The Role of Religious Leaders in Uniting Humanity for a Secure World

The world of civilization and urbanization, still in the age of technology and information, lacks a correct compass built on objective foundations for establishing a human civilization. This compass should restore the true concept of humanity, enabling individuals to feel their comprehensive human value. Such a compass is necessary to eradicate poverty, hunger, disease, and wars, ensuring a safe and dignified life where basic rights and natural freedoms are guaranteed.

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However, the current scenario is marked by a natural disparity between progress and backwardness, wealth and poverty. Instead of fostering justice, the developed world often exercises injustices, tyranny, and domination over the developing and underdeveloped worlds. This occurs at individual, collective, and international levels, leading to numerous disadvantages, epidemics, and famines. Such actions disrupt the world order, sparking wars and conflicts of various kinds – religious, social, economic, and political. Humanity, especially in the era of modern wars, suffers from these conflicts, which threaten all of humanity. Superpowers have been known to conduct operations of liquidation and genocide against some peoples, using false slogans and alleged ideas to justify their aggression. This is particularly evident in the hegemony of the developed Northern world – America, Russia, and European countries – which often espouse noble terms like globalization, global citizenship, democracy, peaceful coexistence, and human rights.

Mohamed El Shahat El Gendi.

In light of this situation, it becomes clear that there is a firm need to seek guidance from the principles of religions and the wisdom of religious scholars and elite individuals. Their role is crucial in preserving human rights and protecting peoples from tyranny. By addressing and alleviating problems, resolving conflicts, and approaching issues objectively without bias, these scholars fulfill their purpose of caring for humanity. They guide, direct, and correct actions based on their reformative message, aiming to achieve rightful stewardship in the universe as ordained by Allah. As protectors and saviors of humanity from crises and tribulations, scholars carry out their duty to guide people and rectify behavior. They continue the work of prophets and leading scholars who came before them, guiding people from misguidance to guidance, corruption to reform, and fear to security.

For this reason, the philosophy of world and traditional religions, which regards humanity as a fundamental principle and purpose in its faithful recognition of Allah, advocates for the enforcement of rational and comprehensive justice, and supports the exercise of freedom of choice for all individuals in their human capacity without any form of discrimination in all areas. This approach is seen as the last resort to escape from a dark tunnel characterized by tyranny, the imposition of will, and double standards against vulnerable people and the nations of the impoverished South. It encompasses various methods to achieve dependency, submission, depletion of wealth, and contentment with inferiority. Individuals are left with no option but to accept the policies and plans imposed by the decision-makers in the superpowers. Consequently, the significance of activating and developing the achievements of the Conference of Leaders of Religions is evident. Over the course of its seven sessions since inception, there has been a focus on permanent and strategic planning for the future to achieve the desired goals. This necessitates consideration of some important matters in this context, which are summarized as follows:

Orientation towards establishing an effective role for humans in religious thought

Based on the understanding that man, in the true religious sense, is the cornerstone of existence, unique among all living beings, this concept is underpinned by the message of worship and development. This uniqueness is attributed to the qualities and talents that God has instilled in him, encompassing his spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical aspects in the most perfect manner, as affirmed by the Almighty’s declaration: ‘We created man in the best stature.’ Man excels in his physical and moral form, as well as in his life components in the universe, surpassing other beings. Therefore, it is essential to awaken the dormant capabilities of every human being with the aim of establishing peace as a foundation for development and civilization. This involves creating a useful and positive personality at personal, local, regional, and global levels, and active participation in religious, cultural, social, economic, and political life. Achieving this necessitates the provision of necessary educational, environmental, psychological, and social factors. Fulfilling this role in a fair and correct manner is crucial; without it, there are significant challenges and obstacles in the current global situation. This situation calls for cooperation and partnership between religious leaders, decision-makers, and relevant parties to strive for and constantly work towards these goals.

Contributions of religious leaders in this stage

Religious leaders can work to instill awareness of its importance and the necessity of cooperation and partnership for achieving it among all humanity. As a religious responsibility and a societal and international interest, it is based on the principles, values, and behaviors that religions possess, with which they have created virtuous societies. This has established a common cultural contribution to humanity. The balance between thought and application is the key to overcoming the problems existing in the current era, such as inequality, instability, conflicts, and wars, which constitute an obstacle to conducting meaningful and successful dialogues that achieve what the backward nations aspire to. This includes ensuring the creation of an appropriate environment for human development and creating the atmosphere for developing the global citizen referred to in conferences and resolutions of international organizations. This is what religions have called for in religious discourse, practical conduct, and their conferences by:

1. Calling for humanity in one peaceful and secured world. We find evidence for this by shifting from the partial concept to the complete concept of one humanity in one world that accepts everyone, where its units are integrated, and the countries within it stand in solidarity toward the goal of one humanity. This requires agreement on the basis required to achieve the goal: we are all one and should all cooperate to ensure the basic needs for a decent living and to ensure the components of a person’s secure existence for himself, his community, his country, and his world, in sequential lines that complement each other.

