Theologian finds peace path
by Salim Mansur
Hans Kung, a Swiss Catholic theologian and prolific scholar, after a life-long study of Christianity and other faith-traditions proposed a compelling theorem for global peace in our time of millennial change and unrest in world history.
This theorem states, "No peace among the nations without peace among the religions."
Its corollary reads, "No peace among the religions without dialogue between the religions. No dialogue between the religions without investigations of the foundations of the religions."
No scholar or theologian – leaving aside the fact he happens to be Christian – has done as much in recent years in living the ideals of the above proposition as has Hans Kung.
Remaining faithful to the life and teachings of Jesus the Christ, Hans Kung has plunged deep in studying Hinduism, Buddhism and Confucianism.
But his most passionate commitment in this journey of reaching out has been directed towards Judaism and Islam which together with Christianity form the triangle of familial Abrahamic faith-traditions.
Hence, another reading of Kung's peace theorem would be there can be no peace unless this broken triangle of the Abrahamic faith-traditions gets repaired.
Kung's devotion in getting this triangle repaired – of bringing Jews, Christians and Muslims together on the common ground of being faithful to the God of Abraham – is humbling for those who believe, irrespective of what any faith-doctrine might teach in exclusivist language, that Abraham's God is lovingly and mercifully embracing of all His children.
In this missionary task, Kung has published this year his much anticipated study simply titled Islam: Past, Present and Future.
Kung's Islam, despite its almost forbidding length and scope in mining the history of Muslims from conception to the present day, deserves the widest attention and reading.
Most ironically, and urgently, it should be read by Muslims, and especially by those Muslims residing in the West most driven to apologetics and polemics with others.
There is no Muslim scholar I can readily think of who might be mentioned in the same breath as Kung for engaging with similar devotion and humility in the study of Judaism and Christianity, while putting aside any expectation that Muslims should similarly engage in studying and learning from the faith-traditions nominally described as Eastern religions.
Radicalism, bigotry and violence have left their marks, as Kung discusses, on Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
No adherent of any of these three faith-traditions can plead innocence in God's court of wrongfully spilling blood of others.
But Kung is right in asking, "did any religion pursue a victorious course as rapid, far-reaching, tenacious and permanent as that of Islam? Scarcely one."
Islam in history is a "religion of victory." And this history occupies Muslim mind as a triumphal burden rendering Islam's pristine message to remain inextricably bound with and inseparable from the course of its prophet's life, and those who forged this message into the template of an expansive empire.
Kung's challenge for Muslims is remaining faithful to Abraham's God without sinking into oblivion under the weight of their history that has become mostly irrelevant, if not entirely redundant.
And Kung's challenge for others is remaining mindful of their less than ideal history when engaging in the urgent work of repairing the broken triangle of the Abrahamic faith-traditions.