Hopeful News stories

Two stories from the Reuters news service, reprinted in today’s Edmonton Journal, should bring a measure of hope to our tattered world. (These are Grow Mercy news stories.)

Abdoulaye Wade The first story is about Senegal’s president, Abdoulaye Wade. His county is hosting the world’s biggest Islamic conference, the 57-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC). And in Abdoulaye Wade’s address to the Islamic organization he said believed the past antagonism between Islam and Christianity should be consigned to history, and not be allowed to trigger a clash of civilizations.  “The era of crusades and jihads is over and Muslims and Christians should strive to coexist and not allow extremists to drag the world into a war of religions.” Senegal practises a tolerant brand of Islam and Wade publicly opposes those who wage war in the name of Islam. It’s moderate leaders like Abdoulaye Wade that desperately need to be heard, and it’s a news story like this that needs airing on networks like CNN.

The second story is about “atheist China’s Ministry of Civil Affairs issuing a licence to the Taiwan Buddhist charity group Tzu Chi.The Buddhist group has been quietly conducting charity work in China for almost two decades. This is the stuff of history because Tzu Chi is the first foundation in China in which a non-mainland resident serves as the legal representative.

Of further interest to me is that the main reason China’s “atheist Communist rulers” have made the “landmark concession,” is so they can “use Buddhism to help curb rising social unrest and help fill an ideological vacuum which has spawned corruption and eroded ethics in the post-Mao era.”

Is this a recognition that atheism, without something like a humanist manifesto, without something that points beyond itself, without something like a transcendent view–something which according to Richard Dawkin’s et al, is not atheism–is in the end impoverished and socially debilitating? Or is this just China’s experience of imposed atheism?

But the real story remains the work of the Tzu Chi Foundation. For those of us who used to think Buddhist philosophy always mitigated against any real efforts of social compassion and practical relief, the Tzu Chi foundation should put us straight.

Tzu Chi relief

(Above: Tzu Chi relief team caring for maimed Palestinian refugee children.)

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