2. The joint endeavor to employ and activate the use of the digital revolution, which has brought about an unprecedented scientific and cognitive transformation with its enormous technological and electronic achievements, involves directing it to serve religious and humanitarian issues. This ensures an understanding world that upholds the value of human humanity with all the meaning it carries and the good it brings to everyone. The aim is to achieve the common goal of a safe and stable life in which natural revival and differences between people are directed toward strength, not weakness. The effort should be to compete in achieving legitimate precedence and superiority in factors that add goodness and foster development and urbanization, not in factors of sabotage, demolition, and the dominance of a few over the majority, as is happening in our world today. The misuse of the digital world ranges from spying on privacy, questioning identities, and brainwashing to the conquest of globalization with its powerful mechanisms and suspicious, deceptive methods. This leads to ideological hegemony and the export of legal and cultural systems that are considered superior, denying other systems that have contributed to civilization throughout history. The requirement is to use this unprecedented digital boom in ways it was not intended for and to steer it in the right direction to create the concept of a global village that cooperates and coexists together. This should be done on the balance of justice and the public interest, with recognition of the right to differences in identity and ideology, as well as freedom of opinion and expression, within the framework of positive cooperation for the greater good. This includes preserving the peculiarities of each nation or group, its self-identity, and its doctrinal origins, which establish the public order with its religious, material, and moral components that preserve its entity and are the foundation of its existence. According to this truth, human societies were established from the beginning and will remain different from each other for the rest of time. This is a living truth and a reality stated in the Qur’an: “And if your Lord had willed, He would have made the people one nation while they still differ.” The problem threatening the world order lies in the practices of oppressive forces through destructive methods and weapons, which are known and exist in the age of scientific and information civilization.

3. Devoting the concept of collective and international leadership to achieve world peace involves establishing it on the basis of peaceful, humane, just, and equitable coexistence. This requires giving some countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America an active role and fair representation in expanding membership in the Security Council, the main body of the United Nations. It aims to enable these countries to truly participate in the international decision-making process issued by the World Organization and its affiliated agencies, including human rights bodies. The basis of this approach is the belief that true peace, in its comprehensive sense, ensures peace prevails in the depths of a person and in daily life manifestations, starting from inner feelings and extending to external relations with the structures of society, which is based on pluralism. This concept finds its foundations in Islam as a comprehensive religion that applies a unified standard, regardless of differences in creed, color, gender, and social status.

It is necessary for this peace to extend to international relations by ending armed conflicts and raging wars. Religious leaders should play an active role in resolving international disputes through peaceful means such as negotiation, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, or international judiciary. The aim is to stop wars and settle disputes or prevent their outbreak. Achieving individual peace is essential, a psychological and social component that is indispensable in the religious and human sense. It prioritizes the factor of piety – preventing one from falling into sins and crimes – over the element of evil and immorality inherent in the individual’s nature, along with goodness and righteous thought, according to Qur’anic texts: “And We have created man and We know what his soul whispers to him” (Qur’an 50:16).

Adhering to these principles of guidance and reform leads to the creation of true peace, as translated by the behavior of individuals and states in all transactions. This peace is not limited to one aspect but integrates social, economic, and political meanings. It guides and limits the impact of unjust practices and fanatical behaviors, biased toward peace, moderation, and justice at individual, local, and international levels. This is the message of Islam and the heavenly religions, as stated in the Sunnah: “A Muslim is one from whom Muslims are safe,” and in another narration, “Safe People from His Tongue and His Hand.” It is a concept of interaction that achieves a comprehensive and integrated meaning of human value, highlighting the essence of healthy humanity. This concept can also be a nucleus for the possibility of a global state of peace, fundamental to Islam and the Abrahamic religions. It is one of the most urgent needs of humans, peoples, and countries in the age of global organization, according to the will of the major powers that maintain their dominance with the weapon of nuclear terror.

4. Achieving security and self-security for every individual at the local, regional, and international levels is essential. This spans from the farthest north and west to the farthest south and east, and through this, the concept of complete peace is achieved at all levels. This is not achieved by separating one level from the other, but rather through communication and interconnection between them. All parties must move beyond theoretical security – that which exists only on paper or is based on mere claims, appeals, recommendations, or non-binding decisions – and work towards practical security achieved on the ground. Real security encompasses not only the psychological and moral aspects but also extends to material, economic, social, and political aspects. This aligns with the practical meaning in the Almighty’s saying: “So let them worship the Lord of this house, who has fed them from hunger and secured them from fear” (Qur’an, Surah Quraysh). Subsistence security and material security are encompassed within the realm of spiritual peace and security.

