the same time, would they have been friends?” The answer is an obvious yes as expressed by the audience. This is because they all worked towards a common goal; to show mercy and compassion, to educate towards tolerance and acceptance and to spread the love and message of “the God” (Allah).
Many members of the audience said they were impressed by the event because it showed the similarities between the three faiths and the messages conveyed by each of the divine messengers. Some even stated that the similarities far outweighed the differences and that the universal message of mercy and love was the foundation for all religions. Perhaps this is the marking of success – where community members can walk away with such a realisation which will have a positive impact on their interactions in the community. Additional performances by Musa Hodzic, Mohamed Cengic and Omer Sacan also made this a memorable and spiritual night with many positive messages for the benefit of our multicultural society.