In this environment, the individual enjoys tranquility, safety, stability, and peaceful and amicable coexistence, which is the ultimate blessing, the greatest justice, and the most comprehensive in achieving the true concept of humanity. This includes the meanings of security in all aspects of life, providing inner tranquility and fulfilling the basic needs of every individual, and ensuring a life safe from aggression. Whether as an individual, a group, or a state, complete and undiminished security should prevail at all levels – personal, collective, and global. Despite claims from the developed world about individual and global security rights, this level of security is what modern-day human beings lack.

The goal that must be achieved is for religious leaders to take the initiative to alert others, demand positive intervention and partnership in achieving these objectives, raise awareness about them, and participate in their implementation with decision-makers at the internal level. They should engage with the concerned authorities through various activities in seminars, workshops, conferences, and international organizations, insisting that religious leaders be a party to these efforts. This requires serious and organized cooperation, based on knowledge of its path and developments, to strive to achieve it on the ground within an appropriate period. This is what Islamic security achieved, transforming from imperative texts to practical applications. He moved from ideology to an international legal system, transitioning from a world of chaos to one of safety and stability in all fields of life. This shift is echoed in the Qur’an: “Have they not seen that Islam has made a secure sanctuary to which the fruits of all things are brought?” This verse encompasses multiple dimensions, highlighting the concept of security in its comprehensive meaning, including material and subsistence aspects, due to their necessity in the life of the individual and society. This is not just partial security, but a transformation that achieved a realistic shift from theoretical concepts to practical living applications.

Under the leadership of Prophet Muhammad, may God’s prayers be upon him, there was a realization of the value of humanity and its universality, with a humanitarian foundation and slogan. Humanity was secured through a system and state based on Sharia law that triumphed for human dignity and secured its existence by providing all the reasons for a good life based on peace, security, happiness, and justice. This preceded the establishment of the international system and the drafting of the Global Charter. The favored slogan, “The United Nations,” was signed by all countries, but this necessary achievement has been diluted in the current global system due to the actions of the superpowers in controlling and unfairly exploiting resources and the destinies of peoples and countries. It remained largely theoretical in international constitutions and conventions, with little practical implementation for the sake of interests and leadership. This is what must be achieved through the contribution of religious leaders, the provision of serious cooperation formulas, and the presence of determination and will between religious and political leaders. This development is vital for peace, security, and development for humanity, which is at the heart of religious texts. Heaven’s messages and religious laws are concerned with this.

It would be advantageous for the Conference of Religious Leaders to adopt a specific work program that outlines its timing, stages, and type. This program should be based on a correct understanding of the comprehensive protection of human life in the modern era as a requirement for achieving global peace and security. This program should include phased plans where the responsibilities of both religious and political leadership are determined for oversight and implementation follow-up. The countries of the Global North should adhere to these principles in their relations with the nations and peoples of the Global South, based on a security that is beneficial to all. This approach should be in accordance with the requirements of justice at local, regional, and international levels; as long as this is maintained, complete safety can be achieved.

The outcome of developing the concept of religious leaders’ contribution should focus on the ideology and successful model of the correct concept of interreligious relations and activating the role of religious leaders in human development. This includes rationalizing thoughts and correcting behaviors, as well as contributing to maintaining international peace and security. It is based on building and developing the individual as a human being who enjoys human rights in the fullest sense. This is due to the comprehensive concept of the elements and components inherent in the entire human self, not a specific concept that falls short of absorbing the whole and leaves out other elements that encompass all components of the human being. By adopting a comprehensive, rather than partial, concept in addressing the necessary requirements for rational dealing in human relationships and transactions, we focus on acquaintance and understanding between individuals based on their common origin and the constant bond of human brotherhood inherent in human existence at all stages.

Furthermore, the concept of one humanity is based on complete, undiminished foundations and values that guarantee the building of a complete human edifice. This edifice must rid itself of extremist and terrorist thoughts and practices and follow paths of moderation and centrism. This is based on investigating and understanding the foundations of a correct human society based on equality in humanity and building relationships on mutual respect, cooperation, performance of religious and life rights, forgiveness, and tolerance, especially in times of mastery and victory. Hence, the bias should be truly towards peace and security for the individual, the national community, and the preservation of global peace and security.

Therefore, it is necessary to establish meaningful and constructive dialogues based on equality and seriousness as a basis for communication and conflict resolution using religious and humanitarian concepts to build a safe world. This is particularly important in light of political geography within the framework of the globalization ideology that dominates world management and forms its system according to its dominant vision. This vision challenges some identities through weakness or dissolution, and poses threats to international peace and security if it does not comply with adherence to peaceful behavior and by implementing established religious principles aimed at the correction and reform of life.

The author is Dr. Mohamed El Shahat El Gendi, the Rector of The Egyptian University of Islamic Culture and serves as a representative of the Egyptian Ministry of Endowments. 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of The Astana Times.

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